Monday, August 29, 2016

Sidewalk Film Festival 2016

This past weekend was one for the books! I actually think I need a weekend to recover from this one. Not only did I get to see Drake in ATL on Friday night (amazing!) but Atlanta was only a short visit and it was back to Bham since Saturday and Sunday were booked up for the 18th annual Sidewalk Film Festival! As you may know I love movies and this is the perfect way to see indies, local and even some I probably would never check out if they weren't at the festival!

This was my second year at Sidewalk and like last year I opted for the VIP Pass, it can get pricy as the festival gets closer so I recommend purchasing yours earlier rather than later. They also have weekend passes as well as single day passes you can purchase as well. I like VIP because it guarantees you get into each film, front of the line access, free snacks, VIP lounge and is an overall good deal.  For the least expensive price on any tickets be sure to buy early!
Getting Around
Everything is pretty much within walking distance of each other, there are several venues to watch each film so check your program and see which spots you will be in. I always like to park in the lot across from the Alabama Theater, it cost $10 but it is very convenient plus safe! There are signs along the way to direct you and if you don't feel like walking to the venues there are trams and bicycles for you free of charge. We felt safe the entire weekend and there was a good amount of security but as with any bigger city or any event for that matter be aware of your surroundings, pay attention and be smart.
VIP Lounge

One cool thing that is included with the VIP pass is the lounge. This year's was really well done! Light snacks since it was super hot outside, drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and you got to be in the air condition for a bit if you needed a break from the walking!

Oh and they even had massages! The lovely ladies from the Aveda Institutes South were giving free neck, back and hand massages. Let me tell you the neck massage was a God-send after craning my neck for a few hours at films (I know such a hard life #firstworldproblems) but I have such a bad neck and back from my former cheerleading days that it was heavenly! You also got a card for a free massage at their spa for the future which will definitely be put to use.

Films, Food and More
When you get your event guide be sure to look it over and start selecting which films are your "must-see" now when you are in a group things can get a bit more complicated. Odds are that not everyone is going to like the same things so I think it's best to compromise and have each person pick at least one film that is their "must". Or you can always split up and meet up before another film, it's up to you! And if all of your group wants to see the same films then snaps to you because you've made you life easy (yay).
Film festivals like Sidewalk are the perfect way to see some great documentaries (Chicken People, it's legit a thing), beautiful cinematography (The Love Witch), brilliant style pieces (Cheerleader, maybe my favorite film of the fest), and fantastic indies (the terrific Morris Comes to America). I also love the short films! Especially the horror shorts, it's great seeing lots of film styles in a short time and you get more than one story so you feel like you are experiencing more.
If you get hungry there are tons of food trucks (shout out to Big Spoon Creamery and Mimi's Soda) as well as your standard movie theater snacks in each venue! I would recommend brining cash since a lot of the theaters are older so it's easier to pay cash plus with food trucks, theaters, etc. you never know if the system might go down so keep cash handy!

What to Wear
You will be sitting down. A lot. You will be walking in the heat a lot of the time in between films so dress comfortably! This is not the time for that form fitting bodycon dress (save that for next weekend) but breezy sundresses, sandals, tees and tennis are my go to! Guys if you are reading just stick with shorts, jeans and tees. Everyone just needs to be comfortable so they can enjoy the movies! And so you can eat your popcorn and milk duds with no remorse or shame.

Final Thoughts

Birmingham has come such a long way in the past couple of years and events like Sidewalk are drawing in more people than ever. The event is well priced, unique, and fun for those that live here and those that are traveling just for the festival. Trust me you won't be disappointed! Very well organized, safe, and it offers a bit of a break on an otherwise monotonous August weekend. I highly recommend Sidewalk!

For more information on next year's event click here! Start making your preparations now!

Are there any film festivals in your area? Which ones do I need to visit? Let me know!

Happy Film Watching!


