Shake up the 4th of July with these cocktails

This 4th of July, shake it up a little and indulge your inner mixologist. Go gluten-free with "A Fiery Ménage" created by Niccole Trzaska at The Liberty in NYC using the California-made Ménage á Trois Triple Berry Vodka. Got rum and fruit lovers? Try the Strawberry Firecracker, concocted by John Henderson of The Happiest Hour in NYC made with the California-bottled Sugar Island Coconut Rum. For the harder core drinker? Break out Kentucky's own Maker's 46 for the Blueberry 46 Sparkler.  Recipes are below, so get to shaking! –Ronda Racha Penrice

A Fiery Menage Cocktail

A Fiery Ménage

1 ½ parts Ménage à Trois Triple Berry Vodka

¼ part cinnamon simple syrup

½ part lemon juice

¼ part wild berry syrup

5 parts dry sparkling wine (such as Ménage à Trois Prosecco)

Add all ingredients over ice. Shake and strain into a champagne flute, top with Champagne. 


Strawberry Firecracker Cocktail

Strawberry Firecracker

1.5 parts Sugar Island Coconut Rum

1-2 strawberries

0.5 parts fresh lime juice

1-2 packets of your choice of sugar substitute

Splash of ginger ale or ginger beer

Muddle sweetener and strawberries together; add lime, rum and ice. Shake and strain into a tall glass with ice. Top with a splash of ginger ale (diet optional) or ginger beer.  Garnish with half a strawberry on the rim of the glass. 

Blueberry 46 Sparkler Cocktail

Blueberry 46 Sparkler 

2 parts Maker's 46™ Bourbon

1 part St-Germain

10 fresh blueberries

Splash of club soda

Muddle the St-Germain and blueberries together in a glass. Add ice and the Maker’s 46™. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Strain into a chilled rocks glass and top with splash of soda.

Why the 2015 Hyundai Azera Limited warrants serious consideration

2015 Hyundai Azera Limited in Eclipse Black

Remember when Hyundai was a joke? Well, these days, more people are laughing all the way to the bank. Over the years, Hyundai has honed in on delivering more car for less. And the Azera is a testament to that.

Top of the line for the brand, the 2015 Hyundai Azera Limited is a sedan that competes with the Toyota Avalon and the Chevy Impala. Slightly refreshed for 2015, the Azera boasts new front and back bumpers, along with a stylish set of five lights under each headlight. Inside, it's amenity-filled with adjustable power front seats with “leather surfaces,” interior ambient lighting, heated and ventilated front seats, along with heated back seats, dual auto temperature control and more. Play peek-a-boo with the sun or welcome it all the way in with the panoramic tilt-and-slide sunroof.

Open sesame! With just a touch of the handle and simply push-button start to get rolling. In reverse, the back-up camera comes on and the rear power sunshade comes down. Should an unseen car emerge from the side, a pleasant, but effective beep sounds off. The same thing happens if another car gets too close or gets lost in the blind spot.

2015 Hyundai Azera Limited

Since every door has a drink slot, in addition to the two between the front passenger seats and two between the back passenger seats, loading up on drinks is easy and clean. Thanks to the ample power plugs for USB, car charger and iPod under the center display console, and the bonus chargers, that include a side front passenger charger close and another one for back seat passengers, who will appreciate the comfortable legroom, everyone can stay happily charged.


The media section, which comes with a 90-day Sirius XM trial, is a nice set-up. In audio mode, the song title is visible and there’s even a CD player. Navigation displays greatly so eyes stay glued to the road without getting lost. Park the car, lock it and the side mirrors tuck themselves in. Fuel economy registers at 28 on the highway and 19 in the city for a combined MPG of 22. Run low on gas and a warning flashes on screen with an offer to find a nearby gas station. But the best part just might be the 2015 Hyundai Azera Limited's price tag of just over $39,000! –ronda racha penrice

Family reunion planners can take advantage of staff insight at all-suite hotels

Enjoy delicious breakfast items such as omelets, pancakes, waffles, fresh fruits, pastries, muffins, breads, juices and more.  Freshly prepared and cooked right in front of you!  Enjoy!
Enjoy delicious breakfast items such as omelets, pancakes, waffles, fresh fruits, pastries, muffins, breads, juices and more. Freshly prepared and cooked right in front of you! Enjoy!

