Blogs > News-Herald Food and Travel

Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Feeling right at home is easy at Lighthouse Key Resort and Spa in Kissimmee

News-Herald sportswriter Theresa Neuhoff Audia shares her experiences while on an Easter vacation in Orlando, Florida.

If you've ever been to Orlando, you know the traffic can be unbearable at times.
Making a trip to the local CVS at home in Cleveland takes about 10 minutes round trip. Here in Orlando? It's at least 20 minutes if not more.
That's why I was so relieved when we pulled off the W. Irlo Bronson Highway and into the gated entrance at Lighthouse Key Resort and Spa in Kissimmee.When the iron gate opens, you feel as if you've just pulled into a quiet oasis in the middle of chaos.
The low key resort is a welcomed sight to somone who has just endured months of snow and cold. When we arrived a few days ago in the middle of the afternoon, our four-bedroom condo was still in the process of being cleaned.
It really wasn't a problem though.
One of the resort workers set us up with an open tab at the poolside bar and it gave us some time to unwind and sip on some fruity drinks which went down smoothly after an early-morning flight out of 35 degree weather.
The wait for our four-bedroom condo was worth it. It didn't take my husband, his family and I long to quickly settle into the tidy, updated vacation spot.
One of the first things we did after we unpacked was make a trip to the grocery store to stock up for the week. It's so convenient to have a full kitchen with a refridgerator, stove, microwave, dishwasher, plates, cups, pots, pans and utensils. Considering the high price of eating out in the local restaurants, making a few meals of your own not only saves you money, but it also saves the time of standing in lengthy lines.
Even though we had a full refridgerator of food, we still opted to go out to eat and treat ourselves on the first night at nearby Miller's Orlando Ale House. It's a great local kid-friendly bar/restaurant with reasonably priced food and numerous cold, draft beers to choose from. I would highly recommend it. The seafood macaroni and cheese is outstanding.
To kick our vacation off the right way, my husband and I scheduled 50-minute Swedish massages the following morning at the spa located right on the premises at Lighthouse Key Resort and Spa. The experience was heavenly. My massage therapist worked out all of the kinks in my body which were built up after a long, exhausting Cleveland winter.
I'm not always good at treating myself to spa treatments, but this luxary experience made me want to splurge more often. If getting a massage isn't your preference, skin care treatments, body therapies and hand and food treatments are also available.
When I am on a warm-weather vacation, I love spending most of my time at the beach or pool. Our resort has a family-friendly pool which doesn't get nearly as loud or crazy at nearby Orange Lake. It was a relaxing way to spend most of our days.
At night, we ventured off to the Orlando Improv Comedy Club in downtown Orlando which is less than 30 miles away. What a great way to spend an evening. The comedy club is upscale and has some of the top acts in the country. The night we went, we saw John Henton, a Cleveland born comic, who was hilarious.
Another night, we checked out an Orlando Magic game. What a great place to see a basketball game. Unlike Cleveland, where you quickly want to get in and out of the arena because of the cold, brutal weather, you actually want to soak in the atmosphere outside of Amway Center because there's an undeniable buzz in the air before games.
Tomorrow morning, we are getting up early to go to Epcot. We are lucky becuase our resort is just a few miles away. I am looking forward to taking in at least one Disney park.
It's taken a few days, but I think I've finally hit that point in the vacation where I am highly relaxed.
Hopefully, the feeling will last for at least a few days when I return to sunless Cleveland.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia


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Easter Sunday in sunny Orlando is a memorable experience

News-Herald sportswriter Theresa Neuhoff Audia shares her experiences while on an Easter vacation in Orlando, Florida.

It's Easter night and there is no snow in sight.
That's unusual for me because for over 40 years, I've spent my Easters celebrating with my family near Cleveland, Ohio.
This year is different.
This year, I am on a vacation with my husband and his family in Orlando, Florida.
We started the day by waking up early for a 7:30 a.m. mass at St. Faustina Catholic Church which was located in a strip center near Disney World. Of all the unusual masses I've attended in my lifetime (which includes a few polka masses), this ranks right up there in the top five. The church had the feel of a closed down Mexican restaurant, but it was a no doubt a Catholic church. I know it because they passed around a basket during offertory.
We went early to beat the Easter crowd, but the church was still packed. Instead of going out for breakfast afterward, we went back to our condo at Lighthouse Key Resort and Spa and made our own eggs, bacon and toast. It was probably a smart move considering the long lines at many local restaurants.
After breakfast and mass, there was still plenty of time to go for a run in the fitness room at our resort. I wanted to run outside, but it was too dangerous. Florida traffic is hectic and there are no good jogging routes by our condo.
With mass, breakfast and a workout taken care of, it was time to spend the afternoon baking in the 80 degree sun at the pool. My nephews Nick, Anthony and I spent a good part of our day in the pool hitting around a beach ball. It was a great way to spend a few hours.
While we were playing at the pool, my mother-in-law Libby made her never-fail spaghetti and meat balls. It was the perfect Easter meal.
This is thinking a little far ahead, but I really hope I'm vacationing somewhere warm again next year for Easter break.
I would be thrilled if this family event became an annual tradition.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia


Monday, March 25, 2013

Meeting Jayme in Croatia: A coincidence?

