Exclusive Resorts Meet Me There debuts!

Thrilled does not quite describe how I feel about the release of my new web series “Meet Me There”.  I have teamed up with Exclusive Resorts and together we are taking you to some of my favorite travel destinations and few new ones, too! Real del Mar, anyone?  We will show you the highlights in each location and trek off the beaten path to unearth the real travel treasures.

Check out the first video here.  Like it, share it and make sure you subscribe to my YouTube channel I Am DJ Duckworth to catch the upcoming episode of Meet Me There!

The Skimm on the Oscars

motherofpearl-smallMy friend recently turned me onto The Skimm. It’s just that….a skim of the news, what you need to know, what impact it has on your life, and who the players are in the story. As a journalist, I first thought it was not “good enough” for me. Yes, I know that makes me sound like a total snob. Which I admit I can be when it comes to current events. But here’s a confession – I can’t keep up with everything in full detail all the time and have a life that includes raising an 8-year-old! Ukraine, I hear ya! It’s a mess. But I’m trying to get my son to eat healthy, learn to tie his shoes and master long division!

So, I laughed out loud this morning BEFORE I even crawled out of bed after reading The Skimm’s run down on the Oscars and the best film nominations.The Oscars are on Sunday. And you have a lot of movies to cram in this weekend. Don’t stress. Here’s what you need to know about the best pic noms from The Skimm.

ornament-wide

12 Years a Slave… A man is kidnapped and sold into slavery. Very hard to watch and if you don’t like it, you’re a bad person. Lupita Nyong’o. Know her.

The Wolf of Wall Street… It took three hours for Martin Scorsese to explain why you shouldn’t look up to Jordan Belfort and why you shouldn’t work on quaaludes.

Her… This is what happens when you like Siri too much.

Dallas Buyers Club… It took Jared Leto dressing like Kelly Bundy and Matthew McConaughey losing his entire BMI to become major Oscar contenders.

American Hustle… Bradley Cooper got a perm and made Amy Adams — in a weird accent — con some people. Kind of. Everyone said they really liked it but secretly didn’t.

Captain Phillips… Tom Hanks at sea again. But he’s kidnapped this time.

Gravity… Sandra Bullock desperately misses it when she’s lost in space. This is your worst nightmare.

Nebraska… Black and white. Road trip. Bruce Dern will make you cry.

Philomena… Judi Dench tries to find her son. Everyone likes Judi Dench.

Who will win?  Who cares!  It’s all about the red carpet and what the stars are wearing at the end of the day!

 

Sundance Film Festival Tickets on Luxury Travel Mom

 

Kim Marie Evans, Luxury Travel, Sundance Film Festival Tickets,

www.luxurytravelmom.com

I have met my travel junkie match in Kim-Marie Evans. She is the globe hopping force to be reckoned with behind www.luxurytravelmom.com

We met a few years back at an event and bonded quickly over each others amazing accessories.  At least her’s were amazing!  She was wearing a fabulous necklace that she, of course, picked up on a trip somewhere along the way.

I’m beyond thrilled to be featured on her website.  My 2014 Sundance experience, along with her own Sundance/Park City/ski bunny notes back be found here.

 

Laguna Beach Magic

 

Travel Intention

Travel Intention

The Instagram snapshot above – written in crayon –  contains my intentions for the week I spent recently at The Montage in Laguna Beach.  Who needs to set intentions for a luxurious vacation?  Well, I do! I actually think you should set an intention every morning before your feet hit the floor and you drag your lazy bones out of bed!  But when you are investing in a luxurious vacation, it is imperative to keep your intentions in the forefront of your mind.  Why let the stress and worries you left behind infiltrate your time away?  Especially when you are camped out on the cliff over looking the Pacific Ocean at The Montage.

A View to a Chill

A View to a Chill

This magnificent view never gets old. The Montage is one of my family’s favorite get aways and this stunning view from the lobby terrace is one of the reasons why.  That pool is the prime place to Be Happy.  Be Relaxed.  Be Grateful! See the photo below for proof!

Jet Lagged Traveling Du0

Jet Lagged Traveling Duo

Even when you arrive 6 hours before check in time, you can check out at the pool and slip into vacation mode immediately!  When you are perched over the Pacific, it is really easy to start to unwind and slip into vacation mode.

Majestic Montage

Majestic Montage

One of the reasons my family loves this place is that it has something for all of us, especially Corbin.  He LOVES The Paintbox, which is the kids program at the hotel.  The staff is top notch and most often Corbin doesn’t want to leave when it is time to go. They even send him birthday cards every July. No trip here is complete without the obligatory face painting session. Or the trip across the street to CVS to get some make-up remover to get all of this off of his sweet little face! I don’t recommend doing this the day before your family photo shoot on the beach, though.  All of that black face paint can be a real pain to get off of an 8-year-old boy.

