travel

Traveling in Style

Very seldom do you hear the words “luxury” and “parenting” in the same sentence. When it comes to my luggage, I have two requirements: a bag that can fit a whole lot of things and still be stylish. For over ten years, Storksak has been making luxury products for parenting. Their entire line of bags are stylish and functional. I cannot wait to use my new Cabin Carry On for our upcoming Austin trip. By far my favorite feature is the smart hanging organizer inside which allows you to pack, hang up, and use without unpacking. I love when good design is also practical!

This combination cabin and carry on bag is the ideal traveling companion when you’re on the go. Its wheeled design allows you to easily switch back and forth between rolling and carrying a comfortable duffle. This bag can hold enough for a weekend getaway with the girls and is also well suited for a business traveler. I am obsessed with their entire line of travel bags, especially this backpack.

If you’re a parent to be needing a hospital bag, this is the ideal one for you. I wish I had this for both of my hospital stays because it would have fit everything we needed and then some. I love the gender neutral colors of grey and black, which make them perfect gifts for your husband, father, or brother. Be sure to check out their Black Friday sale happening today until Monday. A few of my favorites are the unisex Aubrey MessengerJuliette in black, and Lucinda in taupe. These bags can all transition from a diaper bag to a sleek every day bag.

I hope everyone had an amazing Thanksgiving filled with yummy food and loved ones. Have you scored any Black Friday deals yet? 

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The Dwell Hotel, Chattanooga

Before visiting Chattanooga I had researched a few hotels in the area. My husband and I love to stay in boutique hotels when possible because they are usually independently owned and provide more intimacy over a larger chain. The Dwell Hotel is newly renovated and reopened in 2016. It’s the brainchild of Seija Ojanpera, a worldwide traveler with a background in the service industry. The hotel is now head to toe mid-century modern with a touch of old Hollywood glam. 

Conveniently located to several restaurants and Warehouse Row, The Dwell Hotel offers exceptional service, a friendly staff, valet parking and incredible attention to detail. The bright colors and pleasant decor throughout the hotel bring instant happiness.   
Each room is uniquely designed and different. With the original floors and bones of the building still intact, it feels like you’re staying in a bed and breakfast. We stayed in the New Yorker King Balcony Suite which has a sitting area, gas fireplace, downtown views, a soaking tub and a stand alone shower. I immediately fell in love with the bright orange and green colors that filled the room. There was even prosecco waiting for us upon our arrival (it was our anniversary weekend). I spent a good hour soaking in the amazing tub and sipping champagne nearly every day. I loved the overall relaxing vibe from our room. 
Not only were we thrilled with our room and the wonderful service, but the downstairs bar and restaurant were equally as inviting. Matilda Midnight offers several specialty cocktails and appetizers that definitely hit the spot before a night out or as a night cap. I highly recommend the Pommes Frites and Spinach & Goat Cheese Cigars. The Magician craft cocktail definitely caught my eye with melon vodka, honeydew shrub, cocchi rosa and blue curacao. I love that the bar sits so conveniently hidden behind the lobby and gives guests a sense of privacy from the outside. 
Located on the main floor of the Dwell is Terra Mae. With an adorable mix of retro furniture and beautiful paintings, the decor is almost as good as the food. Their menu aims to please and has everything from Belgium Waffles to Pork Cheek Benedict. Brunch at Terra Mae had me wish I was staying another night so I could indulge just one more morning. Another plus side to staying at the Dwell, the amazing breakfast is included in your stay. 
If your travel plans take you to Chattanooga anytime soon, you must stay at The Dwell Hotel. It was by far the highlight of our entire trip and one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever stayed at. I cannot wait to return! 
*Our stay was in partnership with the Dwell Hotel. As always, all opinions expressed are my own*

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Local Eats: Stir, Chattanooga

For our 5th wedding anniversary, my husband and I took a short weekend getaway to Chattanooga. Our first night there we had the privilege of eating at an amazing restaurant called Stir. Located on Market Street, Stir offers modern American eats, craft cocktails and a full Oyster bar. They use farm fresh, local ingredients and make everything from scratch in-house.

