Tag Archives: Freedom

2017 RECAP OF THIS…I…DO…FOR…ME ACTIVITIES — IT WAS A GOOD YEAR!!

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As I reflect over the 2017, I realize it was an extremely busy year.  It was a year of a lot of firsts for me, particularly as it relates to building my two year old business This…I…Do…For…Me (TIDFM).

It was a year that allowed me to see how I brought dreams to fruition for others and just how much satisfaction I derived from playing a role in that.  It was also a year where I faced some long-standing doubts and fears, and surprisingly I came out on the other side!  I like to do yearly recaps mainly so that I can not only see what I’ve accomplished, but examine the misses and areas where I still need to grow, as well.

So for all that it brought, here is TIDFM’s 2017 recapped:

TRAVEL

January — I, along with nine female relatives, took (what has become known as “The Cousins’ Trip”) a four day jaunt to Atlanta, Georgia. Our cousin and her husband treated us royally.  The trip was made especially memorable because we traveled there during the time Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s  birthday was being celebrated in his hometown.   It was also magical to spend that time with family members.  We took in the movie “Hidden Figures”, saw Roy Ayers perform at the City Winery, ate at some fabulous restaurants, laughed and talked, talked and laughed, and more importantly, we paid homage to Dr. King by visiting his grave site,  along with that of his dedicated wife and comrade Coretta Scott King.

 

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March — I was able to visit a close friend who lives in Berkeley, California.  This was the first time that I spent my entire time in Berkeley versus spending time in Oakland or San Francisco.  We saw an art exhibit at Berkeley Museum of Art, ate Bi Bim Bap at a  Korean restaurant (ate there twice because I can never get enough of Bi Bim Bap), watched a myriad of movies at her home and toured the campus of The University of California, Berkeley.  I have always wanted to see this campus, especially because of its history of protest, advocacy and of being a change agent.

A visit to the Bay area would not be complete without paying a visit to the outstanding restaurant Burma Superstar!  That place! That place!  They offer every imaginable way to please your palate; their coconut rice alone will have you begging for more, and the variety of Burmese food offered is amazing.

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September — I finally got to travel to a city that I have been longing to visit for quite some time.  This trip, like my excursion to Atlanta, allowed me to spend time with family — 3 cousins — who made my trip so special.  Not only is Seattle a most gorgeous city, its food scene is amazing and as diverse as its residents.  You want good ice cream?  There is Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream.  You want really good Sushi?  There is Trappers.

And I can’t  forget my visit to the famed Pike’s Market, The Northwest African American Museum and the city’s Space Needle!

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The University of Washington’s campus is picturesque, and situated on that campus are some of the most architecturally unique buildings I’ve ever seen. Needless to say, Seattle’s weather is my kind of weather.  Although it was overcast on several days, the breezes and fresh air made the trip all the more enjoyable.

Also, Seattle gave me a chance to be mesmerized by The Chihuly Exhibit held on The Seattle Space Museum Caampus — what magnificent work!

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October — Reykjavik, Iceland — Not a place I would have ever imagined myself visiting until I came across an incredible fare offered by Southwest Airlines, but AM I GLAD I DID!  Naturally, once I really began to research Aurora Borealis (aka The Northern Lights), I was determined to witness this phenomenon first hand.  On a cold Iceland evening, I got my chance.  How awe-inspiring it was!

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Who would have thought I would have paid to join an excursion to whale watch?  I maintained the attitude that “as long as I am here, I might as well immerse myself in Icelandic culture.”  It was cold and wet, but I felt like a trooper because I pushed myself to do something that I would never have done before.  I saw not only whales, but but I saw humpback dolphins, and other unrecognizable water bound animals.

I shivered my butt off, but I enjoyed every minute.

 

 

 

I was also able to partake in a two hour Icelandic Beer Class where you not only tasted a variety of beers (that was a lot of fun), but I learned about what was going on historically in Iceland at the time those beers were crafted.  Our class members were from Canada, Italy and Sweden.

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Of course we took the obligatory city tour — Reykjavik’s Cultural Building was hosting a run of Tosca, along with some lesser known productions and exhibits.

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We also saw the building (pictured below) where President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary of the Communist Party Mikhail Gorbachev held in 1986 made progress toward creating The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the United States and The Soviet Union.

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The highlight of the city tour was seeing the Lutheran Church Hallgrimskir, which is one of Iceland’s hallmark tourist attractions. Running a close second was bathing in the iconic Blue Lagoon.

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November — The end of the year saw me revisit Sydney, Australia, but unlike my first visit in 2015 where I went Down Under solo, this time I escorted eight women aged 50+ to the land of Oz!  It was a monumental trip because it was the first official excursion for This…I…Do…For…Me and it was the first time some of the ladies had ever left the United States.  AUSTRALIA WAS EVERYTHING!