Facepaint Creature from the Paintbox Girls

Facepaint Creature from the Paintbox Girls

This year, we made the trek down to LegoLand.  I have to confess, I am not an amusement park fan AT ALL.  But, as parents we do things with our kids that often times we’d rather not be doing, right?  Legoland did not disappoint.  The weather was perfect. There was not a huge crowd. We all really enjoyed the day and the fun photo ops!

He's So ... Stiff

He’s So … Stiff

I Will Not Look at you or smile...no way.

I will not look at you or smile…no way.

As I mentioned, I dislike hate amusement parks.  But I adore LOVE my child.  And look at his face in the photo below…that’s a look of shear excitement on his face.  And one of complete terror on mine!

Last photo of the day at Legoland

Last photo of the day at Legoland

There really is no huge reason to leave The Montage but we wanted to shake things up a bit since we were there for seven days.  The SoCal food scene is always intriguing.  The Watermarc was recommended and we found ourselves there TWICE on this trip.  One of my favorite dishes was the watermelon, tuna and tomato skewers. As a southerner, if an entree offers up tomatos and watermelon in the same dish, I’m going to order it.  The tuna and touch of seaweed salad really amped up the flavors.

Tomato Watermelon Tuna skewers..second order!

Tomato Watermelon Tuna skewers..second order!

But I have to tell you, when I found out about the home made Ding Dongs on the dessert menu, I had to order them. As a child, my grandmother always kept a box of Ding Dongs in her “treat” drawer.  Some foods make my soul happy. These chocolate dipped cakes do it for me.  And bring them to me in a Rolling Stones lunch box and I’m a really a happy camper.  Momma’s gettin’ some satisfaction!

The Lunch Box

The Lunch Box

With all of the time I have spent at The Montage, I have yet to find a bad view. Even the view from the gym is spectacular. I snapped this from the treadmill following my evening of Ding Dongs! Afterwards, I checked into the spa which I highly recommend. They offer a wide selection of amazing services and have a great boutique that is well edited with skin care products from Eminence and super stylish clothing from R and R Surplus. Speaking of shopping, if you can drag yourself away from the fabulous boutique in the spa and gift shop, I recommend two other places in Laguna Beach for some retail therapy.  First stop is 11th Moon for a well curated selection of clothing and accessories from Peter Pillota, Raquel Allegra and Rachel Comey.  Second stop is Tuvalu.  I picked up some great treasures for my apartment in this shop on Forest Avenue.  My basket of shiny sea shells and my huge chunk of coral make for great conversations and are reminders of one of my favorite vacations spots.

Workout View over the Adult Only Pool

Workout View over the Adult Only Pool

My absolute favorite thing about The Montage is just relaxing by the pool.  It takes a bit of time to unwind from the frantic pace of living in New York City.  But once I’ve turned down the dial and quieted the committee of monkeys in my head, there is no better place to chill than in a lounge chair here with the breeze coming off the ocean.  I can read a highly recommended thriller tabloid magazine, people watch celebrity watch, sleep off a hangover nap and play with my filters on Instagram!

I see you end of summer....I know!

I see you end of summer….I know!

Our poolside lounging includes some fantastic food and beverages from The Mosaic Grill. I’m typically a Veuve Clicquot champagne lady but opted for something new.  I found myself craving something green and this is what was suggested.  The Cucumber Crusher.

Cucumber Cooler Crusher

Cucumber Crush

Wanna make one for yourself?  You will need the following on the rocks:

Grey Goose La Poire Vodka

Muddled Cucumber

Agave Nectar

Fresh Lime Juice

Splash of Soda

Priceless in every way

Priceless in every way

After a full week in my version of paradise, Corbin came back from dinner with this heart stopping note and sparkly ring from the gift shop.  This child slays me.  He knows his Momma well.  And we can all use an evil eye to keep bad things away from us. I wish I could just bottle him up sometimes and keep him 8 forever.

Leaves me speechless

Leaves me speechless

I leave you with this stunning sunset photo.  There is my joie de vivre, y’all. Words really can’t do any more for it.

Thanks for Kim-Marie at www.luxurytravelmom.com for sharing the word about Instagram Travel Thursday.

Instagram Travel Thursday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She’s Got a Story to Tell

My story telling class at The Peoples Improv Theater or The Pit is in the books. My friend, Dana, recommended I take the class and after looking into it, I knew she was on to something.  As a television journalist, I’ve been telling stories for a long time.  However, as a journalist, I was reporting facts professionally with as little bias as possible.  This, however, is just me telling you a story from my point of view and experience.  It really sums up what this blog is about.  Me giving you a look into my world through my lens –  however off the wall it may be!  And God knows some of it will seem off the wall at times.

