Each month, Best Self publisher Sherri Adair shares her favorite places, people and events from around Atlanta. Here are her picks for the month of April:

Healthy juiceJu-Tox Juice Bar & Wellness Center – This is one of the only juice bars I have  found that makes the juice from scratch while you wait. I haven’t found anything in years that makes me feel this good! My favorite mix is Ju-Shine.

Details: 3175 Roswell Road NE, Atlanta, GA, (855)588-6963, jutox.com

BSA- Sherri's My Best List Luminara Real Flame Effect CandlesLuminara Real Flame-Effect Candles  My son got me one of these for Christmas, and I liked it so much I went out and bought more. I can enjoy the ambiance of candles without dealing with dripping wax or an open flame. Plus, these are scented just like a regular candle and are even remote controlled.

Details: Find your nearest retailer at luminara.com

BSA - Sherri's April My Best ListStephanie Johnson Miami Orange Cosmetic Bag  I love the color, and I especially love the shape of this bag. It’s perfect for a wonderful bag or suitcase. The material allows you to see the contents and keep everything dry in the shower or steam. I picked mine up at Health & Beauty Boutique for $32.

Details: 3655 Roswell Road NE, Suite #216, Atlanta, GA, (404) 228-7542, healthandbeautyboutique.com, stephaniejohnson.com


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Kate's Club Blog Post ImageAt the age of 12, Kate Atwood lost her mother to breast cancer, and knows all too well how it feels to experience grief as a child.  And while volunteering as a counselor to others at a bereavement camp in Virginia, it was then that Atwood noticed the positive impact someone could have with another individual who was also dealing with a similar circumstance.

In 2003, she founded the Atlanta based nonprofit Kate’s Club — an organization that helps children and teens face the death of a parent or sibling — and today, she is one of five extraordinary women nominated to receive this year’s 6th Annual DVF People’s Voice Award.

Kate Atwood 1Featured as one of our My Best Self stories from 2011, although Kate has seen much success in her organization, founding this nonprofit wasn’t easy. One of the first programs offered was held at a local bowling alley with six children six adult volunteers. Today, Kate has a dedicated team, Board of Directors, advisors, ambassadors and an annual The Spirit of Kate’s Club Gala. This gala is a premier event held at Loews Atlanta hotel where more than 500 professionals and community leaders gather to celebrate others who embody the spirit of Kate’s Club.

Cast your vote by Sunday, March 29 at www.dvf.com.

For more information, visit www.katesclub.org

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New Camino Real pic_cred Charlie McCullersIf you haven’t been to the ballet in a while, let this show get you back to the theater. Atlanta Ballet’s “Camino Real,” choreographed by Helen Pickett, makes its world premiere at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre on March 20. The show is inspired by Tennessee Williams’ play, and the story comes from the perspective of Kilroy, a patriotic WWII-era character. In 75 minutes the ballet introduces fictional and historical figures, such as Esmeralda from “Hunchback of Notre Dame” and the infamous 18th century Casanova. Pickett herself shares insight into the story and the characters on the Atlanta Ballet’s website, so you can learn their full backstory before it comes to life on stage.

Details: 2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway, Atlanta, GA, (770) 916-2800, atlantaballet.com

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BSA - Best Bites Culinary Local 2Apps like Urbanspoon, Foodspotting and even Yelp are great for finding a good restaurant, but what if you’re looking for more than just a good dinner? If you’re a foodie wanting information beyond simple restaurant listings, check out CulinaryLocal. This site provides details on upcoming local food events, farmers markets, cooking classes and more. Subscribe to the weekly newsletter for the latest tasty topics, and keep an eye out for their marketplace that’s currently in the works.

Details: culinarylocal.com

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jessica shopsFinancial management is essential when it comes to keeping your financial goals in line through the years. Atlanta-based financial planning firm Wela offers a variety of online tools to help plan for the future. Use their site to determine how much you need to save for the future, including 401K allocation and college savings plans. Find out if you can afford to buy the home you want based on your current income, and use their strategies to pay off current debt. The best part is that all these tools are free! Visit yourwela.com today to get started.

