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Cinco Mexican Cantina

The chimichanga, an American dish inspired by ...

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Readers of the blog already know that I love brunch and Sunday after church seems like the perfect time so this week we headed out to Cinco Mexican Cantina on North Vickery in Cumming. Though I normally prefer local spots to chains, this one is worth visiting, especially for brunch as the rest of the menu, though quite tasty, is pretty traditional Mexican fare

So onto the brunch menu… completely famished, we started with some queso fundido with jalapenos. Very good stuff. The server was checking on us regularly and refilling the chips while we talked about our upcoming week, spent some family time and took our time looking over the menu. It was Sunday after all, so leisure was the word of the day.

When we were finally ready to order, she was right there and the food came out quickly. Everything was cooked to order. It was our server’s first day on the job so she needed some help to answer some questions but another server came over to assist and everything was to our liking.

They have savory and sweet offerings for brunch including a monstrous breakfast burrito with potatoes, huge waffles with strawberries or blueberries and more traditional Mexican options like huevos rancheros, which I had and were excellent. The potatoes that normally would accompany the egg dishes had cheese and bacon and were pre-made. Because I do not eat pork I asked for a substitution, which was happily provided. In my case, fresh fruit was my choice and it was a very large portion with a great selection of fruit including blueberries, strawberries, melons, pineapple and more. Not the boring cantaloupe, honeydew mixture you typically find.

And yes, I indulged in a Texas margarita…. also very good. All in all, it was a great brunch with outstanding food and service, many options and reasonable prices. Pretty much all you could want. I would definitely recommend this restaurant and we will surely return.

Do you have any favorite local spots for brunch or other meals? Please share them here. We are always looking for new places to try.

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“Foreclosures Make Up 26% of Home Sales”, “Foreclosures Drag Down Real Estate Market”, “Weak Sales, Foreclosures Push Home Prices Down” and “Foreclosures Are Falling But It’s a Fake Out”… headlines like these have bombarded us in the news for the last three years but today I ran across this headline: “Foreclosures Plunge 27% – Biggest Drop on Record”. Could this be a sign that times are changing? Maybe but it bears some more research.

According to RealtyTrac, foreclosures in February dropped 14% month-over-month and 27% was the year-over-year number, making it the biggest year-over-year decline on record. But some experts believe that the figure may be exaggerated due to some of the fallout over the robo-signing schedule. As you might recall, the robo-signing scandal led to a major, and much-needed in my humble opinion, overhaul of the mortgage industry, which in turn led to a big slow-down in the processing of foreclosures. Another contributing factor was a very harsh winter that impacted most of the country. Atlanta-area residents are sure to recall the second weekend and several days following when ice brought much of the city to a standstill.

Still, even with these circumstances, there were more than 225,000 filings that month, or one for every 577 homes. Still a big number. Pricing is still falling and according to Zillow, almost 30% of home owners are under water.

So now for some positives, the 50 state generals seem to be making progress toward a financial agreement with the banks over that robo-signing debacle. Add to that new homebuilders can benefit from the foreclosures because it helps to keep them competitive in the market and adds new jobs, a very good thing for the economy. So the true picture still remains to be seen but for now, the news that foreclosures are done is, at the very least, a bit of a relief to read in the news.

For more information on this article and other statistics, click here to visit CNN’s money page.

What a great weekend! The first day of Spring has come and gone and although Saturday was a prettier day, weather-wise, I have to say the weekend as a whole was really great. On Saturday, we made the short trip North to Dahlonega and the opening of the Wine Highway Weekend. It was a lot of fun, we tasted a lot of great wines and had a fantastic dinner at Paizza Italian Restaurant on the square in Dahlonega, followed by a nice relaxing Sunday, the first of official day of Spring. The sunny skies and warm weather made me start thinking about the months ahead, my favorite of the year, partly due to the weather and partly due to the number of outdoor activities that those of us fortunate to live in this area have available.

From Lake Lanier to all the festivals, art fairs, children’s activities and the summer concert series at the Park Tavern in Atlanta, the Spring and Summer is packed with stuff to get you out and about. There are a lot of fundraisers this time of year as well and the Rotary Club of Forsyth County has some great events each year and this year is no exception. If you missed the Monte Carlo night last weekend don’t worry there are plenty of events coming up including the Sporting Clays Fun Shoot, which will be held this Saturday, March 26, at 10 am. You can register beginning at 9 am and the cost is $75. If you don’t have your own equipment, everything you need is available at the facility. There will be prizes for all skill levels. If you have never tried this, it is a lot of fun. It’s also time for the Rotary Club‘s annual raffle. Just $25 a ticket there are some great prizes including vacations and various services. Monies raised from he Rotary Club’s raffle and events go to help local non-profits such as the United Way and Abba House as well as scholarships for local high school seniors facing challenges.

On a more somber note, after enjoying a beautiful weekend, I returned home and turned on the TV to the continuing coverage of the tragic events that are still unfolding in Japan. To say that I feel lucky to have the life that I do including my wonderful family and friends in a beautiful community would be an enormous understatement. No one can predict where and when these things occur of course, but we can take a moment to reflect on what is important in our lives, how we treat those around us and what truly  is a cause for stress and pain in our lives. There are many ways to help those in Japan and I encourage you to act and donate, time or money, if you have the means to do so. Personally, I donated through the Red Cross. In addition to donations through their website, they have partnered with the Park Tavern in Atlanta, donating 50% of each Hope Roll (sushi roll) to the relief efforts. Google has created a web page called Google Crisis Response to provide current information about the crisis, along with resources for those who have been affected and a list of organizations that are aiding in relief efforts. For more information or to visit the page, click here. Charity Navigator is another fantastic site loaded with great resources and information. However you choose to help those in need will be a blessing. Please share any information on relief efforts by commenting on the blog. Thank you.