Image

After spending the last 8 weeks downtown on Monday nights, I recently performed my story in front of a live audience at The Pit on East 24th Street here in Manhattan.  I was first up and took to the stage just as my nerves began to settle down! Check out the You Tube video below.

My instructors David Crabb and Michele Wallson were absolutely amazing.  With their guidance and critiques during the classroom sessions, I quickly learned the basics of telling a story!  Yes, there is a method to the madness.

I’m hooked.

I’ve got a boat load of material.

And I can’t wait to get back on a stage to tell another story!

Friends and family, consider yourself warned.

Front Page Below the Fold

Carter Harrison knows fried catfish

By DJ Duckworth

Correspondent

Some of the most amazing food can be found on the small, yet jam packed island of Manhattan. If you can think of it, it is here. Whether it is authentic Thai, Mexican, Indian or Turkish dishes, you will find it in New York City. And to make it even better, you can have just about any of it delivered. The only exception, I have found is the lack of really good southern cuisine. More specifically, fried catfish. Sure, you can find it in New York City, but it doesn’t quite measure up to the tasty versions that are served up across the southern United States.

However, one man is making catfish served southern style available to the masses across the country. Carter Harrison, the man behind King Kat Inc. of Hickory Plains, has been either raising, processing or catering catfish since the 1970s. Harrison was recently in Washington, D.C. cooking for the Catfish Farmers of America when I caught up with him to talk about his career and the current state of the catfish industry.

Before the crowd of Southern senators and congressman arrived at the reception, Harrison talked with me about his business. He got his start with catfish in the late 1960s working alongside his late father-in-law Raymond Schroeder in Carlisle. The two would often spend 18 hour work days along side each other. Harrison, who grew up in Des Arc, says he had no clue what he wanted to be when he grew up. “How many young people know what they wanna do? I grew up in the country and just knew I liked being outside,“ Harrison said.

Outside is where Harrison was when we spoke as he prepped for the reception not far from the steps of the nation’s Capitol. The hot topic of the evening was the inspection process of catfish with the focus being on imports. Harrison says the imported catfish from China and Vietnam is cheaper but not being held up to the same standards as the U.S. raised catfish. “They are bringing it in at a lower cost, not by the guidelines that they need to be, competing with our product that is cultured and produced under good situations under U.S. guidelines.” Currently, imported catfish has 75 percent of the filet market.

The United States Department of Agriculture currently inspects catfish, but the government, sighting duplicity issues, wants to move the inspections to the Food and Drug Administration’s supervision. According to Ben Pentecost, president of the Catfish Farmers of America, 91 percent of the fish in the U.S. is imported. The FDA currently inspects only two percent of the imports and conducts chemical testing on one tenth of one percent of imported fish. The House Agriculture committee has already voted to move the inspections from under the USDA to the FDA. A similar bill is pending in the Senate.

Joey Lowery, from Newport, farms 400 acres of catfish.

“We can compete with anybody but we have to have the right atmosphere to do that in,“ Lowery said. The catfish inspections are detailed in the 2008 farm bill that has yet to be implemented. Congressman Rick Crawford, serves on the agriculture sub committee that voted to move the inspections to the FDA. “It’s a food safety issue, it’s a quality issue and it’s not a trade retaliation issue,” Crawford says. “If the FDA is going to be in charge of inspecting it, we are going to make sure they inspect it properly and to the right standard.”

U.S. seafood importers with the aid of the National Fisheries Institute have spent over a million dollars to keep the inspections under the FDA’s authority.

After marrying his wife, Debbye, Carter Harrison went into full-time catfish production, even building catfish ponds and processing catfish. In 1985, he streamlined the business focusing primarily on catering. Harrison now has three full-time workers and his family often helps out, even though he says King Kat isn’t a traditional family business. His children seem to disagree.

“No one can merely ‘observe’ when at the farm,” says Harrison’s daughter Shana. She was at the farm before her father left for the Washington, D.C., trip. “Before the day was out, I was sent off to buy dry ice for the trip. At one point, I also saw Chris and Bryce out in the kitchen doing something to get it ready. It seems that the concept of ‘family business’ continues to grow with us, despite our age or how far away from Prairie County we roam.”

Harrison’s mobile operation runs like a well-oiled machine. He does some prep work before leaving Hickory Plains and adds the finishing touches once he arrives on site. The food is packed in ice chests on dry ice. The Mississippi-raised catfish is later dressed and fried in his mobile kitchen. Like the veil of secrecy surrounding the ingredients of Kentucky Fried Chicken’s recipe, Harrison prefers to keep his breading recipe under wraps. But he does make a concession when I ask him if he will divulge it to me, “only if you wanna buy it!” he says.