Stir is known for their artesianal ice and they demonstrate the process right at your table. The ice melts at a slower pace so your drinks stay colder and stronger for longer. The spherical ice ball maker is so fun to watch in action and if you have kids in your group, they will love it. All of the bartenders are so knowledgable about what they’re serving and really put in the time to make sure each drink is quality. Stir could easily survive as a craft-cocktail establishment. I started off with the Whiskey Bramble (bourbon, cherry amarascata, lemon juice, orange blossom water and sugar can syrup). I could have enjoyed them all night because those flavors together were impressive. My husband stuck with the George Dickel Barrel select and water. The drink menu at Stir is astounding. With over 300+ liquors, wine, and beer to choose from, there is something for everyone.

Our appetizers were the Fried Oysters Casino (bacon, parmesan, green onions, garlic, shallot and butter atop fried oysters) and the Crab Bisque (crab, sherry, basil oil, crostini, celery leaves and micro greens). Even people who don’t like oysters and crab will love these small plates. The bisque was rich, creamy and filling: perfect as a starter and for sharing. And anything with bacon, parmesan, and garlic is a win in my book.
If you’re a long-time reader of my blog, you know that I cannot say no to anything with scallops. Naturally, I chose the Scallop & Shrimp Mac and Cheese (cavatappi pasta, asparagus, and white truffle oil) and was blown away by all the rich flavors. The pasta dish has a generous amount of seafood and the noodles and cheese combination was out of this world. This is one of those recipes where all the ingredients truly mesh well together. I cut up the shrimp and scallops so that each bite had a little bit of everything. If I lived closer to Chattanooga I would have to get this dish once a week. My husband chose the Seared Tuna with kale, bacon, red onion, farro, basil, and sriracha potato crumbles in a citrus soy sauce. Like all their other seafood, the Tuna was fresh and seared nicely. The kale salad was phenomenal and my husband and I are not even huge kale fans. We loved the unique pairings of that dish more than anything else we tried.
If you are local to the Chattanooga area or plan on taking a trip there, do yourself a favor and indulge in Stir for a meal you won’t forget.
*Our meal & drinks were provided by Stir. As always, all opinions expressed are my own*

Loews Hotel, Atlanta

For our five year anniversary, my husband and I decided to do a mini staycation at the Loews Hotel in  Atlanta. We were excited to experience all the hotel has to offer: prime location in the city, an incredible room service menu, a fabulous restaurant, a Starbucks in the lobby, and an amazing spa. We really struck gold with the Loews and had the most wonderful time. Everyone was so helpful and kind and really made sure that our anniversary was special and all of our needs were taken care of. Located in the heart of Midtown, the Loews Hotel is within walking distance to nightlife, amazing restaurants, attractions, and landmarks.
We checked in around 3pm, had some drinks at the lobby bar and then headed to our room. We stayed in the Grand Luxury King Suite which overlooks Midtown with beautiful corner views and floor to ceiling windows. There is a separate living room with dining table and a huge bathroom with a soaking tub. I cannot tell you how long it had been since I was able to relax in a bath without hearing kids crying and dogs barking. It was nothing short of amazing and so needed. When most parents have the luxury of getting away, even for a night, most want a nice king size bed, cozy sheets, great pillows and a relaxed environment. The Loews provided all of that and more for our anniversary and we really felt pampered throughout our entire stay.
After relaxing for a bit we headed down to Exhale Spa, located on the 7th floor of the hotel. This spa has a few locations around the Atlanta area however this was our first time visiting. We had a couples massage with two female therapists which were beyond excellent. I’m usually not a fan of massages because they always seem to hurt me more than relax me, but my masseuse Monica was amazing. She listened to my concerns and was really experienced in the art of therapeutic massage. If you are an Atlanta local, you need to request her for your next visit. When we were finished with the couples massage we headed into the dry steam room to further relax and clear our minds. It can be so hard to unwind after a long week of working, taking care of children, pets, households, etc, but I have realized these past few months that self-care needs to come before anything else. We can’t expect to take care of everyone else if we don’t put ourselves first. Parents need their time together (and alone) to really be the best version of themselves. Even escaping for just 24 hours helped me get centered and focused again. After our wonderful visit to Exhale, we got ready for our anniversary dinner at Saltwood, the hotel restaurant. Before heading down we were treated to an amazing charcuterie platter and bottle of champagne. The presentation was so beautiful that it was hard to eat, but I’m so glad we did because it was delicious. You can read my full, detailed review of our dinner experience here. It was one of the best meals we’ve ever eaten.
After getting a full, uninterrupted night of sleep, we woke feeling refreshed and energized. Sleeping in is something we never get to do and it was one of the aspects we were looking forward to the most. We visited the fitness center at Exhale Spa before heading back to our room to indulge in a beautiful hotel breakfast spread. From the Belgium waffles to the eggs benedict, every piece of our meal was to die for. Ordering a hotel breakfast is one thing we cannot stay away from when traveling. We were so impressed by how amazing everything looked and tasted.
Our experience at Loews truly made our anniversary memorable. Even if you don’t have an anniversary or special event to celebrate, I encourage you to take time and escape!  Where is your favorite escape?
Thank you to the Loews Hotel, Atlanta, for hosting us. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