Our Sydney, Australia  Itinerary Included:  The Sydney Opera House Tour, The Royal Botanical Gardens, Cronulla Beach, Darling Harbour, Circular Quay, Seeing the Southern Cross at the Sydney Observatory, Sea Life Aquarium, Madam Tussaud, Watson’s Bay and Doyle’s Restaurant, Bondi Junction (for shopping) Day Trip to The Blue Mountains and numerous restaurants representing Thai, Greek, German, Italian and Mexican Cuisines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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OTHER 2017 THIS…I…DO…FOR…ME GROUP OUTINGS AND EVENTS

  1.  We took a Greek Cooking Class at Sur La Table in Chicago;
  2.  I and 12 TIDFM patrons participated in a Wine Tasting and Food Pairing led by Sommelier Brian Duncan at Eddie Vs on The Gold Coast;
  3. We attended The City Winery’s Sunday Concert Series; classical, jazz and choral music was the fare;
  4. We attended a Salute to Katherine Dunham at The Harold Washington Library;
  5. We attended both The Annual African American Film Festival and viewed a film monthly at The Gene Siskel Film Center;
  6. TIDFM sponsored its First Annual Book Swap and Dinner at Eddie Vs;
  7.  We attended three theatrical productions — Hamilton, An American in Paris and The Bodyguard;
  8. TIDFM in conjunction with Chisiko offered a Women Warrior Masterpiece Art Class at Robust Coffee Shop;
  9. We attended The Chicago Cultural Center’s showing of the documentary “Still I Rise” featuring the life of phenomenal Activist, Writer and Renaissance Woman Maya Angelou;
  10. We attended a musical performance featuring drummer extraordinaire Terri Lyne Carrington and Liz Wright;
  11. We attended Dixon School’s Annual African American Cultural Festival;
  12. I attended “Black Girls Gather” in Chicago hosted by “For Harriett “Writer and Activist Kimberly Foster;
  13. I was invited to join The Shanghai Committee for The Chicago Sister Cities Program;
  14. I even learned how to play Mah Jong;
  15. Attended The Annual Good Food Conference;
  16. I threw my first Paella Party (see pics below)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I am excited about 2018, as TIDFM will be traveling to Greece in September!  We will continue to experience the wonderful cultural scene that Chicago offers.

I will keep you posted on our other exciting events scheduled for throughout the year.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!  MAY PROSPERITY ABOUND! #thisidoforme

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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TRAVEL TIPS SERIES: PART 1 — Strategies on Finding Affordable Airfares!

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If you’re hell bent on traveling the world in the same old way each time you do it, these tips may not be helpful to you. What I’m sharing here is for the OPEN-MINDED traveler that is willing to explore different and unique approaches to travel.

Although I have experienced travel where I’ve stayed in top notch hotels, ate numerous gourmet meals and taken my share of spacations, I am equally at home in an AirBnB, where I can prepare my own meals and still have very nice amenities at my fingertips.

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What I would like to share with you over the course of several posts, are travel tips that allow you to travel economically thereby allowing you to maximize your dollars!

So let’s start in this post by examining a number of ways to secure deals on your flights.

I strongly feel that being flexible and not relying on one mode of securing flight arrangements, no matter how it has worked for you previously, opens you up to the best opportunity in the moment.  For example, I once found a round trip ticket to New York City for $150 USD inclusive of taxes and and all typical fees! How?  That time through a travel agent.  Ironically, that same trip was pricing out at $100 more not more than a month later.  The next time that I needed to book a trip to NYC, I searched for another travel arrangement through Travel Zoo.  Although the cost was more expensive than the $150 ticket I secured on that first example I spoke of, it was still less expensive than the instance that cost me an additional $100.  This time it cost me $177.00.

Another tactic in your air fare search arsenal is to keep your ears and eyes open on special and often unbelievable deals that the airlines offer.  For example, recently Southwest Airlines ran a 72 hour promotion for its shortest routes in the United States.  My cousin got her ticket for NYC to Atlanta for $104 round trip!  Although I purchased my ticket prior to Southwest’s special promotion, I was able to find a great deal for $222 by going directly to Delta’s website!

What about International flights? Well, I needed to get to Madrid back in June, and I found one hell of a deal from Chicago to Dublin to Madrid on Expedia for $893.72.  For this flight, I had a seven hour layover in Dublin (going to Madrid), and although I had a 17 hour layover in Dublin (on the return to Chicago), I had enough time to experience some of this fun Irish city! I met some great people, hung out on O’Connell Street had had a fantastic meal, along with  beer at a local pub — The Temple Bar!

This mini excursion gave me enough to know that I would like to return for a longer visit. I have never had a layover that long, but I made the most of it by not spending it in the airport.

Dublin has a wonderfully vibrant airport with over 200 businesses, eateries, chocolatiers, perfumeries and designer stores.

NOTE:  Literally two minutes ago, a notification from TRIP Advisor came up n my feed informing me of an airfare for $734 from Oakland to Madrid (as you have probably guessed, I love Madrid)!  Now that is a deal.

CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT FLIGHT RESOURCES

The following are search options that I have not only researched when looking for a good fight price, but these sites have produced for me some results at wonderful prices:

Fareness.com — Where should I go in April for the best flight destination?  This site offers a wide range of destinations and travel periods (e.g. check where to travel to from October to February) and receive immediate results highlighting the lowest air fares. Then you can build the rest of your vacation based what is most economical for you versus making that decision based on locale only;

Yapta.com — A very underutilized resource — tracks pricing for millions of flights worldwide allowing you (like Fareness.com) to first pick a travel spot, then creating your activities around that.

