Erika Preval - Simply Put

Category: Field Trip


CNN - ErikaShyannInterview

 Just in time for Thanksgiving, I was invited by CNN’s HLN Weekend Express to share holiday etiquette tips. Host Shyann Malone posed a variety of questions that ranged from the appropriate time to decorate for Christmas to what to bring when being hosted in someone’s home. It was a great way to kick off the holiday season!

The day started with 8:30am security check-in. From there, my youngest daughter and I were escorted up the escalator to a second security station which allowed us access to the elevators. Made a quick trip to CNN’s Hair and Makeup (the team is terrific) and was whisked away to the studio to have my microphone put into place. You’ll find the full interview here. Sharing a few behind the scenes snapshots from our morning at CNN!


Erika being interviewed by host Shyann Malone

CNN - Tour

CNN Tour guests watched the interview from outside of the studio

CNN - CameraView

Camera view of the interview area

CNN - HairMakeup

A portion of CNN’s Hair and Makeup team



It was around this time, a couple of weeks ago, that the girls and I decided to take an overnight trip to Birmingham. Not being our first visit, there were already a couple of favorites we looked forward to stopping by, but we wanted to try some new restaurants, too. There’s plenty to do in Birmingham, but if you’re looking for places to eat after your trip to the Science Museum and Civil Rights Institute, here are my picks for good eats on a casual road trip (with or without children).


No trek to Birmingham is complete without a stop by Continental Bakery. Our first visit to this Mountain Brook treasure was thanks to a Google search for crepes years ago. This whimsical bakery has delicious coffees, cakes and a fridge full of noshes from it’s dine in option Chez Lulu. It’s their variety of croissants that has the girls smitten, though. Top picks: Nutella and Cinnamon Sugar croissants and the daily frittata.



Pulling into Birmingham, we opted to delay checking into the Westin and drove straight to El Barrio. There’s a full bar and some booths, but you’ll likely be seated at a communal table. The girls loved their steak tacos – everything is on the side; a build your own experience that’s great for my “picky” eaters. My veggie quesadilla was super yummy, as was the salad accompanying it. The churros are perfect for sharing and delicious, so you’ll want to save room for them.


Before heading back to Atlanta, we enjoyed lunch at Southside’s FIVE Restaurant and Bar. Unassuming on the outside, this place is a total feast for the eyes once you open the door with artwork and chandeliers galore. The menu is simple, and they created a virgin version of their Strawberry Lemonade for the girls. Shared the fried shrimp sandwich with one daughter; the other had chicken bites from the kids menu. Both were perfection! Enjoy the cocktail menu. Skip the dessert.



Staying overnight, you’ll likely have only one dinner in Birmingham. Wait till dusk, and head to the Avondale neighborhood’s Post Office Pies. You’ll find a chalkboard menu of their pizzas and salads on the wall. Choose your pie and order a local beer from neighbor Avondale Brewery and one of their craft sodas for the younger guests (Coffee Vanilla Bean and Orange Rosemary are the girls’ favorites). This place is no frills, so anticipate eating your slices on Kraft paper – not plates. Adults only? Enjoy the music and nightlife after dinner.



Birmingham has no shortage of great bakeries. Savage’s, one of our favorites, has been around since 1939 and you’ll find it in Downtown Homewood. If you’re considering an impromptu picnic their deli has you covered. I’m a fan of their cinnamon rolls and cheese straws (and red & white striped bags), but always grab one of their signature Smiley Face cookies for photo ops.


Edgewood Creamery was a new find that the girls are still talking about. A cozy space filled with options to put inside of your waffle, cake or sugar cone, this was a fun stop before heading over to Vulcan Park for a closer look at the icon you’ll see throughout your stay in the Magic City..


Excluding times I’ve lived abroad as a student, I’ve traveled solo at least once a year for nearly 20 years. Turning 40, I decided that Bermuda had remained on my travel bucket list far too long. The trip proved to be more than worth the wait, and I cannot wait to return. There’s so much to share (if you follow me on Snapchat, you’ll concur) that I’m dividing my time there between two posts. The first will focus on the property I chose to reside in during my stay and the second will cover adventures off-property.

One of the most important details when traveling alone is safety. So, I’m always very particular about my accommodations and make certain they’re aware of my plans. Rosewood Tucker’s Point makes this process easy and takes it a step further by sending over a Guest Preference form upon booking your reservation. Arguably the nicest property on the island, the thoughtful inquiries on the form are just a glimpse into the level of service you can anticipate during your stay.

