12.19.2014

Asheville Christmas Cats and Cozy Inns in N.C.


Asheville cat stars for the Christmas video by Explore Asheville.


I fell in love with an adorable cat Christmas video from Asheville, N.C. this holiday. Getting 12 cats to cooperate on camera is certainly not an easy task. I talked with Asheville tourism staff for an article on Examiner.com about how this holiday video came to be this year. They say that after experiencing the hours they put into filming this video, the term "herding cats" has a whole new meaning to them. The Asheville Christmas story starring finicky felines and Santa is on Examiner. com. Be sure to click over to article to see the video. You will not want to miss it.  I love the fat cat with the shop local sign. I think that kitty may be my favorite.

The Asheville Bed and Breakfast Association; The Lion and the Rose B and B.
The Lion and the Rose B and B in Asheville, N.C. 

There is no doubt that Asheville, N.C. is a great place to visit year-round, but it is especially quaint during the holiday season.

Now that I have kids, I tend to stay in hotels when I travel, but I was a big luxury Bed and Breakfast fan before having kids. Many bed and breakfast inns can be kid-friendly though so don't rule them out for a quaint experience when you travel.  A Bed and Breakfast Inn is about as local as you can get when staying somewhere on a trip.  The Innkeepers know their town better than anyone. Just be sure to check each Inn's policies to see what age the inn may welcome children. Some Inns are better suited for couples. Each Inn's policy section will state the best recommended age to have children as guests. What I think would be delightful would be an entire extended family booking an Inn for a weekend. Then you could leave the room doors open and it would be like staying with family with a nice aunt and uncle to cook everyone breakfast.

The Beaufort Inn in Asheville, N.C.
The Beaufort Inn in Asheville, N.C.


Since I am a very picky traveler when it comes to my lodging, I make sure that Bed and Breakfast Inns are certified by some sort of organization. Here's why. It requires the Inns to meet a certain level of standards for its guests. Several Inns in Asheville, North Carolina belong to the Asheville Bed and Breakfast Association. An association like this would be a good place to start for your travel research. When booking an Inn,  I would rely heavily on other guest reviews, overall appearance of the Inn, and its member associations. If an Inn has a Four Diamond Award by AAA then I take extra notice because then I know the service will reflect that of a very small, boutique hotel.

Sweet Biscuit Inn, an Asheville B and B.
Sweet Biscuit Inn in Asheville, N.C. 

For the first time ever, members of the Asheville Bed and Breakfast Association have united to offer a holiday package through Jan. 3, 2014. Guests will also be treated to their Innkeeper's favorite cookies and a local shopping pass that is filled with discounts to the Innkeepers favorite recommendations in the area from boutiques to coffee shops. I love that idea.

Sweet Biscuit Inn is a family-friendly B and B
Sweet Biscuit Inn in Asheville, N.C. welcomes families 

I've done some of  the children policy searching for you. My family pick is Sweet Biscuit Inn. This Inn welcomes children of all ages, even infants. The innkeepers provide roll away beds, portable cribs, and can recommend babysitting services.  The innkeeper is a France-trained chef. Scones and cinnamon rolls are on the menu at times. Even though I've not stayed here yet, I think this would be my pick for families.

Get cozy in Asheville this holiday or this winter. And on another note, remember that Bed and Breakfast rates include breakfast which is a always great travel savings.



Happy Holidays and Happy Traveling!



12.15.2014

Baking with Kids: Easy Sugar Cookie Recipe

Kid-friendly and easy Sugar Cookie recipe for the holidays or anytime of year.


There are a few Christmas goodies that I make during the holidays, such as the buckeye brownies I featured on the blog a few years ago. I found the recipe to replace my Dad's buckeye candy recipe because I just can't seem to get his recipe right. I find the whole process rather labor intensive, and the brownie recipe is a little easier. I have also started making a chocolate marshmallow type fudge each holiday.

Even though I bake some, I have never made homemade cookies. I'm guilty of popping in Pillsbury ready made cookies into the oven, and saying, "Happy Holidays!"


Sugar Cookie recipe



Liza wanted to make cookies this year. She really likes my food blogging friend, Stacey Sprenz, of CookEatLife.com because of their curly-hair connection. Stacey was my lifesaver this year because she volunteered to make cookies with Liza so that she could hang out with us one afternoon.

HinesSight Blog and CookEatLife.com; Sugar Cookie  Collaboration

She spent three hours at our home this week, and their labor of love resulted in some fun times, and some delicious cookies. Stacey's recipe was handed down to her from her Mom. The ingredients are all-natural and simple.

Stacey believes the secret to all the cookie goodness is to use pure vanilla extract in the dough, and pure almond extract in the icing.


Kid-Friendly and Easy Sugar Cookie Recipe

1 cup salted butter (softened)
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of salt (1/4 tsp)
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar together with the paddle attachment of a mixer.  Add vanilla extract and the egg. Continue mixing until thoroughly mixed together.  Add pinch of salt and the flour.  Mix until it forms a dough. Wrap dough in cling wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.  

Preheat oven to 350 degree F.  Remove dough from refrigerator at least 30 minutes before making the cookies.

Cut the dough ball in half (you will repeat these steps with each half of the dough).  On a floured surface, roll out dough until it is about 1/4” thick.  Cut cookies using holiday cookie cutters.

