Weekend Rewind

It’s time for Weekend Rewind where nothing gets thrown out.  We talk about old posts and some new things, too.

After Icing on the Cake, I’ve enjoyed hearing from you about your own memories of licking cake batter at your grandma’s house.   My son is very picky about icing, and loves the chocolate buttercream icing we made for his birthday cupcakes.  At dinner the other night, my husband said he thought the icing I made was really good, but in his opinion, nothing beats Duncan Hines because it’s just so rich and creamy.   Can you believe that?  It must be that Hines name.  I decided to visit the Duncan Hines website after his comment, and the company does have lots of good tips and recipes. 

Use 2 Tsp in place of Vanilla

One person who says she is a grandma of 12, uses Kahlua instead of vanilla when making chocolate buttercream.  If I had 12 kids around when I was making icing, I may drink from the bottle. She says she doubles the amount so she uses about two teaspoons in her recipe.    Now THAT sounds good.   I’ll let you know after I make my next batch!

I have another Well Visit coming up next month.  It’s got to go better than the last one.  My daughter can’t walk yet so there is no chance of her bolting out of the office.  That’s good!  Her vocabulary still consists of “Da Da”, “Woof”, “Uh-Oh”, and maybe “Hi” if we’re lucky.  Still no “Ma-Ma”!   But, she will do this funny face on command.

My daughter's funny face on command

Tricia, a friend and reader of the Hines-Sight Blog Facebook page gave me an excellent idea for future well visits.  She says she never goes to a doctor’s office without her 31 Fold and Go Organizer which she stocks with crayons, markers, paper, puzzles, and work sheets.   The examining table paper can double as your little artist’s canvas while you wait.  Now that is some great advice from a very Savvy mom! 

Some of you told me you had Kermit the Frog’s famous little song in your head after reading The Rainbow Connection this week.  You also learned that I have a unique approach to meal planning.   It may not be the most organized method, but it is a great way to get new meals on the table.  The truth is that I love recipe books more than I like cooking.  Planning my meals, by opening pages of selected cookbooks is a good way for me to use the ones I own.

As with anything, some books become my favorite and are opened more frequently.   If a recipe is easy, healthy, and has less than six ingredients then it will probably become one of my “Go To” meals and used more often.  I hope you let me know if you make Rainbow Inspired Capellini with Alfredo Sauce in your house.  One reader  told me that she would add garlic, onions, and red peppers to her version.  Great idea!  One of my blogger friends, The Life of a Suburban Princess, told me she thinks about serving the rainbow on a weekly basis rather than daily.  She said, “we may eat one orange vegetable today then get in Brussels sprouts on another day.”  Wise advice, and please, send me your Brussels sprout recipe, Princess!  When I worked in marketing at a hospital, the cafeteria manager would put Brussels sprouts on the rotation just for me.  I always so happy on those days because remember from A Second Helping, Please”, I didn’t know how to turn on my stove.

And finally, in the car the other day my son said, “I told “Little L” that I was sorry I said she took up space.  I really love her.”   In my post “Pirate Princess in the City”, you learned how he was a little unhappy after she was born, and said that she could go back in my tummy.   Well, after the release of a new book earlier in the week called, “Cinderella Ate my Daughter: Dispatches From the Frontlines of the new Girlie-Girl Culture” by best-selling author, Peggy Orenstein, it made me rethink the title of that post, and our calling our daughter “Princess” so often. 
courtesy of http://www.peggyorenstein.com/

My husband and I have used the word a lot in the past 14 months, and never really gave it a second thought until now.  On the flip side, we don’t go around calling our son a Prince at all.   Why do we call her Princess?  We don’t have royal titles.  I am even guilty of the Princess themed first birthday party.   I have not read Orenstein’s book, but I did read an interview with her in this month’s Parents Magazine, and her thoughts were very interesting on how this new culture can impact our daughter’s identities and their futures.  I hope that if we teach our daughter that life is not a fairytale, and that there is more to life than riding off with her  “Knight in Shining Armour” then a good foundation for the future will be built and we can still have some tutus and tiaras in the house.    So far, our daughter loves both Batman and Dolls plus wears blue.  However, I have noticed that my daughter is fixated on my son’s Disney Princess vitamins.  Hmmm!  She looks at them, and shakes them while I'm getting ready in the morning. I may have some of you shaking your head when I said the Disney Princess vitamins belong to my son, but let me just say that there are only a few brands of vitamins with DHA (Omega 3’s) on the market that is priced under $10 a bottle, and the Super-heroes vitamins with DHA are $2.00 more a bottle than the Disney Princess Brand.   I don’t know why?   But, in this economy, I go for cheaper because that gives us more money to do things we want.   He can eat Cinderella as easily as he can eat Iron Man as far as I’m concerned.   He doesn't care.  I think we are a gender-neutral household.

Until next time…..I’m off to play with the Lord and the Lady.  I thought I would refrain from the other higher titles this week.


Call me, Nincompoop!

I was almost going to keep this little secret to myself because it makes me look like a nincompoop, but I decided that there has to be at least one person out there that will understand what it is like to have your mind race in a million different directions when you’re racing against the clock.

My 14-month-old daughter is cutting her incisors and molars all at once.  Yesterday, her tummy was a little upset so she and I spent a lot of time together on the diaper-changing table.  As I was walking out the door for pre-school pick-up, she needed to be changed again.   I looked at the microwave clock.  It read 12:02 pm.  Boy, that is cutting it close for pick-up on time.

I just couldn’t NOT change her.  I would feel too guilty to see her little red bottom later on in the day.  It had to be done. I did everything as fast as I could, and was off once again to get my son.  I even remembered his juice (That story is from my first-ever Hines-Sight).  It’s about 12:09 pm now.   Luckily, we live about five minutes away from his school.  Pick-up is at 12:15 pm, but they usually dismiss early.

As I passed the horse farm on the left like I do daily, my stomach dropped and I thought, “Did I wash my hands?”  I just could not remember if I did.  I then thought about all the germs I would be passing.  I tried to retrace my steps in the house, but hand washing must be so routine for me that I couldn’t pull up the memory.  My mind then quickly wandered to my purse and if I had any hand sanitizer stored in there.  

As I decided to reach over to grab my purse to check, I happened to glance in the rear view mirror before doing so and saw AN EMPTY CAR SEAT in the reflection.  My mind panicked, and it took me back to a vision of seeing my daughter like this on the floor before leaving as I got my son’s juice.