What began last August as a project that matched student teams from South Forsyth High School with a retailer or restaurant in The Avenue® Forsyth to develop and execute an integrated marketing campaign has earned seven local students scholarships for their impressive work.

On February the 11th, students presented the results of their campaign, which ran over the 2010 holiday season, to local marketing professionals to be evaluated in several categories. These categories included:

  1. The understanding of the retailer’s needs
  2. Research
  3. Innovative ideas
  4. Real world campaign execution and
  5. Overall return on investment

 

The top three teams were awarded scholarships and gift cards. The fourth team was also awarded gift cards. The winners were as follows:

1st place: Jordan H and Emma J who worked with Bravura and earned top honors including a $500 scholarship and a $100 gift card each

2nd place: Lauren H and Giovanna V each won a $300 scholarship and a $100 gift card for their work with Ten Thousand Villages

3rd place: Alyssa S, Ashley F and Anna P each won a $200 scholarship and a $100 gift card for their work with American Threads

4th place, and a $100 gift card each, went to Ashley H and Abbey B for their campaign with e.k. taylor

For more information on each of their winning campaigns, click here to visit The Avenu® Forsyth‘s website.

It’s Almost Here…

Wine grapes.

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Georgia’s Spring Wine Highway Weekend starts today. Those of you who read my blog know by now that I enjoy a nice glass of wine and even better, a trip to a beautiful winery. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Georgia’s Wine Highway and the Spring Wine Highway Weekend, an event that opens the season at the wineries.

Today marks the first day of the Spring Weekend celebration so I thought I would share some fun facts that you may not know about Georgia’s wineries and the wines that are produced here.

  • There are currently over 50 wineries in the state of Georgia, including 33 Federally bonded wineries, in 30 counties
  • Grape production in 2010 totaled 4600 tons, up 12% over 2009
  • One barrel of wine contains roughly 59 gallons and 740 pounds of grapes, which equals 295 bottles of wine or 1,180 glasses!
  • One acre of land averages about five tons, or 10,000 pounds, of grapes.
  • Winery and vineyard are not interchangeable terms. Some wineries also grow grapes, making them vineyards as well and some vineyards only grown and sell their grapes, so vineyard would not apply
  • Over recent years, Georgia wines have won several awards including Wolf Mountain Vineyards & Winery’s Claret, a beautiful red that took home the Gold in 2009 in the American Wine Society competition.

Some Tips on Visiting a Tasting Room:

  • Always eat before you start your tasting
  • Fragrance can interfere with the flavors in wine so nix the cologne or body spray on tasting day. (P.s. It can bother your neighbor too)
  • Many tasting rooms provide crackers while tasting, use them between wines to clean your palate
  • This should probably go without saying but lose the gum before you start your tasting.
  • The tasting room is for sampling, not drinking, so be courteous to those around you and stay at the tasting bar until you have completed all wines offered. If you like one, buy it! Several wineries have lovely grounds for you to relax and enjoy your purchase.
  • And finally, rent a car service or designate a driver. Safe is always best.

You can check out more information and get complete details on this weekend’s event by visiting the Wine Growers Association of Georgia website. Just click here and I’ll see you this weekend on the Highway!

Seal of the United States Internal Revenue Ser...

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It’s tax time and with just a little less than a month until the Federal filing deadline, if you haven’t done so already, you should be making plans on how you will file. It’s been a rough road the past few years for many home owners but tax time may bring a bit of much-needed relief to homeowners as they reap the benefits that are most noticeable when they file.

There are many tax deductions and credits that are available for home owners including credits for energy-saving home improvements, property taxes and some unforeseen circumstances including divorce/ separation, death, loss of employment or multiple births in the same pregnancy.  If you are like many homeowners out there, the bulk of your monthly mortgage payment goes towards interest, which makes it tax-deductible and the biggest tax break of them all. The one exception to this rule being if your home loan is more than $1 million, in which case the IRS will limit your deductible interest.

There are a few things that are not tax-deductible also including homeowners insurance, any HOA dues you may have to pay, closing costs and improvements to your neighborhood such as new sidewalks or utility work.

So you may be wondering how to make sure you get the most deductions and credit possible. You have to make sure you file properly and include any additional documentation that may be required. Most of the time, this includes filing a 1040 long form and Schedule A, so your deductions are itemized. Yes, this means your taxes will become a bit more complicated but it is worth it in the long run. There are many resources available to you to help and any tax professional should be able to help answer all of your questions and get you the biggest possible refund.

For a list of tax services in Forsyth County, GA, click here.

A dark image of an Pacific rose apple

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It’s just a little more than a month for the announcement of the Forsyth County 2011 Teacher of the Year Award and the competition is heating up. The candidates have been pared down to about half of the original list with 17 semifinalists still in the running. The remaining semifinalists include nine elementary school teachers, five middle school teachers and three high school teachers.

To get to this point, all have passed the essay part of the contest and are now preparing for the interview portion, which started yesterday and completes today. Combined scores from all previous portions of the contest will be used to determine the finalists.

Some of the qualifications for nomination include at least two years experience, full-time teaching status and recognition as dedicated, inspirational and active members of the community. This year’s Teacher of the Year will be announced at the annual Celebration of Excellence on April 25th at 11:30 am at Lambert High School.

Congratulations to all the semifinalists!