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Fantasy Football Draft 2016 Tips and Picks

So last year some guy friends asked if I wanted to be part of a Fantasy Football League and I had heard about it but never participated. I went into it not knowing anything about the draft, rankings,etc. All I mainly remember about the draft is that I chose two quarterbacks in my first rounds (I realized this was a faux pas) and asking one of my co-workers and his friend at weekly trivia who I should take. This was DURING the draft! I ended up getting some solid picks and the more I researched the more I knew who to play each game and guess what? I won my league! Let's talk tips!
Beginner Fantasy Football Tips
1. Quarterback is important. "Experts" say to go draft your QB last but I say pick a dual threat early (basic meaning: a QB that can run with the ball and throw) so you can get more points. I had Cam Newton last season and he was my leader in points almost every week.
2. Pick Wide Receivers and Running Backs first and second. You have to have points to win so it makes sense to choose the players who are scoring the touchdowns, right? It might be tempting to choose players who you recognize from college but if it's their first year I would go more with a proven veteran who's be in the league and has a record. Keep in mind just because a player was great last year in college or NFL even doesn't mean they will repeat success.
3. Look at the updates on injuries. Your fantasy app especially ESPN will send you updates whether a player is out for a game, not in practice, injured, etc. This is especially helpful for choosing your lineup for the games.
4. Remember to set your line-up. Doing a little research and being familiar with teams can go a long way when you are selecting. It's not about favorites, it's seeing who can give you the most points. If you don't set your line-up it will do it for you or keep it set from the week before, it is much better to choose your own or it may not set at all so no points (insert sad face).
5. Defense players are important too! You get points for sacks, loosing yards, etc. and don't discredit kickers. Kickers win games! It's best to have a well rounded team if you can draft that way.
6. HAVE FUN! This is all for fun so don't get discouraged if you lose every game or start to be too braggy if you win every game (maybe a little humble brag). It's a great way to connect with friends, co-workers, family or even just joining a league to see what all the talk is about!
Fantasy Picks for 2016
1. Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers)
2. Aaron Rogers (Green Bay Packers)
3. Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts)
4. Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks)
5. Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh Steelers)
6. Blake Bortles (Jacksonville Jaguars)
7. Carson Palmer (Arizona Cardinals)
8. Tom Brady (New England Patriots)** Will be suspended first four games so use back-up pick till he comes back
9. Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints)
10. Eli Manning (New York Giants)
Running Backs
1. Todd Gurley (LA Rams)
2. Adrian Peterson (Minnesota Vikings)
3. Ezekiel Elliott (Dallas Cowboys)
4. David Johnson (Minnesota Vikings)
5. Lamar Miller (Houston Texans)
6.  Devontae Freeman (ATL Falcons)
7. LeSean McCoy (Buffalo Bills)
8. Le'Veon Bell (Pittsburgh Steelers)
9. Eddie Lacey (Green Bay Packers)
10. Johnathon Stewart (Carolina Panthers)
Wide Receivers
1. Julio Jones (ATL Falcons)
2. Antonio Browns (Pittsburgh Steelers)
3. Odell Beckham Junior (NY Giants)
4. Dez Bryant (Dallas Cowboys)
5. A.J. Green (Cincy Bengals)
6. Deandre Hopkins (Houston Texans)
7. Allen Robinson (Jacksonville Jaguars)
8. Jordy Nelson (Green Bay Packers)
9. Keenan Allen (San Diego Chargers)
10. Mike Evans (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Tight Ends
1. Rob Gronkowski (New England Patriots)
2. Greg Olsen (Carolina Panthers)
3. Delanie Walker (Tennessee Titans)
4. Jordan Reed (Washington Redskins)
5. Coby Fleener (New Orleans Saints)
6. Travis Kelce (Kansas City)
7. Tyler Elfert (Cincy Bengals)
8. Julius Thomas (Jacksonville Jags)
9. Zach Ertz (Philadelphia Eagles)
10. Gary Barnidge (Cleveland Browns)
1. Steven Hauschka (Seattle Seahawks)
2. Graham Gano (Carolina)
3. Stephen Gostkowski (New England)
4. Mason Crosby (Green Bay)
5. Justin Tucker (Baltimore)
6. Chandler Catanzaro (Arizona)
7. Chris Boswell (Pittsburgh)
8. Dan Bailey (Dallas)
9. Cairo Santos (Kansas City)
10. Brandon McManus (Denver)
Defense and Special Teams
1. Carolina
2. Arizona
3. Seattle
4. Denver
5. Houston
6. Kansas City
7. Los Angeles
8. Cincinnati
10. New York Jets
Sleepers (keep an eye on these)
1. Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago
2. Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee
3. Clive Walford, TE, Oakland Raiders
4. Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati
5. Matt Jones, RB, Washington
6. RG3, Washington, QB
7. DeVante Parker, WR, Miami
8. Justin Hardy, WR, Atlanta
9. Paul Perkins, RB, NY Giants
10. C.J. Prosise, RB, Seattle Seahawks
There you have it! Hope these tips and picks help you out and let me know if you have any questions!
Happy Drafting!