In less than half a second before I whipped my head around toward the backseat, I thought, “What do I do? Do I turn the car around? Call my husband to pick my son up from school?” I’m late!  I felt pandemonium.

With sure panic on my face, I took my eyes off the road, glanced in the backseat and there SHE WAS.  Whew! She was sitting behind me with her head cocked back in her seat, and a pacifier in her mouth that was preventing her from making any noise.

I realized I had looked at the wrong seat in the mirror.  I cannot tell you the relief I felt at that very moment. And we’re only talking about an incident that was probably less than a minute in overall thoughts.  It could have been only 30 seconds total that I had all those thoughts, but that is how a parent’s mind may work on any given day.  I sometimes feel that my mind is thinking at “Bionic Woman” running speed, and I just can’t keep up.

On this day, I was late for pre-school pick-up because I decided to change a diaper at the last minute and race against the clock.  I should know that the clock always wins!

Once I got home with both children at 12: 25 pm, and pulled into the garage, I laughed at my little nutty thoughts that caused me such heartburn and a spike in blood pressure.   I thought, "You know,  It could have been a lot worse! " In my rush, I could have easily backed the car out of the garage without raising the door.  Maybe I’m not such a nincompoop after all!

Have a great weekend everyone!  I’m off to get a cup of tea and go on a playdate!


The Rainbow Connection

Do you ever come home and say, “What can I cook tonight?” Do you then dig into your pantry or freezer to see what you can find to cook? Or are you a meal planner that has a calendar with that night’s meal listed on it?  I prefer to plan meals, but I must confess I have an unusual way of going about it.  Most people probably wouldn’t opt for my plan.  Let’s look at last week as a typical example of how meal planning goes in my house.

On this particular day, I was about ten minutes away from needing to leave my house in order to arrive at my massage appointment on time. The massage was a much needed gift from my husband and children. Coincidentally, the appointment happened to be next to the Trader Joes in my area. Since this would be my opportunity to go grocery shopping child free, I put on my coat and scarf, grabbed a pencil, paper, and started writing down the items I needed in order to make one or two meals that I’ve made so frequently that I know exactly what I need off the top of my head.  I also picked out three cookbooks from my very crowded recipe book cupboard, and opened the books I picked on the kitchen counter.  I flipped through the pages, and waited for recipes to say, “Make me!”

This haphazardly menu planning is my way of trying new recipes, and it is also why my husband says that he rarely sees the same thing twice on our table unless it becomes part of the coveted “What can I fix quickly” menu file.  Those are my "Go To" recipes that I can recite by heart.  With just six minutes to spare before I needed to leave, I came across a recipe that my friend, Betty Crocker, had given me when I got married, but never made.

I thought, “This is perfect! I can find all of these items at Trader Joes.  And I’m going to add this and that."

If you have ever read any parenting food websites or even nutritional sites, it will tell you that you need to try to eat a rainbow color of fruits and vegetables daily. I’m really optimistic and all, but it’s hard for me to see a rainbow daily on our table.  At one given time, I may have blueberries, bananas, apples, frozen green beans, kiwi, broccoli, carrots, and some corn in my house, but I certainly don’t serve them all in one day. We tend to eat two or maybe three colors in a rainbow a day, and sometimes, some colors are totally left out weeks at a time. I feel as if I"m denying my family a whole rainbow.   Shame on me!

I’ll be the first to tell you, I love fruits and vegetables.  My Grandma Powell, whom you heard about earlier this week, had a large garden.  She would cook about eight to ten vegetables a day. No joke!  Her spread of turnips, turnip greens, eggplant, sweet corn, field peas, green peas, and carrots daily created a table rainbow like something in the "Wizard of Oz."

I don't cook like grandma so you can imagine my excitement when I found the idea for a “rainbow connected” meal. Since I created this meal by taking ingredients from several sources,  I  renamed this colorful dish , “Rainbow Inspired Capellini with Alfredo Sauce. ” Isn’t that chic?  It’s basically my version of pasta primavera with alfredo sauce bought from Trader Joes, but for those who know me well, know that I like to name things from my daughter’s baby dolls to random stray cats that I see on my travels so renaming a recipe is only natural in this case. 

I must warn you now that when I put my new culinary rainbow in front of my five-year old, he said, “That looks YUCKY!” Sometimes you just want to put tape over a food critic’s mouth!!

However, I quickly said, “Well, it is Kermit the Frog’s favorite meal.”  If you’re old enough to remember the Muppets then you may just be humming his little famous song.  Am I right?

My strength may not be in food presentation, but this pasta dish tasted good.  JH ate most of it, and my daughter liked it, too. The Alfredo sauce may have been a little rich for her, but I did buy a lighter version that had about 90 calories per ¼ cup. Since it came from Trader Joes, it was free of preservatives, and healthier than some other processed versions, but you can use any store bought sauce of your choosing. If you’re really savvy then you can easily make your own sauce, but I was short on time, and really didn’t care to go to the effort.  I started this meal at 5:20 pm, and we were eating at 6:00 pm on the dot. Quick and Easy!

Unfortunately,  a pot of gold wasn't found when our forks twisted that last piece of pasta on our plates, but the good news is I’m no longer chasing rainbows in meal planning.  I found the Rainbow Connection!

Until next time…..I’m off to get a cup of tea!


Icing on the Cake

Sometimes I just crave a good piece of cake. I think cake is my favorite dessert.  I love cupcakes, too because they are like mini cakes in my book. I am a cake girl instead of a pie girl.  I like pies, too, but I prefer cake.  I have such fond memories of my Grandma Powell’s cakes when I was a little girl in the late 70’s. I would stay with her a week at a time because we did not live in the same town, and we would make her delicious pound cake, upside down pineapple cake, carrot cake, devil’s food cake with vanilla icing, and plain vanilla cake with chocolate icing.

My favorite part  of the baking was licking the mixing bowls, but isn’t that the favorite part for every child? It may even be better than eating the cake itself.  My grandmother, Pauline Powell, died in 1983, and my family certainly has missed those wonderful, southern sweet creations that she made with such ease.

Recently, my mom found some of grandma’s recipes in her own handwriting, and since a coffee maker is the only thing that gets turned on in my mom’s kitchen, she gave them to me. I think she is secretly hoping that I will serve one of grandma’s cakes when she comes over to play with the kids.  In all honesty, I want to keep these recipes for posterity, but the recipes intimidate me!  It says to use Crisco and Swansdown cake flour, and then there are explanations about “sad streaks”, and details on when it is okay and not okay to open the oven while the cake is baking.  It might as well be in a foreign language! It all seems so complicated for a person who didn’t even make my own chocolate buttercream icing until this month because I wanted to give my children some of my same baking memories.