Unless you plan events for a living, planning your family reunion without hassle can be a challenge. The last thing you want is to be overwhelmed while planning for an event rather than enjoying a special occasion to share great stories and have fun with family members you don’t get to see often.

Whether it’s a homecoming or an opportunity to travel to uncharted territories, when you have an ally in the market, then you’ve taken the first step to a memorable family reunion.

Countless family reunion planners will tell you advance planning is key to success and having an expert by your side, like a representative at the host hotel, is a bonus.

Embassy Suites Hotels boasts on their website to be “at your service … our caring, attentive staff is at your service throughout the event planning process. We can help coordinate everything from the guest list and seating chart to the decor. And our full-service catering department will work with you to create just the right menu for you and your guests.”

Who can argue with that? Start booking your special event today at

Juneteenth celebrates 150th anniversary: Galveston, Texas in photos

Galveston Texas

Juneteenth, a mashup of June and nineteenth, is a worldwide celebration of the emancipation of slaves. On June 19, 1865, major general Gordon Granger established what is now a popular holiday among Blacks and it still matters.

From Galveston, Texas, the general issued the following order:

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.” 

Black folks did what we do best. We partied. Spontaneous celebrations were had everywhere.

Juneteenth 150

Click here for a list of Juneteenth observations in Galveston, Texas.

(Photo credit: Shutterstock)

D-Drive: Three Dad-Approved SUVs

Lots of dads just don’t do minivans, especially not the cool ones. And, thankfully, they don’t have to. These three rides are proof positive that it is indeed possible to cart the family around in style, plus look good when riding solo. –ronda racha penrice2015_Chevrolet_Tahoe_17

For 2015, the Chevy Tahoe was completely redesigned. So, like dad, it’s gotten better with time. Its exterior is sturdy, strong and stylish. Inside is quite roomy with front and second row bucket seats plus a third row that’s great for the littlest ones. And, as an added bonus, the second and third row are powered. Heated and cooled seats keeps dad and passenger comfortable. Cold-weather dads can minimize the freeze thanks to the keyless start, remote keyless entry and heated steering wheel. Power moonroof and rear seat entertainment options pack even more of a punch. Keeping safe is a great feature of the Tahoe with available safety features including side blind zone alert, land departure warning and forward collision alert, in addition to the standard rearview camera system. MPG is 16 city and 22 highway. Pricing starts at around $62,000 and taps out at just under $70,000 with all the added amenities. And the drive is as smooth as it looks.

Photo by Sam VarnHagen/Ford Motor Co.
Photo by Sam VarnHagen/Ford Motor Co.

The 2015 Ford Expedition is indeed big, bigger than the Tahoe actually, so it’s tailor-made for the big daddies. In fact, its third row seating seats adults so it’s perfect for teenagers and grown kids.  In addition, it offers the comforts of heated/cooled front seats, heated second row seats, along with a standard power moonroof. The blind spot info system is one of its many standout safety features. Because it is bigger than the Tahoe, the Expedition has more trunk space and carries more weight overall. Despite its advanced size, however, the Expedition handles very well. Its MPG is 14 in the city and 20 on the highway, with base pricing starting at just over $59,000 and tapping out at just under $70,000.

2015 Lincoln Navigator

Word is that the Lincoln Navigator is up for a redesign but, in the meantime, dads who love that old school feel mixed in with some new school flavor will appreciate the Navigator just the way it is. Its big-bodied for sure and, given its bold look, there's little wonder the 2015 Lincoln Navigator found its way onto Empire. On the show, the Navigator always appears with a driver and the kids will indeed know why. A sliding step (okay technically powered running boards) emerges once the doors open. Nights are totally on fleek as the Lincoln hologram flashes on the ground leaving and approaching the vehicle. Now some dads who take a look at the Expedition will be disappointed to see some similarities in features in the Lincoln Navigator, even if they are small. But, overall, the Navigator is a tad more luxurious but also highly functional. For those who require more space, there is an extended version that allows for third row seating. MPG is 15 in the city and 20 on the highway. Top of the line pricing comes in at around $74,000


5 reasons all-suite hotels are preferred for family reunions

embassy suites
Embassy Suites – Houston

When planning a family reunion, the first thing you must think about is selecting the perfect location. A great city and hotel accommodations are key to gain family members’ interests and generate excitement.