Monday, August 22, 2016

10 Books to Read Now

Hello blogging world! Yes, I have been away for a few days but I'm alive! I've been so busy starting a new radio show, watching my first film come to life (and gearing up for two more), getting ready for classes to start (possibly applying to get my doctoral degree), working with the best guys on sports talk radio and life.  So the blog had to wait. Don't worry, I'm back!

If you follow along here or my Instagram, you know I love reading. It's one of the reasons why I love writing. Let's face it, if you don't read it's hard to write. Now what stories do I prefer? I love suspense, thrillers and horror! Stephen King is my all time favorite author and such a huge influence over my work. Now that doesn't mean I don't appreciate the classics or a good old love story (hello Nicholas Sparks, I know the ending will be tragic but I read anyway) or comedy like the fantastic Emily Giffin who penned the Something Borrow and Something Blue novels along with countless others. I also confess I love the Harry Potter series, I might have even gone to a few midnight release parties at the bookstore when I was younger.

I can always tell what books are going to be an instant hit with me and I have read some awesome one this summer, from suspense to love to horror to memoirs there is something for each of you! I even encourage you to try something you haven't before, a book might just surprise you!

1. The Girls by Emma Cline

The Girls

This might be my favorite of the summer! What happens when some young impressionable girls join a Charles Manson-esque cult? You know it can't be good but you have to see what happens.

2. First Comes Love by Emily Giffin

First Comes Love

A sweet but not sappy look at the lives of two southern sisters. The perfect match of humor, drama and storyline that will make you fall in love with Giffin's writing.

3. Girl on a Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train

Go ahead and read this thriller before it hits theaters this fall. With a Gone Girl feeling this thriller will keep you wondering who to believe especially with such an unreliable narrator. This is going to be a big movie this fall so read it first!

4. Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Truly Madly Guilty

I got this novel on one of my longer plane travels this summer and I could not put it down! It's fantastic! If you want suspense, who done it, thriller, comedy all in one book....this is it!

5. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

The Woman in Cabin 10

I just started this one but I can already tell it's going to be a good one! Ruth Ware did not disappoint with her first novel (In a Dark, Dark Wood) and her writing is so creepy it can give Stephen King a run for his money.

6. The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo

Unapologetic and uncensored might be the two words you see what is associated with Amy's name. Her first memoir dives into issues such as sexual abuse, relationships and more. I haven't read it yet (it was sold out at my bookstore) but I am interested to see the real Amy. I'm sure it handles difficult parts of her life along with happy moments with her trademark humor.

7. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Nightingale

Ok get your tissues ready. This beautiful story about two sisters in WWII era France is well done and perfectly written. Just a may cry.

8. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See

The Pulitzer Prize winning novel about a young German boy and a blind French girl who meet during WWII is one that you won't be able to put down and rest assured will surely become a major movie picture soon. Read it now!

9. I'm Glad About You by Theresa Rebeck

I'm Glad About You

A charming story about a successful actress and her on-again-off again boyfriend from high school who she's had a tumulus relationship with years unfolds in the pages of this breezy read that you will finish in a weekend.

10. Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

Luckiest Girl Alive

Alright so this may have been the book of the summer last year but if you haven't read it yet...get to it! This thriller will make you stay up wanting to see what happens.

Have you read any of these? Any suggestions for me? Let me know!

Happy Reading!


Thursday, August 4, 2016

Disney and Universal During Peak Season

Orlando is a prime location for vacation in any season but obviously summer months and holidays are known as peak season. Off season are those months when there isn't much going on (think September, February and April) while peak can draw the crowds (June-August, Christmas, Thanksgiving). I have been to the parks during peaks and while it can be difficult, it can be done!Here are some tips for along the way.
Pack Light
This is sometimes easier said then done but try and only bring the necessities and preferably in a carry-on. I hate wasting time at the airport waiting on luggage and it can be a huge timesaver to go ahead and have you and your travel parties luggage with you right when you step off the plane. Also, Disney World Resort offers the Magical Express if you are staying at one of their On-Site Resorts meaning they will actually pick up your luggage for you and place it in your room. This is a good service however it does take a lengthy time to reach your destination (unless you are the first stop), if you don't want to waste time or you aren't staying at a Disney resort, I highly suggest renting a car for your stay.
Flower Crown Ears  Fujifilm Instax Mini 8  Draper James Fedora

Universal Orlando Tip: Stay On Site and Arrive Early for New Attractions

I would recommend hitting up Universal Orlando first before Walt Disney World (if you are even headed to the Mouse) mainly because Universal Orlando has two parks and can be easily traveled in a day and a half. You will definitely want to start out at Diagon Alley at Universal Studios and soak up the atmosphere before taking the Hogwarts express to The Wizzarding World of Harry Potter in Islands of Adventure.