In the past, Duncan Hines made my icing.  When ordering cakes for events, it was not uncommon for me to look at a bakery worker puzzled when he would ask me what type of icing I wanted on my cake order. The baker would say, “Fondant, Cream Cheese, or Buttercream?” I would think, “Ah, icing that is good and similar to what country, southern ladies make for their cakes?” My cake icing needs to delicious, but not so sweet that you can’t eat it. You know? The kind just like my grandma made.

It’s no surprise that when I find a cake that I like, I become obsessed with it, and it becomes my “Go To” cake for any event I host.  I’m proud to say I have found a cake that I think would get Grandma Powell’s seal of approval not only for taste, but also for looks.  I learned about this cake at a birthday gathering for my sister-in-law. At the end of dinner, her friend debuts this gorgeous cake.  It was so beautiful, and when I took that first bite, it took me back to days in the kitchen with my grandma.

My son's birthday cake from Whole Foods Bakery

I couldn’t stop talking about the cake or its icing. It was a chocolate layer cake with white icing, and together the two merged into a gastronomic delight. I’m sure that my sister-in-law’s friends thought I was quirky. I started putting my college journalism education to use, and asked my sister-in-law’s friend on the “Who? What? When? Where? And How? specifics of this gourmet delicacy that not only rivaled a southern woman’s homemade cake, but looked as if it had been designed and decorated by a top gourmet pastry chef. I just knew this cake had to break the piggy bank.

I about jumped out of my seat at the restaurant when she told me it came from our local Whole Foods Bakery. It was a double whammy when she told me the price was $24.99 for a cake that would serve about fifteen people. Let me tell you, I have paid a lot more for cakes in the past even at another grocery store, and none of them even came close to topping the taste of this budget-friendly delight.  That equals less than $1.75 a slice.  Whole Foods specializes in an all-natural, no artificial ingredients type cakes so you won’t find Grandma’s Crisco in it, and truthfully, it’s hard to find a cake of this caliber under $25 so kudos to them.

I have now served a Whole Food's cake at my daughter’s baptism, my son’s birthday, and the bakery even did a different design for my daughter’s first birthday.  I also told my best friend about the cake and she used it at her daughter’s baptism, and even as a guest at that event, I still couldn’t stop talking about the icing. She finally said, “We know you love the cake, Leigh !”  And at my son’s birthday party, the guests raved about this cake just like I did when I first tasted it.

So my thoughts are if Pauline Powell was here today, I can guarantee that she would be a fan of my local Whole Food’s Cosmic Design Chocolate cake, and to quote her favorite game show host, Bob Barker, who came into her home everyday at 11:00 am on WRAL TV, “The Price is Right!”

Until next time…..I’m off to have a cup of tea with a slice of cake!


Weekend Rewind

It’s time for our Weekend Rewind where nothing gets thrown out, and we talk about some past posts.

In “Copycat!” you learned that I have to watch what I say these days.  Yesterday, I was doing something to the TV for my son, and something strange popped up on the screen.  Quickly, I said, “What in the World is that?”  I was really proud of myself.  You see, that phrase is on my new approved phrase list in case JH decides to copy what comes out of my mouth in place of “What the Heck is that?”  It really is a conscious effort to be a role model 24/7.  

Miss America 2011
And speaking of role models, America has a new role model for its young people.  17 year old, Teresa Scanlan from Nebraska, was crowned last week as the youngest Miss America since 1921.  Her parents say she is old and wise beyond her years.  Scanlan aspires to go to law school after college, and have a career as political public servant.  She received $40,000 in scholarship money to help her achieve those dreams.  Some people criticize the pageant industry, but I think for older teenagers, it is a good way for intelligent, talented young women to seek scholarship money if needed.  More and more young people are acquiring student loan debt following graduation.  Even though my children have yet to enter the public school system, we know college will be here in a flash.  We will have AARP status, and have two college educations to fund.  If my daughter wanted to enter a preliminary Miss America pageant in her older years, I would support her in her decision because it is a scholarship pageant rather than a beauty pageant.  Miss America is an Ambassador for this country, and in 90 years, the organization has funded $45 million dollars in cash and scholarship assistance.   I don’t think I would be as supportive to Miss Itty Bitty Bikini and Miss Suntan Lotion.   In my past TV work, I have interviewed a Miss America, and several preliminary state winners.  They all were very poised, smart women who made good role models opposed to some teen Hollywood starlets and these so called “reality people” who spend too much money, seek the limelight, and don’t seek a college education.   So, in this house, you may hear my husband sing, “There She Is…Miss America” when he brings our Miss America down the stairs in the morning. 

Following my “Pack Your Bags: We’re Heading to the Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta” segment, I had the privilege to talk with hotel executives about the downtown Atlanta hotel's new modern look. The Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta underwent renovations since my last visit for my friend’s wedding, and I definitely need to go back!  
The Lumen Lobby Bar

The new  Lumen Lobby Bar puts a new modern spin on afternoon tea for those hot months in Atlanta.  The bone china, scones, and clotted cream have been replaced with a menu of five flavorful, unsweetened iced teas: Acai Pomegranate; Marrakesh Mint Green Tea; Hibiscus; Orange Jasmine Mango; and Chamomile Citrus. Standard sweeteners are available, but the recommended sweetener is cotton candy, presented atop a tall glass.

courtesy of Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta

The guest’s iced tea selection is poured over the cotton candy into the glass, instantly dissolving the cotton candy and sweetening the tea.  I’m a southern girl, after all, so I would love to try this trendy new tea in downtown Atlanta.   Go ahead and pack your bags because The Ritz-Carlton-Atlanta is offering several discounted packages right now.   The Reconnect package will give you up to $200 back in hotel credit depending on the length of stay, and my favorite is the Bed and Breakfast package which includes the wonderful breakfast buffet and overnight valet parking.  There is also a family package that includes tickets to the Georgia Aquarium which is a really a “must-see.”  There are many attractions for families to see in this area while calling the Ritz your home away from home.

While in Atlanta, you should visit Café Lily Restaurant and Tapas Lounge in Decatur, Georgia.  It’s a neighborhood bistro offering an eclectic variety of cuisines from the Mediterranean Sea:  Italy, France, Greece, Spain, North Africa, and the Middle East.  It was the sight of my friend’s rehearsal dinner, and even though some of my brain cells depleted after having my second child, I do remember having a great meal that night.  As my friend told me this week, it is still one of my friend’s favorite restaurants and she has a long list of others in this adorable, historic town.   The Ritz-Carlton-Atlanta is conveniently located to Decatur which is nestled between Downtown Atlanta and Stone Mountain Park.