Beach Club

Opting for the Manor House Poolside Deluxe Room during my 4-night stay, by the time I reached the room and walked outside to Castle Harbor Pool, I was greeted by a rain shower that ruined initial plans to lounge on my daybed and order a late poolside lunch. Before I could decide what to do next the doorbell rang announcing luggage delivery. As quickly as the sun disappeared, it returned. You’ll hear it said, and is true, that if you don’t like the weather in Bermuda, wait 5 minutes!

castle harbor pool


In addition to room service and poolside dining options, there are multiple restaurants at Rosewood. During my stay, I enjoyed three of them. Sul Mer is a beachside restaurant offering a casual dining experience steps away from the Atlantic Ocean. Think French bistro, as far as cuisine. It’s the way to go for a meal that’s lighter on the waistline and the pockets.

The Golf Clubhouse offers two dining options – Sul Verde and The Grille Room. Everyone raves about the Antipasti Bar at the former, and it is perfect for the guest who loves meats and cheeses. Of note is that this is also the restaurant’s only option for enjoying a salad with your meal. Sul Verde’s vegetarian pasta dish was yummy. Five Cheeses pizza from the Grille Room made for a great meal, as well, and you can order it ahead for carryout.

Pizza at Golf Club

The Point is the resort’s upscale dining option. I wanted a more laid back trip, so I’ve not yet dined there, but did enjoy cocktails and Bermuda Fish Chowder right next door at Tucker’s Bar.


Rosewood is part of the private resort community of  Tucker’s Point Club. During your stay, you’ll take a shuttle for visits the beach, golf and tennis clubs. Along the way you’ll be whisked past beautiful mansions (including one owned by Michael Bloomberg) and can request a stop at The Mid Ocean Club for a round of golf.

You’ll find an adult only and children’s pool at the beach, and two pools back at the resort. Castle Harbor Pool is the quieter option, but can be a bit shady at certain points of the day. Note that the poolside cabanas at Castle Harbor are for the sole use of guests within the poolside rooms, hence my choosing that accommodation. Rent a private cabana at the Palm Court pool, or enjoy sunning on its plentiful chaise lounges overlooking the Coffee Chine Grotto.

pool view

As you approach the Palm Court Pool, you’ll pass the croquet lawn and Sense spa. Spa treatments book quickly, so you’ll want to arrange for spa treatments before or at the very start of your stay. Prepare to be spoiled during your time at the spa. The space is indulgently charming and I can personally vouch for their Cedar Warming Massage.

Sense Spa Rosewood Tucker's Point

Bermuda isn’t known for being on the list of budget travel, but there are ways to make your trip more affordable. Rosewood Tucker’s Point is a luxury accommodation, so bargain hunters beware. A great source for Bermuda travel deals, including resorts like Rosewood, here. Also research perks that cards like the Platinum American Express offer. Have you visited Bermuda? I’d love to hear about your favorite things to do on the island.

Sul Mer







A last minute trip to the beach (literally booked the day before) lead us to a three-night stay on Hilton Head Island (HHI). Only a 4-hour drive from Atlanta, it’s surprising that my family waited over a decade to revisit. Our experience was definitely better with the girls as teens rather than toddlers, although you shouldn’t hesitate to head over with your little ones. It’s easy to see why Travel & Leisure has voted HHI the #1 Island in the Continental U.S.


Booking a stay during the week of Independence Day can be a challenge, so do plan ahead! Fortunately, we were able to find accommodations within the Palmetto Dunes Resort Community at the Omni Hilton Head Island Oceanfront Resort. This luxurious Lowcountry property is beautiful and the staff most welcoming. Upon check-in, anticipate glasses of champagne for the adults and cookies and mango lemonade for the younger guests.

The girls are a bit older now, so we opted for the Luxury Oceanfront Suite, which gave us ample room both inside and out on the balcony. This resort has daily activities available to keep you on property, and an Old Skool burger my family raved about, but we decided to explore a bit.



Arriving just after 3pm, everyone was looking forward to a late lunch. The first request was for something “easy” so I suggested heading to Java Burrito. You’ll quickly find that building codes restrict any blaring signage for businesses, so use Waze and keep your eyes peeled for the outdoor shopping plaza that houses Java. If you’ve been to a burrito bar like Chipotle, you’ll know what to do upon entering. Just know that, no matter the toppings you choose, this is going to be way better! Everything is extremely fresh, locally sourced and sustainably raised. In fact, I spied a bushel of unshucked corn behind the register. Coffee is available, too, hence the name. Arrive between 4-6pm and enjoy the freshest margarita you’ll find on HHI during Happy Hour.

If you’ve come to HHI in search of fresh seafood, don’t mill Skull Creek Boathouse. There will likely be a wait for those coveted outside tables beneath a canopy of mossy trees. Aim for a late lunch. If you don’t time it right, parking will be farther and the line will be longer. That being said, it’s more than worth the wait. The food is fabulous, service top notch and the atmosphere is very laid back, so relax and take in the live music and beauty of the marina and be glad you’ve dodged the touristy spot (we didn’t) and found a treasure the locals enjoy.