For more info on Jessica, visit www.jessicashops.com

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BSA - Atlanta Film FestivalThe Atlanta Film Festival runs from Mach 20 to 29, screening quality independent films for the 39th year. Many of this year’s directors focus on serious topics, such as in Danielle Beverly’s “Old South,” which explores racial tensions between a white fraternity in Athens, Georgia and a traditionally black neighborhood, or Nathalie Cools’ “Trans: A Documentary about Transboys,” delving into complex issues of gender identity. Still other directors are bringing comedies, musical programming and more to the screen. With a $50 MovieHopper pass, you can attend any of the festival’s regular screenings, or you can purchase $10 general admission tickets for specific shows. 

Details: Plaza Theater, 1049 Ponce De Leon Ave. NE, Atlanta, GA, atlantafilmfestival.com 

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Pure Pork AwesomenessIn Chef Kevin Gillespie’s newest cookbook, Pure Pork Awesomeness, he shares 100 recipes solely dedicated to his favorite meat. This former Bravo “Top Chef” contestant educates readers about different breeds of pig and their personalities, as well as how to make a more conscious decision when selecting pork. He explains the difference in color and flavor so that you can select – and then, with the help of his recipes, cook – the best pork you’ve ever had. Andrews McMeel Publishing will release the book nationwide at the end of this month.

Details: $29.99, andrewsmcmeel.com

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Maher_cred North Fulton Anesthesia AssociatesDr. Patrick Oliver Maher from North Fulton Anesthesia Associates answers a reader’s question about general anesthesia.

Q: I have to go under general anesthesia for a procedure. Is there anything I can do to make sure I stay safe?

New research found that the most frequent malpractice claims are related to teeth damage, death and nerve damage. To lower risks, patients should develop preoperative questions for their doctor. For example, ask about eating, drinking and taking medications or supplements before surgery. Patients should also provide their doctor with family medical history, allergy information and a list of medications, vitamins and supplements they take.

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Jason + Chris_Heidi GeldhauserGeorgia’s craft brew game recently welcomed a new player: Second Self Beer Company. Founders Jason Santamaria and Chris Doyle released their beers this past fall, focusing on fresh ingredients like blue ginger, lemongrass, cinnamon, cloves, cocoa nibs and more. Each beer comes with suggested food pairings listed on their website, and you can try everything firsthand at their tours and tasting on Fridays at 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 2 p.m.

Details: 1311 Logan Circle NW, Atlanta, GA, (678) 916-8035, secondselfbeer.com

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Guest Blog by Spencer Wyckoff

Before the Race

Three ordinary people set out toward the Georgia International Horse Park on Saturday March 7, 2015 around 7:00am.  Our bellies were full of steel cut oats and maple syrup – fuel for the day’s main event – the Atlanta Sprint Spartan Race.  The crew: Dani Pasierb, Carden Wyckoff, and Spencer Wyckoff were listening to Barbell Shrugged’s episode #147, where they showcase Tony The Fridge – an ordinary man doing extraordinary things.

quick aside:  Tony the Fridge raises money for curing cancer through running ultra marathons with a large 42kg fridge on his back.  There are so many pearls of wisdom in this particular podcast with Tony, however my favorite part is when he speaks about the two other voices inside his head.  1 voice says he’s done enough, it’s ok to stop, go ahead and pat yourself on the back.  The other voice says no, keep going, don’t stop ever, do more do more do more.  During the races, Tony tells his interviewers “I take both of these (subconscious) voices, and I tell them to shut the $&%# up.”  From what I can tell, Tony is a master of getting into a mindset that solely focuses on things that matter in the present – focus on breathing, focus on each step – over and over again – he paints this picture of laser like focus when doing his races.


Back to the Tale of the Piggy Back Spartan Race… So we arrive around 8:00am, an hour before our start time (or so we thought).  The venue resembled a large music festival type event, with lots of people, vendor booths, dj booth, course obstacles, and mud… yes LOTS of MUD.  We each became instantly excited and a bit nervous about what we were getting ourselves into.

We pull into handicapped parking, and found a spot in front of a dumpster that honestly probably wasn’t even a spot until we made it one.  We step outside, take a deep breath of fresh air, and realize – it’s chilly outside, low 40’s chilly… this is going to get interesting.  “Ok, we ready to do this?” I ask Dani and Carden.  We agree, and then I assume the position that I will be assuming for the bulk of this day – I squat down in front of Carden, she gracefully falls over on top me, and we take the form of a brother/sister piggy back.  Just like Tony racing with his fridge for cancer, we raced to take a stand against Muscular Dystrophy – FSH MD in particular.  If you’re interested in supporting Carden’s cause – check this out.