And finally, I caught up with my People.com reading this week with a cup of tea while JH was playing, and the “Pirate Princess in the City” was napping on Saturday.  Hollywood is seeing a baby boom this month. Many stars are also joining my club of having children after their 40th birthday.  Some are becoming first time moms while others are adding to their brood.  It’s quite refreshing to see these forty something moms toting around young children, at least it is for me.  When 43 year old actress Nicole Kidman goes to Nashville’s Starbucks with a new baby and an older toddler in tow, it just changes the perception of one’s forties.  Forty doesn’t seem near as mature as it did in the 1970’s when most forty year old moms were prepping for their children to go off to college.  Now we're changing diapers like the thirty something mom. 

I always told my husband that if we were younger, I would love a third pirate.  He always looked at me like I was crazy because we have our hands full with two.  But now, our Pirate Princess is a toddler, and our oldest is going to kindergarten in a few short months.  I was at my computer the other night, and my husband came into the room after kissing JH goodnight and said,  “You know I always thought two kids were plenty, but I have to agree with you now that if we were a few years younger, I think it would have been nice to have a third child.    And what’s a few years younger?  40, of course! 

We feel blessed with our two, and are ready to hit the road as a family of four and visit some of these hotels I love to talk about.  Exciting times are ahead!

Until next time….I’m off to get a cup of tea!


Pirate Princess In the City

I am an only child so I have no idea what it is like to have a sibling. But, from what I’ve observed in the past fourteen months, I would say it must be a love like none other. My daughter lights up as soon as she sees my son in the morning. He insists on giving her a goodnight kiss every night, and if he doesn’t get a chance to say goodnight before I put her in what used to be his old crib, he will cry like a baby. We learned that tidbit the hard way one night!

JH meeting his sister for the first time
My children are three years and ten months apart. When we brought my daughter home from the hospital, our son was thrilled. He was so happy to meet his baby sister. Due to the blinking sign over my head that read, “Advanced Maternal Age” each time I walked into the OB’s office, we knew a lot about my daughter before she was born. We saw her in numerous ultrasounds. I’m surprised she didn’t come out thinking she was a Hollywood star because she had been on the big screen so much within those nine months in the womb. Luckily, it enabled us to prepare JH for a sister because for the first 18 weeks of my pregnancy, he wanted a brother.

The thrill of having this new seven pound seven ounce bundle of joy in our house lasted about a week or so for my son. One afternoon, JH came to me with a frown and said, “Mommy, she does nothing, but take up space. She can go back in your tummy now!” We got a good laugh over that one and he's had to cope with her staying outside of my tummy forever now.

Like most parents who add a new child to the household, we had to deal with jealously issues, but it eventually turned to bliss once again when my little princess started crawling at about seven months of age. JH thought his "mobile" sister was fun. He was actually entertained by her and vice-versa. It was great because I was able to fold some laundry and the two of them would chase each other around the playroom while I watched.
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Guess what? The fun of having a crawling sister wore off on JH when she started to want to play with his toys at the same time he was playing with them. It is not uncommon these days for me to hear, ”You need to learn to share, baby!” or “You need to learn your manners, baby!” and the worse is just a screeching scream from my son as soon as she gets close to Batman, Robin, and his new pirate sword and hat.

Pirate Princess in the City

Lately, when JH is at school, I have been letting Little L become a pirate princess, and explore all the toys that he will not let her touch when he is around. She loves it! But, it does make her personality bolder since she now knows the thrill of playing with the coveted toys. She’s hauled off and pushed him a few times after he kept telling her no. My husband says she gets her feistiness from me.

I was folding laundry again last night and JH built this huge batman city with every toy he and my daughter own. His knight’s castle, a farm set, and a doll house were the borders for this huge play area he formed. from his creative mind. As I was getting a sheet out of the dryer, I heard his deafening shrill followed by, “She’s in my city! She’s in my city! Mama, move her! SHE’S IN MY CITY! HER CITY IS OVER THERE!”

The laundry room is right next to the playroom so I peeped around the corner and my daughter looked like Baby Godzilla as she inched closer to eat these miniature batman figures inside his city.

I still had a sheet to fold so I quickly said, “Oh, she’s fine! She’s just in the suburbs!”

I have a feeling that I may be the new policewoman for this tale of two cities for many years to come.

Until next time…I’m off to get a cup of tea!


Pack Your Bags: The Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta

Georgia is on my mind! My son is learning about Dr. Martin Luther King, junior at pre-school this week. While prepping dinner, I told him that Dr. King was born in Atlanta. JH has a keen interest in travel so we talk about different places a lot, and we usually end the conversation with something like this.

“Maybe we can go there!” says JH.
“We sure can, and I know exactly what hotel we can stay in on that trip," I respond.

It is only fitting in light of my recent conversation with my son that we go to the Ritz-Carlton,Atlanta for our second, “Pack Your Bags” feature.

The luxury brand hotel has two hotels in the Atlanta area, but I chose this particular Ritz-Carlton, located in downtown Atlanta on Peachtree, N.E, because it is special to me.

My husband and I stayed here a few years ago while attending a dear friend’s wedding in Decatur. Georgia.  I think JH was two, and he stayed with my mother-in-law so not only was I happy for my friend, but also for myself because I was getting away for a long weekend—kid free. We all were so excited for my college friend’s wedding because she always told us that she would never get married. Well, I guess one should never say “never” because cupid proved her wrong. We would not have missed this wedding for anything. The UNC gang selected another hotel closer to the wedding site, but I had other thoughts in my mind and broke away from the pack.  I e-mailed them all and said, “You can join me or not, but I’m staying at the Ritz-Carlton!”

My choice was quite simple. We all have checklists in life!  Some of you may want to run your first marathon or perhaps backpack across the country or if you are really brave, skydiving could be on your checklist. . For my husband, it was to hike the Appalachian Trail and climb Mount McKinley in Alaska. He put a check mark by those items in 1996.  But for me, I wanted mark off on my paper: Stayed at a Ritz-Carlton Hotel!
Borrowed from the Ritz-Carlton website

Since childhood, I have had a love affair with this luxury hotel brand. As a feline lover, I loved its logo with the regal lion, and the luxury that it embodied as soon as you walked in its doors.  I was a television product of the 80’s, and watched shows like “Dynasty” and “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” and in my mind, this luxury hotel was the best of the best. I even have childhood memories of my late father attending a convention at probably this same hotel in Atlanta, and not being allowed to go. I vividly remember saying, “How dare you go to the Ritz-Carlton and not take me. That’s not fair! That’s not fair!” and then I probably slammed my bedroom door. I was a teenager, after all!