Near the hotel, you’ll find the newly built Shelter Cove Town Centre which houses Poseidon. Consider this your go-to if anyone in your group has food restrictions. Seafood and cocktails are at the ready, but there are plenty of gluten free options and a kids menu to satisfy the most challenging palette. Don’t miss their tomato pie!


As for the first meal of the day, we tried a few places, but enjoyed our first and last the most. Watusi is a charming restaurant and the perfect choice for a healthier breakfast and great coffee. Harold’s Diner offers no-frills but very tasty and budget friendly breakfast classics coming hot off the griddle — cash only and do follow the rules.


Situated between the Calibogue Sound and Atlantic Ocean, Hilton Head gets a bit steamy; you’ll want to pace yourself with outdoor activities. There are three championship golf courses at Palmetto Dunes. The hubby enjoyed one designed by Robert Trent Jones while the girls and I shopped the outlets. The carts are air conditioned, but I strongly urge you to reserve the earliest tee time available so that your game isn’t affected by the heat.


Want even more golf? There are lots of options for playing putt putt. We found lots of shade and a fun but challenging course at Legendary Golf. You can’t hide from humidity, so be sure to drink water and grab one of my favorite frozen treats, a cherry flavored Screwball, from their cooler before hitting the links!

My family loves going to the movies, and I was able to find a theater with the same reclining seats we’re accustomed to in Atlanta. Now, the theater is much smaller, but four adults can catch a matinee for $30 with online ticketing. Head to Park Plaza Cinema if there’s rain in the forecast or you don’t want to miss a new release.

Of course, back at the hotel there are pools to explore, sugar sand beaches to wander and s’mores to be made. If planning your first trip to Hilton Head, don’t miss going the iconic red-and-white-striped Harbour Town Lighthouse. With all we did during our 4-days at HHI, we left plenty of items on our to do list for the next time we need a beach getaway. And something tells me that with our oldest headed into her senior year of high school, that will be sooner rather than later!







nashville sign

A three-day weekend is quickly approaching! In case you’re looking for a great road trip destination, do allow me to suggest a drive to Nashville, Tennessee. Should an aversion to country music have you thinking it’s not the ideal destination, know that the Music City has far more to offer. If you enjoy good food and good times, Nashville is one of the hottest places to visit in the South, and just keeps getting better. Here’s a snapshot of all that you can get into with three days to spare.


Although it sells out quickly, do your best to reserve a room at the Omni Nashville. Located in downtown Nashville within walking distance of the hubbub of Broadway, this unique hotel has multiple restaurant options, rooftop pool, and impeccable service. Sold out? Make your way to Union Station Hotel – a bit more demure but absolutely charming.


pancake pantry

Breakfast: You don’t want to leave Nashville without having a proper biscuit. A bit of a drive will lead you to Loveless Café. If you’d prefer staying near downtown head over to the food truck offshoot Biscuit Love in The Gulch. Don’t question it – order the bonuts for starters.  Arrive early to avoid the (long) line at Pancake Pantry; it’s definitely worth the wait. Or simply head downstairs to the biscuit bar at Kitchen Notes in the Omni lobby.


Lunch: Options for lunch are endless, but you won’t go wrong making your way over to East Nashville for burgers and tots at The Pharmacy. You’ll find another former food truck, Mas Tacos Por Favor, right across the street. Beyond tacos, be sure to order their chicken tortilla soup (chicken can be omitted) and elote. Cash and checks only. Feeling nostalgic? Head over to Puckett’s Grocery. A doable walk from the hotel, make a pit stop at the Goo Goo Shop for a sweet treat after dining at this historic meat and three.


Dinner: When traveling, we tend to sleep in a bit, which throws off a typical three squares a day timeline. Those times we were hungry enough for a full-fledged meal, we headed to Husk’s Nashville location (the original is in Charleston), which never disappoints. If you’re lucky, you’ll dine next to Elvis at Demos’ Steak and Spaghetti House. Order any of the amazingly generous and yummy pasta dishes, but not steak. Trust me.


pinewood social

Reserve a bowling lane at Pinewood Social. These book up weeks in advance, but opting for an early evening time might work to your advantage. The Escape Game is also a fun family-friendly activity for tweens and teens. Once the kids are settled in with the sitter, head to The Patterson House for superbly crafted cocktails in a speakeasy setting. Get there early to avoid a wait.

Do share your Nashville favorites (don’t miss shopping in downtown Franklin, TN) and travel safely!




 Our 28 hours in Charlotte, North Carolina, last weekend were unscripted and just perfect! Since the hubby was there for an extended business trip, the girls and I took the 4-hour drive up instead of his driving home. This was our first visit to The Queen City, so we were pretty excited to see what we’d find.