Universal Orlando is comprised of two Theme Parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, you must have a ticket to both parks to experience them both. Both are great in their own ways, Universal Studios is the more classic park and Islands is known for their thrills and coasters. I would also highly recommend staying onsite since you are permitted to enter the park early plus at select resorts (Portofino Bay Resort, Hard Rock Hotel and Royal Pacific Resort) you are given an unlimited Express Pass to enjoy most rides with no wait. The Cabana Bay Resort and new Sapphire Falls Resort offer early entry but no Express Passes, however they are a great deal! My budget pick would be the Cabana Bay Beach Resort and deluxe pick would be the Hard Rock Hotel!

Visit Skull Island: Reign of Kong
Ok, this is an all new ride and yes, there will be LONG waits, this attraction is excluded from Express Pass so make it a priority to do this first thing at opening (8am), if you are staying on-site, hang out in the Wizzarding World of Harry Potter or Jurassic Park until about 7:35am then start making your way over to Kong. You will thank me later when you aren't in a 2 hour standby line.

Reign of Kong, Diagon Alley, The Wizzarding World of Harry Potter and Jurassic Park draw the most crowds. Hit these areas first thing in the morning or come back later and night about 3 hours before closing. If you decide to not stay on-site I would try and budget Express Passes into your ticket plan, you are permitted to the front of the line for shows and bypass lines for most attractions, it can be a real lifesaver on those super crowded day or when you are short on time!

Utilize Quick Service Meals
Quick service is exactly how it sounds and can be found at all theme parks including Universal and Disney World. I hate wasting time eating big meals and I just feel like taking a nap afterwards, stick to quick meals or even healthy snacks (I love the fruit bowls!) throughout the day. It's a timesaver and a lot better on your wallet than sit-down restaurants. A list of quick service restaurants can be found here at Universal Orlando and here for Disney World!

Take the Time to Visit Disney Springs
The new take on "Downtown Disney" is a hip shopping mecca with stores like Free People, Lilly Pulitzer, Kate Spade, Sephora and more! The parks will be super crowded during the middle of the day so I suggest Disney Springs for a little relaxation. Check out a movie, go to one of the many restaurants, shop and just browse around waiting for the crowds to die down at the parks. Yes, they even have s Sprinkles Cupcake ATM!

Park Hop Around Disney World

Much like Disney it is essential to arrive early, if you are staying at one of Disney's Resorts take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours. If you have a Park Hopper ticket, meaning you can visit multiple parks in one day, take advantage of it! We love starting off at Hollywood Studios and walking via the Boardwalk to the secret entrance to Epcot right past the Boardwalk Resort.

TIP: The all new Frozen ride and pavilion recently opened and it gets crowded FAST like four hour wait time fast. Do the attraction right as the World Showcase portion of Epcot opens!

Stay Hydrated and Take Breaks
You will be moving around a lot, mixing in and out of large crowds and most likely it will be very warm, if you are visiting in the summer it can be downright sweltering. Be sure to listen to your body, drink plenty of water, eat some fruit, have an ice cream and if you feel like you are getting too tired or feel uncomfortable, go back to the hotel for a nap or relax by the pool. Chances are the rest of your party will be feeling the same way. If not? Hello sweet alone time!

Stay Late
Maybe you just aren't a morning person well that's fine! The night owls can enjoy the extra magic hours as well as late operating hours that are often found during peak seasons. In fact, the Animal Kingdom started for the first time being open past 6pm and that means you can ride favorites such as Expedition Everest and Kilimanjaro Safari at night. The Magic Kingdom is sometimes even open as late as 2am, take advantage of the cooler temps and lighter crowds!

Enjoy the Scenery
Even when the parks are packed you can still find ways to enjoy yourself. Go on an older attraction with no wait, visit memorable areas of the parks or my favorite, take out the camera (even if it's just your iPhone) and explore the parks. There really is some beautiful scenery throughout the Universal and Disney as silly as that may sound. I could spend an hour or so just taking pics in Diagon Alley or seeing every little detail in the nooks of the Magic Kingdom. Go out there and see what you can find!

Have the Best Day Ever
In the end, you are on vacation! Have fun and even thought peak seasons can seem a little mad, remember we're all mad here so take your time, enjoy some Butterbeer or a Mickey Ice Cream Bar and do what you're feeling!

Happy Travels!