Meeting Jayme Moye in Croatia in 2010,  was an extraordinary coincidence. 

 It was one of those experiences that makes you believe that everything does, indeed, happen for a reason.
  We were two women- both from Mentor and both travel writers - among a group of 10 on a wooden sailing ship setting sail  between Dubrovnik and Split  intending to explore a handful of islands on foot.

 She was the youngest of the bunch and more subdued than many of the others. I later learned that only the month before she had decided to end her 10-year marriage. That's probably why she chose time alone reading to the impromptu charades and other games that broke out on deck during sails between islands.

 The harvest season voyage was framed as one that would give us tastes of the countryside, from Croatian wines and traditional dishes to just harvested produce. We had a wonderful chef aboard who turned out creative food day after day. On that trip I photographed Jayme eating her first raw oyster, just harvested from the briny Adriatic. The face she made was memorable, but showed her embrace of the place.

 I recalled that oyster experience when preparing my story about Jayme  for Monday's News-Herald. During my research for that, I discovered a story she wrote about a trip to Africa when she drank the freshly drawn blood of a cow. That's something tribal people do to keep up strength and nutrition when food is scarce. Other Americans were repelled at the very thought, but not Jayme. She embraced it, in much the same way that she gulped down that oyster.

 I quickly discovered that Jayme was also the most fit among the Romanca's passengers. The ship would drop us off on one side of an island, then set sail to meet us on the island's other side after we'd hiked across it. These islands are largely dry and mountainous, so presented quite a challenge for me. But Jayme, with lungs tempered by high altitude living in Boulder, Colo. would run the trails and reach the other side hours before the rest of us. As I got to know Jayme better, my appreciation for her extraordinary spirit deepened, and the seeds for this story about her were planted.

I wondered: How does a girl from Mentor become one who pursues challenging adventures so foreign from her upbringing?

 Although I'm nearly twice her age, Jayme and I share the same passion to see and learn from the world. Maybe it's because besides Mentor roots, we both also share March as the month of our birthdays. Jayme and I have traveled to many of the same places, although she tends to choose trips to scout areas that might later serve to promote tourism while I travel generally better known tourism paths. I blame my Viking ancestry for my wanderlust, but I'm still not sure what motivates Jayme. Any guesses?

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Hometown roots ground world explorer

Although an Ohio flatlander by birth,  Jayme Moye has summitted peaks from Colorado to Haiti and Tanzania. 

Whether snorkeling the fissure where tectonic plates meet near Iceland or summiting Kilamanjaro in Tanzania, Jayme Moye remembers her Mentor roots. That's kept her grounded as she experiences the extreme adventure she seeks as a freelance writer of adventure travel. Not yet 40, the now Boulder-Colorado-based Jayme stays fit for challenges involving hiking, mountain-biking, skiing and paragliding with daily weight lifting and running exercises. She eats simple non-processed foods and considers the caloric requirement her workouts - whether for work or play - will require when planning her meals. She's faced danger many times in trips that have taken her to Rwanda, Palestine, and Haiti in recent years. Creepy-crawlies unheard of in Ohio have included flesh-eating ants that crawled up her legs in Africa and a bot fly in Peru whose eggs were carried by a mosquito that ended up biting her. Jayme became ill and needed surgical removal of the worm that hatched from that bite and was taking up residence beneath her skin.

 She can't always pack as light as she'd like since her trips often involve meeting heads of state along with camping in the bush or desert. But she carries and uses hand sanitizer wherever she goes and wears an Ankh, an ancient Egyptian symbol of eternal life, as a good luck amulet.

 Read more about Jayme's adventures in my News-Herald story set to publish on Monday. Or find it online at on Sunday night.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A marriage proposal witnessed by all

 I just returned from Baltimore where cherry blossoms are beginning to bloom just as they likely are in Washington, D.C.

It was a weekend spent to celebrate my birthday and that of my grandson, Trent, a fellow Pisces who just turned 18.

One of the things on our weekend itinerary  was the 13th Annual WATCH awards, an annual program to honor community theater productions in the Baltimore/Washington area.