If you can think of an event where you need a meal, King Kat has catered it — from RiverFest, to funerals, to luncheons in Washington, D.C., to fundraisers at local schools. As one publications once wrote, King Kat has served catfish from the outhouse to the White House.

With a career spanning over 40 years, Harrison talks about his favorite part of the job. “Pleasing people,” he says this with a pause as tears come to his eyes. “I’ve enjoyed working with a lot of young people along the way, too.”

When asked what he would be doing if he weren’t the king of catfish catering, he says with a laugh, “I wouldn’t be fishing! I’d be seeing the county. I’d still eat catfish though, maybe driving a bus and touring people in later years but that won’t happen. I’m gonna cook to long to do that.”

In the fast paced world of social media, you won’t find King Kat on Facebook and you will not be able to keep up with their travels on Twitter. You can’t even get the scoop on King Kat off of his website – there isn’t one. Harrison says, “we have a phone number” and that has kept him busy and in business since 1980.

DJ Duckworth is a television journalist currently living in New York City. The Carlisle native is a contributing writer for New York Family magazine. You can read more about her adventures atwww.iamdjduckworth.com

Southerner and the City: D.J. Works Out with Celeb Trainer David Kirsch

DJ on the Beachyellow plumsStaying physically fit has always been a top priority for me. If you ask any of my friends, they will tell you that I’m either heading to a yoga or work out class of some flavor. Spending more than 10 years on television – first as a reporter and later as a spokesperson – added extra pressure to stay trim, too. And of course, you can’t rule out vanity! I want to look good.

However, there have been times when I wasn’t in the best shape. The freshman 15 showed up during the second semester of college. It’s hard to drink beer, eat pizza, study and stay trim. After I got married, a few more pounds made their way onto my frame. We were hop scotching all over the place, eating, drinking and thoroughly enjoying ourselves. When things finally slowed down, I found out I was pregnant. Hello, 40 pounds.

Fast forward seven years, I am looking pretty good physically if I do say so myself. It didn’t happen without a tremendous amount of discipline, hard work and some words of encouragement though. Actually, they were not words of encouragement. They were the words that every married woman NEVER wants to hear her husband say. It went something like this, “Honey, that’s not fat. That’s just a midlife pooch.” Lucky for him and more importantly my son, he is still alive and breathing.

It was all I needed to hear – coupled with the fact that my parents had both recently committed to starting a medically supervised weight loss program. My Father is a two-time heart attack survivor with diabetes. My Mom is in overall good health but needed to drop some weight. They made up there minds they were going to stick to the plan and started with fierce determination. I’ve included a photo of them from Christmas. I am so proud of them for their accomplishments.

My parents’ weight loss, along with my husbands poor choice of words, were all the encouragement I needed to start a serious workout plan. My three times a week yoga sessions were keeping me flexible and calm, but I needed to tone and tighten up my 1970s model body. I was on a mission. I stumbled across a video clip of Heidi Klum’s trainer, David Kirsch. I clicked on it, liked it and started doing some research. During this process ironically, I met David backstage at a fashion show at Lincoln Center in September. He and his adorable twin girls were taking part in the show that I was helping with. After introducing myself, I told him I wanted to start working out and liked his approach to training women, specifically. Shortly afterwards, I called and made an appointment with him at the Madison Square Club.

David is known for whipping Heidi Klum back into runway shape for a Victoria’s Secret show after giving birth. He has also worked with Anne Hathaway, Ellen Barkin, Linda Evangelista and Liv Tyler. While I will never be a supermodel or look like one, I decided it would be great to train like one. David’s approach is all about wellness, focusing on your diet and your workout. He helped me clean up my diet and his team of trainers kicked my butt into shape! I am lean, tone, slimmer and happier about my overall physical health thanks to David and his crew.

So you may be thinking, “That’s great D.J., but how can I work out like that”?

It’s really easy, actually, thanks to technology. David has an online workout/wellness plan called The Ultimate New York Body Plan. It is an online training plan you use at home. Once you sign up, you have to enter information based on your health, physical fitness level, eating habits and most importantly your goals. The work outs are designed for your body type and your fitness level.

Several of my girlfriends have agreed to start The Ultimate New York Body Plan compliments of David. Over the next several weeks, the girls will be doing the workouts, following David’s eating plans and incorporating his supplements into their daily routines. I’m looking forward to seeing their results, gathering feedback and keeping YOU informed on their transformations. This is not all about losing weight. It is about being fit, healthy and well in 2013.

Stay tuned for more on the results from my girlfriends as they get “Kirsched.” Thank you, David Kirsch. You are an inspiration to us all!

Keep up with D.J’s adventures in the Big Apple by following her on Twitter @mrsdjduckworth and on Facebook. DJ is a contributing writer for New York Family magazine. She lives in Manhattan with her three boys, Mark, Corbin and Leo – woof, woof!