This May wedding was my opportunity to spend three nights in a hotel that I had only dreamed about, and the Ritz-Carlton Atlanta did not disappoint with its turndown service, robes, slippers, and Italian Frette Linens. My stay was everything I imagined and then more. We felt as if we were the only guests they had to serve. The customer service was wonderful, and I loved it when the valet gave me water every time I got in the car and returned home for the evening, and he even knew my name!  For those three days in Atlanta, I felt like a princess who left her child with a nanny, and I ate like a Queen each meal I had there. Our breakfast buffet in the hotel’s signature restaurant, Atlanta Grill, ranks as one of our all-time favorite breakfast buffets. In between our scheduled wedding events, the concierge guided us to the nearby Georgia Aquarium, which was a great experience and very close to the hotel.  Upon returning, she had a table waiting for us at the hotel’s afternoon tea service. I have had tea in Paris, London, Canada and in many hotels in the U.S, and I have to say I was quite impressed with Ritz-Carlton-Atlanta’s scones and tea sandwiches. 

Whenever my son was old enough to engage in conversations, I have told him that when he is five, I’m going to take him to a Ritz-Carlton for tea, but he has to have really good manners, and act like a gentleman. Today, it dawned on me that JH is now five.  I told him with excitement at dinner that Ritz-Carlton opened a hotel in our home state of North Carolina so it will be much easier for us to take a weekend trip to Charlotte to have our tea, but he’s got to do better with his manners and listening skills.  Today he did not excel in those areas.

He listens, takes a bite of his food then says without hesitation, “Mom, what is a Ritz-Carlton?”

The child has so much to learn!  And I can't wait to teach him.

Until next time……I’m off for a cup of tea!



As a parent, have you ever reacted to something quickly and perhaps blurted out something not very proper? You realize it as soon as it comes out of your mouth. You look around wide-eyed and hope that your child with the bucket on his head didn't hear you.

Sometimes you aren’t as lucky and say the wrong thing when you just happen to have a captive audience like when your kids are in their car seats.

Being a role model for your child isn’t easy. We’re all human and we slip up, but I’m trying my hardest right now to practice good manners and think before I speak. I spent a good part of my adult life not thinking about who was listening unless I was “on-air”, and I will tell you that a TV newsroom would make a lot of people blush. It’s high stress, and the language can get ugly.

I have a good friend who I have known about 18 years, and he is now the godfather of my son. We met after college while living in Southeastern, NC when we started out in our broadcasting careers. I was in TV, and he was in radio. We both worked alone so we would team up, and cover events together so we would have company.

One evening, Columbus County where we were both assigned to cover its news, had some really wacky weather on an election night.

We had been working all day, and were continuing to work through the night because we had to do election returns, but for some reason Mother Nature wanted to lead my station’s newscast that evening. It was raining like a hurricane, and our police scanner reported that a “mobile home had been struck by the wind and debris was all over the road.”

I drove both of us in this downpour on a rural road to find a mobile home that got caught in a downburst of wind, which is not quite a tornado, but the damage is usually severe in these weather events. I unloaded my video equipment, which in 1993 weighed about 25 pounds. I turned on the camera, and the lens immediately fogged from the moisture, and I couldn’t see a thing. I lost it! It had been a very long election day, and on top of that frenzy, I had to deal with a weather disaster.  I think I said every ugly name in the book, and shed a few tears.  At the end of my dramatic meltdown, my TV competitor who was also a good friend, drove up in his vehicle. As soon as he opened his car door, and before he could get his camera,  it was like déjà vu. His mouth needed washing out with soap, too as the old saying goes!  My son's godfather never lets me forget that day.

Luckily, as I matured, my language skills also vastly improved. I tried to be a southern lady while on deadline, but on occasion, my inner Scarlett O’ Hara would emerge and through my feistiness, I would say some southern slang.  This leads us to this week’s family conversation.

My husband and JH were playing with our new Wii and my hubby wasn’t doing too well. My five year old was beating him so he mumbled words like “stupid move” or worse under his breath when he lost. When JH didn’t do well, he copied his dad and said some of the same things. My husband told him that he was wrong when he mumbled those unpleasantries earlier out of frustration, and he shouldn’t do it either.

A few minutes later as the game resumes, something else came out of my son’s mouth. He blurted out in his little southern accent, “What the HECK was that?” My husband shook his head, and said, “You shouldn’t say that either!”

JH said, “But mama says it.”

“I know she has said it and she shouldn’t say it either,” commented my my husband. I was warned by him not to use this phrase before when he heard me say it one day when something surprised me.

“But dad,” said JH quietly. “Why does she say it? Doesn’t she know that little boys copy their mamas?”

Well, I do now.

Until next time……….I’m off to have a cup of tea!


Weekend Rewind

At the end of this week, my husband took the morning off to do the annual January clean-up where we get rid of old toys and other things around the house when JH is at pre-school. “Big W” claims I’m a borderline hoarder and it drives him crazy. I must admit I didn’t do much tossing. Instead, I mainly went behind him and rescued a jack-in-the-box, and a few stuffed animals. He would find out, and we would have the confrontation! I would then act as the toy’s lawyer to save it from donation. I won a few cases, but lost many, too for the sake of not arguing. When I picked up JH, he immediately saw the bag of goods in the dining room. Before he could mutter two words, I quickly said, “Go ask Daddy!”

In this post today, we’re not throwing anything out. “Weekend Rewind” is where I have some follow-ups to some stories we’ve already talked about.

My family finally finished the leftovers for the “Slow-Cooked Southwestern Beef” entree I mentioned in the post, “A Second Helping, Please!  Believe it or not, we ate three dinners off this one recipe from “A Dash of Down East—a second helping” cookbook. The whole meal probably cost about $15 dollars to make so it really is a budget friendly recipe. It makes 12 servings. I talked with members of the The Junior Guild of Rocky Mount, NC and I was granted permission to share this delicious recipe. The recipe is now available under my “Recipes Recommended by Leigh” link. Also, I think this dish would work great with chicken in substitution of beef if you prefer.