Look how cold Dani looks – haha

So we go to check in – and find out our race start time is at 10:30am as opposed to 9:30am which we originally thought.  So, nearly 2 hours early, we had to painfully wait for our turn to race – the tension started to build.  We purchased some shirts and watched some of the elites finish their races with jumping over a big bonfire and splashing into the final mud pit.  We were getting anxious, and cold, so we went back to the car to warm up and mentally prepare.  After some time, conversation, and failed attempts at streaming pump up music over crappy cellular service, we made our way to the start line for the 10:30am heat.  In fact, to get to the starting line, you have to first scale a 6 foot high wall… our first obstacle.  Knowing that we were going to encounter a bunch of these, we found this was the perfect way to start our journey.  Dani hopped over the wall first, then I lifted Carden over it and placed her in Dani’s arms.  From there I jump over the wall myself, and Dani hands Carden back to me.  Boom – first obstacle overcome.

Mile 0-1:

The time has come.  We’re in a heat of a couple hundred able bodied people who were chomping at the bit to start this adventure, and we were just 3 ordinary people out of that group.  There was a very fast talking hype man who greeted our group, led us through a few AROOS!, and blazed through the risks and liabilities at lightning, Twista-like pace.  Spartans Ready?!?! GOOO!!!  Our pack begins to move, 99% of them running and jogging ahead, leaving us in the back of the pack.  We weren’t racing for personal records today, our purpose was extraordinary though – help Carden complete a Spartan Race in the face of her muscular dystrophy.  Since she is not too sturdy on her feet, the only way to accomplish this was through a piggy back ride.  So there we were, at the back of the pack, taking our first steps forward as a team on a mission.

The first mile we encountered a good bit of obstacles – the first was 3 or 4 giant mud / water pits.  Carefully, we stepped through the sludge and came out ok.  There was a moment where I almost completely lost my footing and fell over with Carden – that would have been a really bad sign only 1/4 mile into a 3-5 mile race… but we kept the balance and kept forging on – mud entirely in the shoes.  Next obstacles were high, uneven logs to climb over.  We were able to lift Carden over each of these obstacles and make it happen – no burpess for us yet… Then we reach our first BIG obstacle – the high wall triplet.  The high wall triplet is a series of three walls increasing in height.  The first wall was probably 7 feet, next 8.5ft, finally 10ft.  We managed to get Carden over the first 7 footer, yet the 8.5 and 10ft were asking a little too much.  Dani and I knocked out Carden’s 30 burpee penalty for each of the two walls she couldn’t scale.  Yes, there is a 30 burpee penalty for each obstacle a racer does not complete, no exceptions, so that was par for the course.  The first mile finished with some cross country trails through the woods.

Mile 1-2

The second mile started to encounter more hills and obstacles.  Most of the elements Carden could not complete on her own, so Dani and I were doing burpees – a good bit of them.  We started getting some notice from our fellow racers – a bunch of “Can I have a piggy back too?” remarks started flying around more often, usually just in passing.  Some of the elements we faced were a 3 sided rock climbing wall, a large monkey bar set, and some 2-3 story high obstacles to climb up, over, and down from.  My body was starting to feel the weight of Carden, however I was in a pretty good place mentally, focusing carefully on each step, and taking each obstacle as it came without being overwhelmed by the magnitude of it.  One “obstacle” they had during this phase of the race was a memory section.  You had to stare at a giant board of codes and memorize the 7 digit number sequence and passcode that corresponded to your race # – you were going to have to remember this towards the end.  When I saw the 2 mile marker – there was a moment I thought, thank you God, there is only ~1 mile left to go.  This is after all a 5k right…?