Local Eats: Saltwood, Atlanta

This past Sunday, my husband and I celebrated our 5 year wedding anniversary (!!) We were lucky enough to have a night out alone and had a mini staycation at the Loews Hotel in Atlanta. Tucked inside Loews is Saltwood, a wonderful charcuterie and bar. They serve the best selections of fresh cheese and meats which can only by topped by the beautiful presentation of each platter. They are carefully put together and almost look too pretty to eat. All of their cheeses and meat are locally sourced, which makes this farm to table style of dining work so well. A few of the local artisan cheese companies that Saltwood works with is Sweet Grass Dairy, Woodsman & Wife Cheese, and Calyroad Creamery. We had one of their beautiful cheese boards for an appetizer in our room before heading down to the lobby for dinner. The decor and style of Saltwood is modern, cozy, and sleek. There are plenty of tables in four separate dining areas, including the patio.
We arrived just before 7:30 and were welcomed by a lovely host who was more than accommodating throughout the entire evening. The staff have a warm, approachable attitude and make sure you’re taken care of without being obtrusive. We ordered some delicious cocktails and two appetizers: fresh burrata and the Gulf Coast seafood. The burrata was nothing short of amazing but the standout of the two was hands down the Gulf Coast seafood. Fried oyster, shrimp, snapper, okra with an escabeche aioli set the stage for only amazing dishes to come. My favorite cocktails of the night were the Contingency Plan {Tito’s Vodka, Fresh Lemon and Lavender} and the Summer Break {Peach Ciroc, Fresh Lemon & Lime}.
It’s not uncommon for the chef to come out and greet you while your dine, ask if you have questions about the menu and offer his suggestions. We loved getting to know Jeremy and hearing about how much love and dedication goes into making each meal at Saltwood. He also informed us of some exciting menu additions coming in the next few months which we will definitely be checking back in to try. My husband decided on the Spice Crusted Pork Tenderloin with potato purée, roasted mushrooms, date, and cilantro chimichurri. The infusion of all these ingredients was excellent and the pork was cooked to perfection. Pork is not something I tend to lean towards when ordering dinner, however, I would definitely order this for myself next time. After speaking with the chef, I was set on ordering the Southern Paella. This seafood wonderland included pan seared red snapper, scallops, mussels, and andouille sausage which sat upon a bed of amazing Carolina gold rice. Paella is a dish that originated in Spain but has evolved throughout the years and I love seeing the southern spin on this old classic.
Our dinner at Saltwood was one of the highlights of our anniversary. We cannot wait to come back and try out the amazing brunch menu. Breakfast tacos, chicken & waffles, shrimp & grits, cold pressed juices … the list of plates I want to try is endless. If you work around the Midtown area, are in town for the night, or just want to try a new place, I can not recommend Saltwood enough. You will not be disappointed with your visit and it will quickly top your list of favorite places to dine at!
*Our meal & drinks were provided by Saltwood. As always, all opinions expressed are my own*

24 Hours in Athens, GA {with kids}

Last month, we packed up the car and made the short trip to Athens, GA for a quick weekend getaway. This was our first time staying in a hotel with the kids and traveling for the sake of getting away instead of having to make a long drive to see family. We arrived in Athens Friday afternoon and left Sunday morning so it was a pretty short trip, but felt like the right amount of time. We stayed at the Hotel Indigo, which was located right in downtown {full review} and since we visited during the summer, most of the college kids had left so it was pretty laid back.