"Fiddler on the Roof," a production in which my grandson had a role, was one of the nominated plays. My daughter's boyfriend, Fred Nelson, not only served as Master of Ceremonies, but he also was a nominee  for Outstanding Performance as Lead Actor in a Musical for his role as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof. He's also performed every summer for more than a dozen years as King Henry VIII in the Maryland Renaissance Festival, so he's well known in this area.

The Birchmere in Alexandria, Va. sold out all 500 of its seats two weeks ago - a sure testimony to the popularity of this event.  Folks dressed to the nines - as spectacularly as one might imagine among theater folk.

Fred did an admirable job as MC, a task that essentially required him to make  interesting a three-hour long  list of names. He introduced several stellar musical acts and those making the awards in each category. I didn't know anyone, so it wasn't very compelling for me until Fred's  name was announced as the winner in Lead Actor Musical - one of the top awards.

His acceptance speech took us all by surprise when he thanked my daughter for her support and proposed marriage.

How many mothers get to witness a daughter's marriage proposal? And how many sons get to see  their mother proposed to?

 That Fred Nelson certainly has a fine sense of drama and will surely make an interesting son-in-law.. Someone, of course,  made a video of the highlights and posted it on You Tube, which I'm sharing with you.. I'm really glad, since I forgot my camera.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Spring break along Florida's Panhandle

Spring break has begun in Northwest Florida and the local Sun newspaper carries listings of the colleges whose students are in town for the  snow white talcum soft beaches, free flowing beer and great outdoors fun to be found all along this coast.
Resorts, cottages and hotels and line this coast between Destin and Panama City Beach... a Florida location virtually unheard of by Ohioans.

. In earlier times this coast was jokingly known as the Redneck Riviera because it draws folks from Alabama, Texas and, Mississippi.  But the opening of the Panama City International Airport three years ago  makes it accessible to Ohioans on Southwest Airlines flights and I met more than a few other Buckeyes there.

No college students are partying at Rosemary Beach, however, unless they're there with their parents. Rosemary is a purpose built town begun in 1995 and today filled with  million-dollar plus houses, many of them for rent to vacationers and having wide porches and hidden away brick courtyards.  It's created as a walking town with winding streets hung over with live oaks and Spanish moss, blooming magnolias, narrow sandy lanes as shortcuts,  and boardwalks leading to the beach, which is private with locked gates for which only residents have the secret code .
Next month you'll be able to learn more about Rosemary, which reminded me of an earlier time and place. When people park their cars and walk where they're going, time slows down and the rate race recedes.

Next month you can read more about Rosemary Beach and learn how you can become part of the good life here along Florida's Panhandle Coast of the Gulf of Mexico. It's a Florida destination where summer is the high season although spring and fall are perfectly delightful.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Spa Night at Cabanas Restaurant

Spa night at Cabanas in Mentor was buzzing on Monday, filled mostly with tables of girlfriends there to have dinner and a spa treatment.

Now in its second year, Spa Night, which costs $25, takes place the first Monday evening of each month. In April, however, it will be on April 8, since Easter Sunday is the day before April’s first Monday.

Reservations are a good idea, because even though Cabanas is spacious, the evening attracts a big crowd. (440-255-0697)

Spa Night customers each get a drink or glass of wine, choose among a soup or pair of salads, eight entrees and among four spa choices, provided by staffers from Jenniffer & Co.

Flowing floor length curtains drape the area where customers undergo spa services, comfortably sequestered away from diners. Beckoned to their chosen spa service by their server between their salad and their entree, they choose among a chair massage, paraffin dip and hand massage, mini facial or airbrush make-up. All are abbreviated versions of more complete services offered at Jenniffer & Co. salons in Mentor and Mentor-on-the-Lake.

Each customer gets a goodie bag of samples and coupons at the conclusion of the treatment, which takes about 15 minutes. Full service treatments booked for the Jenniffer & Co. salons that evening get a 20 percent discount.

Cabanas also has a menu it designed for the News-Herald’s Lighten Up initiative, with all menu items under 600 calories. Managing Editor Laura Kessel will tell you more in her Saturday column.

I ordered a glass of Merlot, garden salad, and lemon garlic chicken and got a mini facial for my Spa Night experience. Another 58 people also participated in Spa Night and at least one table remained to play cards.

Cabanas is at 9055 Mentor Ave. in Mentor. Jenniffer & Co. Salons are at 9420 Mentor Ave., Mentor and 7906 Munson Road in Mentor-on-the-Lake. It's the best kind of cooperative agreement between businesses, who share news  of the evening with their own customers, and is a true win-win scenario - especially for the customers.