Mile 2-3

Mile 3 started off with some GIANT mud hills and ice cold water pits – 5 or 6 of them in total.  Unfortunately, we knew we were’t going to be able to scale these with Carden, so after getting through it, covering ourselves in mud, and knocking out the 3 burpees – we smeared mud all over Carden so she could wear that muddy feel of the race.  It was during this obstacle too, that we made our first friends – The Latino Ninja Guardian Angel Twins.  These guys didn’t speak a bunch of English, but they did wear Sub-Zero like Mortal Combat masks, and they took notice of what we were doing and began to knock out some of Carden’s burpees with us.  They always seemed to be in our peripheral for the remainder of the course, hence the term guardian angels.  Mile 3 was particularly rough – we encountered a bunch of hills, a grueling obstacle with a large bucket of rocks, and several others.  For me, it was getting through the hills that was the toughest part – we’ve made such great progress thus far – just keep moving forward.

Mile 3-4

Thank the Lord – we just saw the 3rd mile marker.  That means we’re in the home stretch right? A 5k is 3.1 miles – so we should be nearing the finish line!  Well this is technically a Spartan Sprint – which is loosely described as 3-5 miles after some more research… eh just another minor obstacle we took in stride.  At the time, we didn’t know it, but we were actually coming closer to our greatest obstacle yet.  We started scaling down a very steep hill.  We were getting very worried that we might not be able to continue, but some fellow Spartans began volunteering their help and guided us down to the bottom of it.  Ok, can it get much tougher than that???  Well yes, it can.  After traversing the bottom of the hill, we began to approach another, steeper version of that same hill we just climbed down – however this time everyone was climbing up it…  It get’s nearly vertical towards the top…

spartan-race-woodsI’m scared.  Carden’s scared.  Dani’s scared.  We’re all scared.  We’re looking for a way out, there is none – only at the top of this hill or go back – and we weren’t going back.  So we made the decision to scale this 3 story mud mountain using just cargo nets, ropes, and the help of other Spartans.  It started at a gentle incline, but soon got to be incredibly steep.  If I lose my footing now, Carden and I will fall nearly 3 stories, taking out other people behind us in the process.  There was no option for failure.  Step by step, we make our way up the mountain, and once I scaled over the top to safety let out this primal, celebratory roar.  People were amazed at what they just witnessed.  A few people even called me their hero and kept racing – it was an inspiring moment, a moment where I felt all my personal mental and physical barriers shattered.  I haven’t been the same since.  But no time to pop champagne yet… we still had plenty of race to run.  At this time, we had two local guys, Chase and Brandon, join our team and they helped us for the remainder of the race – thank God for those guys.

Mile 4-5

Here we are, the home stretch – the final mile.  Back is sore, feet are tired, we are all completely covered in mud and grime, yet we can hear the music playing and can feel the energy of the finish line.  Some of the obstacles we took on included climbing over tall gymnastics-like bars, carrying atlas stones, and throwing spears at hay targets – quick glory moment, I went 2 for 2 on the spear throw so Carden didn’t have burpees to do for that one, no big deal :)

All of this was leading up to the final 250 yards of the race, which was 250 yards of all obstacles.  One of the standouts was a 60 yard, barbed wire space that you had to crawl under in the ice cold mud.  Carden was determined to get this one done, despite her immobility and lack of upper and lower body strength.  Without assistance, she made it 45 of the 60 yards herself before fatigue finally set in.  We pulled her through the remaining 15 yards, and she triumphed.  Unfortunately, this triumph came at a cost… The ice cold mud had put her into a pre-hypothermic state.  She was frozen to the bone and shivering uncontrollably.  We got her off the course and called for medical assistance.  A medical team came over and wrapped her in solar blankets and correctly suggested that she go to the medical tent to heat up.  But if anyone knows Carden, they know that she wasn’t up for this option – not until the race was finished.  So I got her on piggy back one last time and walked through the remainder of the course, dodging the final few obstacles and going ahead without our teammates.  Time was of the essence here and Carden was potentially heading towards hypothermia.  Upon finishing, there were no flashing lights, no post-race interviews, or photo finishes.  Simply the knowledge that we conquered an incredible challenge and took a stand against muscular dystrophy and FSH together and that with a great team you can achieve a seemingly impossible goal – that’s what Spartans do.  AROO!

Just so everyone knows, Carden was able to recover after the race and warm up. Here she is with her completion medal and a big smile.

If you’re interested in supporting Carden’s cause and fundraiser for a cure… navigate to our Go Fund Me page.  I believe this won’t be the last time we set out for an incredible challenge like this.

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