Friday night we had dinner at Ted’s Most Best. Not only is their pizza divine, but it could not be more kid friendly. There is a huge sandbox right outside on the shaded patio with a ton of toys for kids to play with. My husband and I were actually able to enjoy our dinner since the sandbox entertained the kids. Since we ate there early, we also partook in happy hour, which is basically like Heaven on Earth for parents.

Saturday morning, we headed to Mama’s Boy for breakfast {read my full review here}. Be sure and get there early to beat the line! You will not be disappointed and it really is the best breakfast food in town. After induldging in some delicious southern eats, we ventured to the Sandy Creek Park so the kids could burn off some energy, get some sunshine, and swim before naptime. The playground and park are so well maintained and the kids loved it. Be sure to pack your sunscreem because there is not much shade around the beach.

After washing sand off of everything we own and napping for a few hours, we were craving some margaritas and headed to Taqueria Tsunami. This is basically taco heaven and they have something for everyone. Portion sizes won’t put you into a food coma and they have a kids menu too. We finished our meal and headed to Sanford Stadium to see the grounds and let the kids get out energy, again. Traveling with kids usually goes something like this: food, run, sleep. Repeat 1000 times.

On your way out of town, be sure to stop at Ike & Jane for some of the best donuts you’ll ever taste. If you follow me on Instagram (@chanelvanreenen), you know that donuts are a weekly must for our family. I love tasting new flavors and seeing the designs people come up with.

If you live in the Atlanta area and want to get away with the kids for a weekend, Athens is an amazing place to visit. My husband and I definitely want to come back this Fall for a game when the weather is cooler *fingers crossed*. Can you believe this is the last week of August? I cannot wait for September and cooler temps. We head to Chattanooga in a few weeks for our yearly anniversary trip and could not be more excited. I hope you all had a great weekend. Happy Monday, everyone!

Local Eats: Mama’s Boy, Athens

My family loves breakfast. It’s our favorite meal of the day and on weekends we always have a least one big, hearty breakfast together. When planning vacations, food and restaurants are the number one thing I start researching (after accommodations). One of my favorite ways to find out about local eateries is through Instagram. Most restaurants follow their cities Instagram account and vice versa. I had followed the My Athens account for a few months prior to our trip and food pictures from Mama’s Boy frequented their feed. I could not wait to visit here during our Athens trip. 

I need an iced coffee first thing in the morning before anything else. Sometimes I think I am addicted because I literally crave it when I wake up. My husband prefers his warm but I drink mine iced year round. It could be -30 degrees outside and you would still see me sipping on iced coffee. Mama’s Boy coffee is delicious and they offer free refills when you order it iced. For our starter, we decided to share the banana bread with honey poppy seed butter.  This butter was definitely the start of the show and if I worked at Mama’s Boy, I would be hiding in the back on my break eating this with a spoon. 

My husband usually orders the heartiest thing on the menu and chose the Mill Town Breakfast Plate. I’m a huge fan of a restaurant’s specials and on this Saturday one of their specials were the Shrimp & Grits with poached eggs, creole sauce, and cheddar cheese. It was without a doubt phenomenal and had a kick to it which added a ton a flavor. If you follow my food posts, you know I am egg obsessed and add eggs to just about everything. I can’t make poached eggs to save my life so when I see them on the menu, I can’t resist. The kids shared the Cinnamon French Toast sticks and biscuits. Ahhh, the biscuits. Paired with the homemade raspberry jam, they are melt in your mouth deliciousness and will have you dreaming about them for weeks on end. 

When visiting Mama’s Boy on the weekends, I suggest coming early or be prepared to wait for a bit. This place is so popular with the locals and for good reason. The restaurant is cozy, service is fast and the food is outstanding and budget friendly. Thank you, Mama’s Boy for hosting us! 

*This review was in partnership with Mama’s Boy. As always, all opinions expressed are my own*

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