Easy Sugar Cookie Recipe


Remove excess dough from around each cutout and place in a pile.  Using a thin spatula, move the cookies to a baking sheet.  Bake cookies for 8 minutes rotating the pans after 4 minutes.  Allow to cool for 1-2 min. on the baking sheet and then move to cooling rack.

Homemade Sugar Cookies


Take the pile of excess dough and using your hands, knead into a ball.  Place on a floured surface and roll out.  Repeat the above steps.  You can do this at least one more time with the same dough.  Discard excess dough once it has been rolled out twice.  

Kids love baking


Sugar Cookie Icing

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tbs. milk
2 tbs salted butter
1/2 tsp. almond extract

Melt the butter, then add it to a bowl containing the powdered sugar.  Add the milk and almond extract.  Stir with a spatula until all of the sugar is incorporated.  The mixture should we slightly stiff and smooth.  Add more milk 1/2 tsp. at a time if the mixture is too thick.  Divide the icing into three bowls and add food coloring of choice.  Place into individual piping bags with various decorating tips.

Happy Holidays. I just served coffee and chatted, but I have to say that I have enjoyed eating these yummy cookies very much. All the credit here goes to Stacey and Liza. I'm just the writer and eater. 


HinesSight Blog and CookEatLife.com collaborate on Sugar Cookie Project


Thanks Stacey for our holiday memories. I hope you're available next year because I think you are a hard act to follow. 

Stacey will be teaching several cooking classes for kids and adults with the Holly Springs Park and Recreation Department in 2015. Classes include Breakfast for Dinner, Pasta Making, and Healthy Soups. 



12.11.2014

City Sidewalks and an Inspirational Giveaway from Loving on Me

The hustle and bustle of the holidays are here. We all have a million places to be, and our time is limited. Thank you for even reading today. 

Since Dec. 1, I've had bubbles with a friend at Washington Duke Inn, and celebrated the holidays with other N.C. bloggers, who are fellow members of NC Blogger Network. I captured this Raleigh Christmas skyline at Boylan Bridge Brew Pub in Raleigh.


Raleigh City Skyline at Christmas
Raleigh Skyline from Boylan Bridge Brew Pub

My own home is starting to look a little more like Christmas. I still have items to put out, and items to go back in the attic. For our tree trimming this year, I made my simple baked ziti. 


Christmas Tree
Our house for the 2014 Holiday


Tis the season for lots to do. I took the kids to see Santa this week. Here's the real story behind this photo I shared on Facebook.


Santa
Dear Santa, Mom wants this Tory Burch wallet, but I guess I really need this Tory Burch umbrella. 


Hey kids, our Christmas story starts like this. I took you to see Santa in the rain. I stabbed myself with my broken umbrella.Guess I need to put an umbrella on my Christmas list. After dinner, I tried not to show my frustration as I carried three unopened umbrellas, one to go box, a holiday book and kid drink up a slippery hill in the rain, all while you ate sticky candy canes. The night finally ended with my letting a few curse words fly in the parking lot when the Sprite spilled all over my seat while standing in the rain as I was trying to get three umbrellas, a book, food and a drink in the car. Yes, kids, that's the real story behind this lovely holiday photo, but at least we got to see Santa who is thinking that he may be in for a long night. Twenty years from now, we'll just remember the photo, but thanks to this blog, we have this story to remember. You'll tell your kids, "I remember the time Grandma...let it loose in the parking lot, but at least she didn't get run over by a reindeer." 


My Gift to You: An Inspirational Holiday Giveaway

I always like to give back to my readers this time of year because if it weren't for you and this blog I created, my life would not be the same. You inspire me to come back to this space to write and tell you something even if that means I have dishes in the sink and piles of laundry still in the dryer. 



I was contacted by Loving On Me, an online shop that offers inspirational products that make positive affirmations a part of everyday life to host a giveaway. At home, work and anywhere-in-between, the products, such as coffee mugs, t-shirts, pillows, totes and more, shout out powerful phrases that remind women that they are “unstoppable,” “a masterpiece,” “strong, mighty and enough."


Loving on Me Gift Tote



Founded in 2012 by non-profit leader and social responsibility pioneer Katrina McGhee, Loving on Me has a unique dual mission – to both inspire individuals AND ignite them into action. Its robust social media community and retail business make inspiration a part of every day life, while its Love in Action philanthropy arm ignites action by supporting global charities through financial contributions and volunteerism. 

Inspirational Gifts


The company is committed to the growth and development of the broader women’s community. That’s why every quarter, Katrina make contributions to organizations supporting the education, empowerment and good health of women and girls. Since September 2012, Loving On Me has provided over $25,000 in support to Breast Care International, Girl  Rising, Minnie’s Food Pantry,Susan G. Komen for the Cure,Play Like a Girl, and the Unstoppable foundation.

Inspirational Gifts that Give Back


As a thank you from me, you will be able to win a Loving On Me gift pack that includes a tote bag, a mug, and journal. One winner will be chosen by random on Friday, Dec. 19.  You may enter via rafflecopter below. 


I think we can all use a new mug for coffee. And not to be funny, but I like my coffee strong in the morning. :)

Happy holidays everyone! 

Disclosure: LovingOnMe sponsored this prize, and the prize will be mailed to the winner by the company. The prize will more than likely reach you after the Christmas holidays. 



a Rafflecopter giveaway

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