The Flightdeal.com — Targeting flights to cities that are six cents or less per mile — Chicago, Seattle, NYC, Baltimore, Philly, D.C., Portland, Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco!

Airfarewatchdog.com — The airlines reduce airfares daily, but they don’t advertise them. This site notifies you of fare glitches and/or bargains.

Expedia.com — I have had really good success with this site.  If you don’t mind layovers (sometimes long ones), Expedia can become your best friend! You can find really good deals, and you can access by internet or telephone agents.

In summary, here are the things you must be willing to do to snag great deals:

  •     Search Often;
  •     Sign Up for Email Alerts;
  •     Use Twitter;
  •     Use Priceline for Last Minute Trips;
  •     Combine Two Separate Fares Versus Booking One Fare (can be cheaper)

To utilize my consulting services on economical trip planning, please contact me at robin@thisidoforme.com

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THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD –HISTORY YOU CAN’T AFFORD NOT TO KNOW

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NEW BLOG POST

EXCITING NEWS — Our Washington, D.C. correspondent Yvonne D. Hawkins brings us a new DMV excursion — The Underground Railroad Trail in Sandy Spring, MD!

It’s amazing how frequently hidden treasures can sit in plain sight. I heard about a piece of the Underground Railroad that runs through Maryland’s Montgomery County from a Facebook post that had gone viral among folks in the Washington D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area.

The Montgomery County Department of Parks maintains the site and sponsors an Underground Railroad Experience Trail Hike. The department also sponsors field trips and programs for schools, but I’d bet many folks in this area don’t know about the place exists. Maybe that’s because the trail is in the small community of Sandy Springs, which sits on the outskirts of the DMV. Turns out, though, you easily could spend two days exploring this tiny hideaway. Sandy Spring was settled by Quakers, who were early abolitionists. And the area became a refuge for freedom-seeking slaves and home to a community of freed slaves. Today, there’s the Sandy Spring Slave Museum to see. Tours are by appointment.

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Photo:  The spring that gives Sandy Spring, MD its name

Families also can hang out at The Adventure Park at Sandy Spring, complete with zip lining, climbing labyrinth and climbing forest park that feature the area’s wooded landscape. And the Underground Railroad trail is among several features at the Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park in Sandy Spring. Plus, the trail is part of the National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom program. After learning about the trail on Facebook, I decided to walk it as something different for Sunday worship. I planned to meet a friend there. Oh, but I overslept and missed our rendezvous time. To bide time, my friend explored the sites historic stone barn, which features exhibits about the Underground Railroad, before she jumped on the trail alone. Judging from her response to the exhibits, I’ll check them out the next time I visit the area. Because there definitely will be a next time.

After I arrived, though, I met up with my friend about 1/4 way along the trail as she was returning. I walked back with her, but after she left, I decided to start over. I wanted to complete the entire experience. And the time I spent alone on the trail was deeply moving and spiritual. At one point, I stopped at a bench, close to the end of the two-mile stretch, to take a break. A wonderful spot there marks the underground spring that gives Sandy Spring its name. I sat there feeling grateful about my decision to finish the trail. Because it sank in that I was at the same place where my ancestors determined to secure their own freedom and stay on this same trail no matter what.

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Photo:  The meditational spot sits near an Underground spring that goes through the Quaker community of Sandy Spring, MD

The trail’s last marker lies just a stretch beyond the spring. It ends at a white ash tree that’s been at that spot for nearly 300 years. Today, the tree is surrounded by a newly fangled housing subdivision. I actually missed the tree the first time I walked by. Though I had a trail map—and the trial is well marked and super easy to follow—I decided to double-check with strangers along the way to make sure I was heading toward the tree. One man walking with his dog in the opposite direction told me, “Yep, just keep going. It’s about 100 yards that way.” Still, I missed it. The tree blended so beautifully with these new, big houses, I thought surely he didn’t mean that tree.

Instead, I saw a tall, barren white tree in the distance. So I kept walking. Until I ended up in someone’s back yard. And I knew that wasn’t where I wanted to be. With nothing left to do but to turn around and go back, I decided to pay closer attention this time. I didn’t really know what a white ash tree looks like. So truthfully I didn’t know what I was looking for. But I decided to stop assuming that the most beautiful thing I’ve seen on the whole trail couldn’t be it. And this time, I noticed the teeny, tiny spur shooting off the main path. And I took it. And it led me to the marker that let me know, yes, I had arrived.

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Photo:  A White Ash Tree marks the end of this section of The Underground Railroad in Sandy Spring, MD

 

Yvonne D. Hawkins is a former newspaper journalist, certified spirituality and life coach, and Baptist minister. She currently lives in Northern Virginia and enjoys exploring the Washington DC-Virginia-Maryland area. But being a former Chicago and Evanston, Ill, resident, she also misses Lake Michigan. And the Taste of Chicago. Her newest blog is http://www.artistssaw.com.