Typically, I’d have researched a few places to visit for local eats and antiques, but last week was a full one, leaving no time to plan. After a quick stop at Bojangles for Bo-tato Rounds, we pulled into Charlotte around lunch time. Our first stop was the newly renovated Le Meridian, where we dropped off our bags and I handed over the wheel. Our initial plans of having a picnic at The Green, in Uptown, were thwarted, since the surrounding restaurants are closed on Saturday. A quick Google search of Charlotte’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives options lead us to Cabo Fish Taco in the NoDa (North Davidson) section of town.


Even if you’re not a fan of fish tacos, don’t hesitate to stop by if you enjoy Mexican cuisine. They have plenty of meat and vegan-friendly options, along with a healthy list of margaritas, wine and beer. Enjoy the local art, while you’re there!

After lunch, we headed to Crêpe Cellar Kitchen and Pub for dessert. This quaint spot had menu options that made me wish I wasn’t so full! The girls ordered their usual crepes (butter, sugar and fresh strawberries – not on the menu) and the hubby and I shared the most amazing Crêpe Suzette I’ve ever had!


The girls witnessed their first marriage proposal and we saw lots of prom photos being taken in the Romare Bearden Park before enjoying pre-dinner cocktails (and mocktails) at Chef Rocco Whalen’s rooftop restaurant Fahrenheit. The hubby likes to explore a city’s designated ”best burger” restaurants when traveling, so we headed to The Liberty in historic South End. According to him, the Prime Ground Pub Burger does not disappoint.

As we were leaving The Liberty, we spotted a sign for Tupelo Honey Café, and decided to head there for Sunday brunch after watching Pitch Perfect 2. They offer limited online reservations, and the best seating, IMO, is in a booth near their open kitchen. It’s worth coming here for the biscuits alone.


We headed back to Atlanta, after brunch, but not before checking out the currently under construction rooftop bar at Le Meridian. It’s sure to draw large crowds when it opens, with incredible city views. Thank you for your hospitality, Charlotte. We’ll be back soon!

CAKE Vintage Table & Home – Nashville, TN

CAKE Vintage Table & Home - Nashville, Tennessee

CAKE Vintage Table & Home – Nashville

A few years ago, having no plans set for the upcoming Labor Day weekend, my sister and I decided it would be great to meet halfway for a girls only weekend – Mom and my daughters included. We mapped it out, and decided on a destination: Nashville, Tennessee. The trip was amazing, from our accommodations at Union Station to breakfasts at Pancake Pantry and Loveless Cafe. I left with one regret, though: not being able to visit CAKE Vintage Table & Home.

I had no prior knowledge of CAKE Vintage. By happenstance, while my sister was choosing a cupcake at Gigi’s, I happened to glance across the street and saw their sign. The simplicity of their logo – ovals enclosing a fork and clean fonts, caught my eye. Sadly, they were closed. Though intrigued, I didn’t even peek into their windows to see exactly what was being sold.

Once back in Atlanta, I became extremely knowledgeable of their product line. All of my favorite shops carried CAKE Vintage products. I found their paper items at Anthropologie and Paper Source. Star Provisions used vintage flatware from CAKE Vintage on their display table. Imagine my excitement when a tournament in Franklin, TN, appeared on my daughter’s volleyball schedule. Franklin was only 20 minutes away, so I’d finally be able to explore CAKE Vintage!

CAKE Vintage Interior - Broadway Location

CAKE Vintage Interior – Broadway Location

Housed within the parent company of Hester & Cook Design Group, CAKE Vintage Table & Home (est. 2007) is self-described as an elegant home goods line offers a variety of table linens, vintage sliver-plate flatware, handcrafted light fixtures and other unique kitchen accessories. In short, it’s everything that I love! The store is currently tucked away at 1707  Broadway, a busy street full of both traffic and hotels. The space is an escape from the hustle and bustle just outside its doors. Stepping across the threshold, the intimate surroundings beckon you to slow down a bit and admire reclaimed treasures from the past mixed with whimsical lighting and creative papers.

Kitchen Papers

Kitchen Papers – Beautifully Strung

All of the linens and vintage silverware I’d become familiar with were present, as well as pieces from sister companies KnobStoppers and Kitchen Papers. My daughter and I had such a wonderful time in the store and I even created my very first Vine submission while there. Thank you to the pleasant staff of CAKE Vintage for being such gracious hosts during our time shopping with you.

CAKE - Collections of Vintage Tableware

CAKE Vintage – Vintage Tableware

Though they’ll soon be relocating from their Broadway location, you can find CAKE Vintage products online and in over 2000 retailers throughout the United States. I’m certain they’d make a charming addition to your home.