When selecting a hotel for your out-of-town guests, all-suite hotels, like Homewood Suites by Hilton and Embassy Suites Hotels, provide the perfect environment for large groups. Not only are they clean and spacious environments for the entire family, but they also offer the following:

A Home Away from Home Environment
All-suite hotels offer unrivaled amenities that every family member can appreciate, including two-room suites with separate living and sleeping areas, fitness facilities, breakfast, and most locations also offer swimming pools.

Simple Planning Process
All-suite hotels have staff onsite to help make your family reunion a very special occasion with personalized service. They specialize in large groups and can help make your event a flawless experience to remember for a lifetime.

Hotel Loyalty Program
Being a part of the hotel loyalty program, offers hotel guests the chance to receive hotel points to access special offers and discounts, just by staying at certain locations.

Meeting and Banquet Rooms
All-suite hotels have the facilities and services to ideally suit your group. Meeting and banquet spaces are great when gathering your entire family in one room. Offered à la carte or bundled in pricing, items like food and beverage services, projector screens, etc. are sure to enhance your stay.

Stay Connected
To enhance your experience, most all-suite hotels offer free Wi-Fi across an unlimited number of mobile devices. Be more productive and stay better connected with friends, family and colleagues during your visit.

When it comes to your family reunion, look to all-suite hotels to provide incredible venues, helpful special event planning tools and welcoming accommodations for your group. Find an all-suite hotel for your special family gathering today. Visit to get started.

5 Things all family reunion organizers need when selecting hotels

Homewood Suites by Hilton Baton Rouge Exterior
Homewood Suites by Hilton Baton Rouge Exterior

Planning a family reunion can be a lot of fun, however, the planning can take a lot of work when putting the details together. One of the most important factors of your special occasion, will be hotel accommodations. Here are 5 things all family reunion organizers need when selecting a hotel for their families’ special occasion.


Location is important and can make or break a family reunion. Deciding where to go will determine the activities, hotel choice and cost for each person attending. It’s best to find places that are suitable for families and provide attractions or historical significance. Once a location is selected, the search for a hotel can begin. 


Making your reunion affordable, will allow a higher participation rate from your family members. Make your choices with everyone’s income level in mind, so the reunion is reasonably priced for each person. Choosing an all-suite hotel for your hotel accommodations, will allow better pricing and comfortable lodging for your large group.

Group Rates

Block an appropriate number of hotel rooms and get a group rate for your out of town guests. If you have a rather large group, your hotel sales agent should be able to offer you a great rate for your stay.


When considering a hotel for your group, learning what you can get to help you save a buck is important. Free Wi-Fi, complimentary breakfast and affordable parking are great bonus features a hotel can offer.


Having an agenda will determine what activities each guests will partake in. This will determine how close they should be to the hotel. If the activities are rather far, transportation costs will make the budget go up.

If you are planning a family reunion and are looking to book hotel accommodations, it is important to find one that has the right facilities and services that best suits your large group. Doing your research along with selecting the right location and activities are key for selecting the right hotel for your special occasion. Embassy Suites Hotels and Homewood Suites by Hilton are two great choices to satisfy all your family reunion requirements. Visit to learn more.



5 Steps to the best family reunion ever

Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach - Hotel & Resort
Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach - Hotel & Resort

It all starts with an idea. With the right support and advance planning, your next family reunion can be the best you, and all your loved ones, have ever experienced.

Here are five steps you should incorporate in your family reunion event planning process.