Thanks to Tilty Cup, my post, “Tilt this Way!” has spread to its fans across the world. When talking with Tilty Cup’s founder in e-mail, I learned more about the wonderful company, which produces the only sippy cup that my daughter uses now.
Allyson Phillips, founder of Tilty Cup

Tilty was the idea of one savvy mom. Allyson Phillips thought of the idea of a tilted cup after watching her daughter, Kiley, attempt to drink from a traditional sippy cup in which she fell backward trying to tilt the cup to get the juice. She submitted her idea to the Huggies MomInspired Grant Program, and was one of the Huggie’s first grant recipients. Phillip’s great idea has made transitioning from bottle to cup an easy transition for our little ones. Tilty has shipped 70,000 cups around the country, and the company continues to grow.   Huggies grant program awards up to 15,000 dollars in seed money as well as business resources to further the development of originial product ideas
and startup businesses.  Huggies accepts grant proposals two times a year.  Currently, the application process is closed.

Tilty Cup also had some advice for me regarding my post, “The Well Visit” because they told me about another Huggies MomInspired Grant winner who helps take the ouch out of shots. Pediatrician and mom, Amy Baxter invented Buzzy Pain Relief.

This cute little bee was born after Dr. Baxter researched needle pain. Like my son, JH, her own son had a huge fear of needles. Her mom inspired idea created Buzzy, a a small plastic bee that uses vibration and cooling to block sharp pain. It works the same way putting a burned finger under cold water instantly makes burns feel better. Buzzy is starting to buzz into hospitals and doctor’s office around the US, and he may also need to fly into the Hines house, too.  He costs $34.95.

In my “Pack Your Bags: We’re Heading to a Fairmont Resort”, we learned that the luxury hotel brand now offers Lifestyle Cuisine Plus, a new menu that caters to guests with specific diet dependent conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and gluten free as well as unique dietary preferences.  Plan your trip to a Fairmont Hotel now because they just released a winter special valid for booking until February 5th.

And finally, we all had fun with “With this Ring, I’ll Take a Day Off, and Cup of Tea!” as most of you learned that I will be having a child free morning on April 29th for the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.

I took some time on Friday morning with my tea to read People’s website before the children woke. After much debate, there will be tea towels as souvenirs for this royal wedding; it will feature the same monogram as unveiled on the official china pattern, instead of having the royals faces printed on them. I think I would prefer that to one with faces. Do you agree?

Until next week…. let’s go have some tea!


The Well Visit

Why is it that children look like angels when they are tucked in their bed at night, but during the day sometimes, they are far from acting like angels and as parents, we just have no control over the situation? I now have two words that may shake me in my boots forever: Well Visit! My five-year-old son had his doctor’s well visit on Wednesday. It didn’t go well! Fortunately, the good news is that he is healthy and on target for his age, but the bad news is, we probably left our pediatrician’s office with a huge red flag in our folder that reads, “BEWARE! Child is dangerous and out of control emotionally if blood work or shots are involved. Proceed with CAUTION!”

I’m sure I’m not alone, and other parents have issues when taking their children to the doctor, but it is mind-boggling when it happens to you. You feel helpless, angry, sad, frustrated, concerned, embarrassed, and so many other emotions. My son started having issues with doctors when I was pregnant with my second child in 2009. JH had to have allergy testing, a flu shot, and H1N1 shot within months of each other. I guess it was too much! At his four-year-old well visit last January, he yelled, “NO”, turned, and bolted out of the doctor’s office as fast as he could. He was almost in the parking lot before I caught up with him.

Luckily, he didn't go to the doctor for a sick visit last year, but we did go for a flu shot in October. He did great! Ironically, he even asked for a doctor’s kit for Christmas so I was trying to be optimistic for this well visit, but I still was worried about the appointment.

My husband was on deadline so he couldn’t go with me, and I made the crazy and bad decision to take my one year old because I wanted our doctor to check her ears while we were there. She’s been somewhat restless at night over the past few weeks, and I was concerned about an ear infection.

The infamous appointment was at 3:15 pm. I had to wake my daughter from her nap, which is just painful in itself, and dash out of the house with very few minutes to spare. Of course, we could not find a parking place. I get both kids out of their car seats, open the stroller, and make the very stupid decision because I’m running late to leave the diaper bag in the car. I guess the 15 seconds it would have taken to grab the bag would have made me even later. Who knows what I was thinking at the time?

We sign in and we wait! We’re in the lobby about thirty minutes. My daughter starts to get cranky, and a thought runs through my mind, “Can I leave them in the lobby, and run and get her food and Tilty Cup of water that is sitting in her diaper bag in the car?” I actually ponder this question off and on as I sat in the waiting room. I resort to having my son push the stroller back in forth in the lobby until we are called, and that made Little L happy.

We then get moved to the room. Things are going stupendously. He likes his tests with the nurse, the doctor, and Little L is entertained from all the commotion. But, things can go downhill mighty quickly! And that was the case here. We went from happiness to yelling, screaming, kicking, more yelling, and complete insanity over a single finger prick. My son is a slow bleeder so it took a little longer to get the blood the nurse needed, but by the time, she got on the band-aid, it was scene from the : “Exorcist.” I could not control him! I could not calm him down. He was an emotional wreck and we still had FOUR shots to give him! The nurse left the room. Meanwhile, my daughter is in her stroller looking at her brother, and he’s yelling and screaming at the top of his lungs, “I want to go home! I want to go home!” People in California probably heard him. Did you? I continue to try to calm him, and I grab my cell phone out of my purse, turn it on, and proceed to call my husband.

He answers. I immediately hold up the phone so he could hear the screams. I say exasperated,  “You owe me. You owe me big time!” I try to get my husband to calm JH, but it doesn’t work. He’s just distraught. I’m at a loss of how to help my child.

The nurse brings in two other helpers to help with the immunizations. My daughter is crying as we try to restrain JH. He proceeds to hit a nurse, kicks, screams bloody murder, and I look into his eyes with all of his terror as they administer these shots, and I just start to cry. It was the most emotional roller coaster ride that I’ve ever been on in my life. I feel bad about my son hitting this kind nurse, embarrassed that the doctor’s staff may think I’m a terrible parent because my child hit a nurse in the face, and sadness for my little boy who was apparently traumatized by this entire experience. It was an exhausting afternoon!

Later in the evening, I cuddled with my son, and we talked about our experience that day. He told me again that he didn’t like blood work. As we kissed, we focused on the positive. He said, “Mama, I peed in a cup very well today.” And that he did.

Until next time……I’m off for a cup of tea!