  1. Select the city. The ideal city for the family reunion must be one that is accessible and affordable. If family members are traveling from out of town, keep those logistics in consideration. Also, determine if the location will have an ancestral tie.
  2. Appoint host family and committee members. They will oversee social activities, entertainment, events, treasurer, special presentations, family history, etc. Heads of families are the best starting point. Secure email addresses and cell phone numbers so you can keep everyone updated on all correspondence. Start a Facebook page. It’s free.
  3. Create the budget. Family reunion budget planning is one of the first steps to include to ensure as many members are able attend the reunion as possible. Do a survey and require everyone to RSVP. It will help if you can enlist a representative from each family to remind their in-line relatives to respond as requested.
  4. Develop the itinerary. This is where creating a theme comes in handy. It sets expectations and prompts excitement. Families, large and small, are typically comprised of various ages from infant to 80 years old, so activities will be varied from amusement parks and museums to city tours and sightseeing.
  5. Choose lodging and accommodations. Many hotels offer tailored price points for large groups. Embassy Suites and Homewood Suites by Hilton have experience working will large groups and special events. A couple of the perks included at both all-suite hotels are spacious suites, free hot breakfast, evening receptions, and exercise or recreational sports facilities as part of the standard hotel package.

Atlanta's premier all-suite hotels for your next family reunion

(Photo credit: Homewood Suites by Hilton)

Homewood Suites and Embassy Suites Atlanta hotels are the city's unrivaled destinations for families


It’s family reunion time and choosing a hotel that works for the family has never been easier than now with all-suite hotels in major cities like Atlanta, Chicago and San Diego.

Extended family members from all over the country look forward to the food, fellowship and fun that are synonymous with family reunions.

One of the most important factors for large family gatherings is location, location and location! Second is finding activities that will keep everyone of all ages entertained.

When you’re traveling, staying at a hotel provides the opportunity to get away from the routines of daily life. And, to enjoy amenities that will be attractive to everyone like pools, banquet facilities, WiFi, and breakfast. Homewood Suites and Embassy Suites hotels can meet those needs.

(Photo credit: Embassy Suites)

If traveling to the deep south for this year’s reunion, you should check out Homewood Suites by Hilton Atlanta Midtown and Embassy Suites Hotel Atlanta at Centennial Olympic Park. Both are near the Georgia World Congress Center, the CNN Center, and sports arenas: the Georgia Dome, home of the Atlanta Falcons, Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves and Philips Arena, home of the Atlanta Hawks.

We can’t leave out the marquee tourist destinations like Centennial Olympic Park, World of Coca-Cola Museum, Georgia Aquarium, College Football Hall of Fame, Center for Civil and Human Rights and Imagine It! – the Children’s Museum of Atlanta. Each are in walking distance to Embassy Suites located downtown.

For those who really want to get in touch with southerners’ roots, they must tour the King Center to learn more about Martin Luther King and his role in America’s battle for civil rights. Hop on the Atlanta streetcar which connects the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic Site to Centennial Olympic Park. Rides are free through the end of 2015.

Homewood Suites, located in the heart of Midtown Atlanta, is just minutes from the Atlantic Station shopping center, the premier destination for shopping, dining, and events for the entire family.

Choosing the right lodging in an entertainment filled location is one of the most important decisions the location committee will make in family reunion planning.

For more, visit:

Homewood Suites by Hilton Atlanta Midtown

97 10th Street, NW
Atlanta, GA 30309
(404) 524-4076

Embassy Suites Atlanta at Centennial Olympic Park

267 Marietta St.
Atlanta, GA 30313
(404) 223-2300

Luxury accommodations at Miami's famed Versace Mansion

What's known to fashionistas and pop culture zeitgeists as the Versace Mansion, the The Villa By Barton G. offers luxury accommodations for the luxe traveler who like over-the-top glam with their turn-down service. Located on the trendy Ocean Drive, the private-mansion-turned-boutique-hotel is now in the hands of restaurateur and events guru Barton G. Weiss who copped it for $41.5 million last fall.

The property is home to ll Sole—a cozy Mediterranean-style restaurant serving fish flown in daily. Guests can book one of 10 suites—all designed with original Versace prints—including the 1174 square-foot Villa Suite—Versace’s former bedroom—which features a nine-foot, double king-sized bed, two balconies and massive mosaic shower. (Rooms start at $795; 305.576.8003).

Left to right: Villas Suite mosaic shower; Versace's former bedroom; rooftop lounge


Left to right: Il Sole's Moroccan Dining Room; The Medallion Suite with mosaic flowers; and Thousand Mosaic swimming pool