Pack Your Bags: We’re Heading to a Fairmont Resort

It’s been a week since I started my Hines-Sight Blog. It’s been a great week because I’ve heard from some of you, and I thank you for your kind words and support. It really brightens my day. Being a mom is my first job and my priority, but I cannot tell you how much reward and satisfaction I have experienced in one week since seeking this creative outlet. I rise a little earlier with pep in my step, and I can’t wait to sit down and communicate with you. My turning 42 last month is no longer a dark cloud over my head; instead, I have renewed energy and excitement much like a recharged battery. This is something that a stay-at-home mom needs from time to time.

We’re going to celebrate my Hines-Sight Blog’s first week birthday by talking about one of my passions: Luxury Hotels. I am one of those people who say a hotel is not just a place to sleep so I relish my hotel search when I’m planning any type of vacation. I spend countless hours looking up hotel websites, and have a drawer full of hotel club memberships. Even my five-year-old son has picked up on my little quirk. When someone asked him what he was looking forward to on a recent trip to Walt Disney World this year, he remarked in his little southern accent, “Staying in a hotel and eating in restaurants!” I must also interject with sadness though that since taking on motherhood that my luxury vacation planning has come to a screeching halt! So you can imagine how much joy I’m getting by taking a few minutes to write about a hotel today. My ultimate goal is to have us “escape” to a resort from time to time so we’re going to start today by talking about Fairmont Hotels and Resorts.

The luxury hotel chain announced this month that their restaurants are going to cater to the special dietary needs of its guests. All Fairmont hotels and resorts now offer Lifestyle Cuisine Plus, a new menu available upon request catering to guests with specific diet-dependent conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and gluten free, as well as unique dietary preferences including, macrobiotic, raw, and vegan diets.

We are fortunate in my family that we do not have any food allergies, but we do try to eat healthy. Since becoming a mother, I’ve become more aware of food allergies because I have friends who have children who have gluten, dairy, peanut, and egg allergies. I know the struggles they have to expose their children to meals that are safe. Dining out can be a huge challenge so imagine going on vacation where you need to eat in a restaurant almost daily! With Fairmont’s news and resorts all over the world, vacationing for these families just got easier.

I’ve only stayed in a Fairmont resort a couple of times in my life, but I frequented their resort restaurants several times while in British Columbia. The food was wonderful. I still talk about some of those meals today when I start reminiscing about trips. For fun,

I’ll post a photo of one of the best high teas I’ve experienced at the Fairmont Empress in Victoria, BC. We came home with great memories, and just three weeks later after that trip, we learned that the next time we went to a Fairmont Resort, we would be bringing along a stroller.

Til next time…..I’m off to have a cup of tea!


Buzz, Buzz: Tweet! Tweet!

It’s an icy day in Carolina! My hubby left the rear wheel drive car in the garage, and took the company truck that he brought home yesterday to work so that means its just me and the kids like any other normal week day. My daughter is napping and my five-year-old son is absorbing knowledge from PBS since pre-school is closed.

I just had to write today about my excitement when I learned that Tilty Cup tweeted my blog to their followers. I had to put down my English Breakfast tea, jump up and down in my robe, and immediately tell all of my friends on Facebook.

The social-networking site is about as far as my technology experience goes right now so I don’t Tweet—yet, but I love Facebook.

This may surprise you, but I was in college at UNC-Chapel Hill before the Internet and e-mail buzz. It really is hard to believe since technology is such a part of our lives now. Both my roommate and boyfriend had word processors so I used to type my papers on their computers. In high school, I took a computer class where we learned some type of computer programming, and our end result ,was a blinking smiling face on the computer screen. Obviously, I didn’t retain much of that knowledge and can’t make my computer smile at me to this day.

I don’t have an IPAD, BlackBerry, Smart phone or anything smart or savvy like that at all. Actually, I have a phone that I forget to turn on, and it’s so old that when my husband takes it in to get us new phones, the young phone salesman says, “I haven’t seen one of these type of phones in years!” That should tell you something right there about our technology skills. My best friend has to remind me to turn my phone on before we meet one another because she tried to meet me some place sometime, and the place we were going with our children was closed and she couldn’t get up with me to change locations because my old phone was off in my purse. She finally went home with an unhappy pre-schooler that didn't get a chance to play with my son.

She’s also the same one who got me to sign up for Facebook, reluctantly I might add, a couple of years ago.  I said, “Well, I’ll do it to look at your profile because I love you, but I won’t use it much because I think that is for college kids.”  I have to admit, I fell in love with it, use it more than her, and even got my 75 year old mom on the site so she could see photos of the kids because I refused to upload them to photo printing sites any longer.

I wish Facebook existed when I was at Chapel Hill or I would never have lost touch with my college friends. We would have had so much fun through the years. We’ve all reconnected now on Facebook except one friend. She is the lone holdout and we make fun of her because she doesn’t know anything when we get together.   It’s funny, in my posh dorm; we did have a “Look-Book” that was published with a photo and hometown of the students who lived in the three towers. I loved that book, too  just like I love Facebook.  My friends and I would look at it and develop little crushes. Sometimes, we would see our “Look-Book” crush in the cheeseburger or ice cream line. Those were the days!

So, if you’re reading this and like what you read, join the Hines-Site Blog fan page on Facebook, and keep up with the latest updates.  Suggest the blog to your friends, too.  I probably won’t be abbreviating anything in my communications because I don’t know how to "text" talk.  I learned recently that my phone accepts text e-mails, but I don’t know how to text back or even put in contact numbers.  I really hate to admit this, but my friends actually put in their numbers for me.

It's no surprise that when I first read the acronym SAHM a few years back, I had to ask one of my Savvy moms what that meant. It sounded like some disease! I’m serious. Well, when Tilty called me a SAHM in their tweet, my two biggest blog fans (my mom and mother-in-law) tried to figure that acronym out like I did at one time. My mother-in-law said she thought it meant, “Savvy at Home Mom”. I actually like that much better than how “Stay-At-Home-Mom” sounds. I think that is how I will think of it. The best one yet though is from my dear father-in-law who is so sweet and is my third biggest fan, he wrote, “Congrats, but they not only reversed the I and the E in your first name, they called you a "Single At-Home-Mom”

Til next time…naptime is over, and I’m off to have a cup of tea!


Tilt This Way!

It’s snowing in Carolina! This is our first winter weather of 2011, but surprisingly, Old Man Winter visited us several times in December, and even gave us a white Christmas weekend. Luckily, JH has some boots for whatever this snow decides to do today. Last month, he had to use his tennis shoes with sandwich bags on his feet to help keep them dry. He didn’t like it and I’m sad to say that it didn’t work very well. I’m going to go ahead and tell you right now….it was his daddy’s idea; not mine. Big W had said that he had done it before when mountain climbing, and it worked. I don’t know what I was thinking? I actually tried to squeeze his feet in his old boots that were a size too small. You know…women are used to doing that type of thing with their own clothes occasionally, and we can get those pants to zip. It just takes a few tries! When my brilliant idea didn’t work then we resorted to Mr. Ziploc. He may have the strength to protect your sandwich from moisture, but he lacks on keeping your feet dry in the snow. Don’t even try it at home!

I wish I were one of those people who always had great tips, and the tips worked well. It’s just not in my DNA. I have to rely on others to give me those tips. I would love to be the savvy mom who could find great products or the mom who could invent great cooking tips that not only save time, but also money. I have to rely on others for all that information. I’m more of the fly by the seat of my pants mom, and when I’m flying by you, I want my behind to be in designer jeans, and that’s not good because that is not ideal for the family budget. So, when I’m flying by on my sometimes broomstick, it will always be the same pair of designer jeans because I can only afford one pair; not two. You get the idea!

But let’s talk about a great find that I, of course, did not discover own my own. One of Little L's little friends was drinking from this unusual looking cup at a tea I held for her on her birthday.

The inside of the cup tilted so that it was easy for the baby to drink the liquid. It was also BPA free. I didn’t really notice the cup or pay attention at the tea because I was too busy eating scones, but my best friend (you know like Oprah’s, Gayle) kept talking about this cup long after the party, and she and I e-mail about 20 times a day so we got on a sippy cup discussion.

As curious as I am, I looked up the cup. It’s a Tilty Cup. Little L, at the time, refused to drink from a cup at all, especially milk. I spent over $25 or more dollars trying out different cups, and she would push them away if milk was in them. Occasionally, she would take a sip of water, but I was not having success transitioning to cups at all. My friend said she was going to order some Tilty cups for her baby so we split shipping, and she placed the order for us. In about a week, we met at Starbucks for coffee, and I came home with my new Tilty sippy cups. I gave Little L her milk that evening and sure enough, she started drinking from the cup. It was MAGIC! I called my friend all excited, and she was, too. Her baby did the same thing.

At that very moment, I threw away every sippy cup I had and never looked back. We only use Tilty cups now, and Little L drinks from a cup like a pro, and as I mentioned yesterday, she is totally off of bottles.

Tilty Sippy Cup

Thanks to my savvy friends who found the cup first, I now have sippy cup joy. The cup is not easy to find in North Carolina, but one local store called Toads and Tulips in Wake Forest does carry it. The Tilty company website has complete details on where you can find one for your baby or grandbaby near you.

Til next time…..I’m off to have some tea!


A Second Helping, Please!

One of my college roommates posted a message to me on Facebook telling me that she liked Hines-Sight, but jokingly said, “Don’t talk about college-life!” Little did she know that as I was clearing the dinner dishes last night, I started thinking about those wonderful college days at UNC-Chapel Hill, and all the sudden, I looked at my one year old’s left-over macaroni and cheese, and it dawned on me that I’ve made a complete circle with my culinary skills. I’m making the exact same meals I made 20 years ago except the pitiful things is back then I didn’t even know how to make a grilled cheese or a quesadilla.
Delicious Mac and Cheese

I have definitely expanded my repertoire!

When I entered college in 1987, I lived in what some would call a posh dorm. We had a great dining hall among our towers, and we shared a bathroom with another suite. Those were two great perks not to mention the tennis courts and swimming pool which occasionally, fraternities would play ball naked at 2 am, but that’s a whole another blog! Right girls?

Like most college kids, I wanted to live in an apartment my junior year, and of course, that meant giving up all those home-cooked meals at your fingertips. My roommate and I lived on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, boxed macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets, spaghetti, pizza, and hot dogs! We didn’t even eat salads. Well, that about sums it up for what is currently featured on the kid’s menu at any restaurant in America today, and believe it or not, many of those same foods are all that my second child will eat when placed in front of her. Everything else gets one tasting, and immediately goes right back into the rather large pocket on her bib.

My cooking skills didn’t get any better as I entered life post-college. I didn’t even know how to use all the features on my Jenn-aire stove in the 1990’s as embarrassing as that sounds. I ate at least twice a week in a restaurant called Pizza Village in Whiteville, NC with my friends. Later, when I worked for the town’s local hospital, I took advantage of the food at my fingertips just like I did in my dorm, and ate a lot of vegetables in the hospital cafeteria and I even slipped out the door many nights with a to-go box.

When Big W and I married in 2002, we actually thought home-cooking meant frozen, processed meals you cook on the stovetop or an Omaha steak on the grill. Talk about unhealthy! It wasn’t until I gave birth to JH that I started to cook good, healthy meals. My motivation was I had 36 pounds to lose plus it gave me a motherhood outlet. I cooked while Big W took care of the baby. As a first-time parent, that was a nice trade-off for alone time in the kitchen. My recipe book collection grew tremendously from that day forward and I actually discovered that I love trying out new recipes. Who knew? JH is also my child that will eat tofu, tilapia, ethnic foods, and vegetables, but he doesn’t really care for traditional kid’s fare. When we took him to Disney World last year for the first time, I had to find restaurants that also served grilled chicken, shrimp, and steak on the children’s menu since we were on the resort’s dining plan whereas Little L is stuck on my old college food. I let her try what we eat, but I end up supplementing her meals with some type of pasta, or cheese dish specialty in fear that she will starve.

Even though I now cook about six nights out of seven, I do not consider myself a gourmet cook or even that great of a cook. I have many friends that I will gladly give that title to any day of the week. In fact, I like to prepare easy, quick, healthy meals and with Little L being so young, the quicker the meal is to prepare the better because I don’t know what your house is like at that 5 pm hour, but it is just a crazy time in the Hines house. Enough said there! You won’t find too much cooking talk here on this blog, but on occasion, I’ll share a successful recipe with you or tell you about a cookbook.

If I hear the words, “I’ll have a second helping, please” coming from the mouths of my babes then that is success in my book. Today’s honor of noteworthy mention goes to a cookbook written in Rocky Mount, North Carolina which also happens to be Big W's hometown. I bought this cookbook authored by The Junior Guild of Rocky Mount about three years ago when visiting friends. This wonderful book is called “A Dash of Down East…A Second Helping”.

I’ve cooked several great delights from this book from salads to main dishes. In fact, my mother-in-law is now in love with a salad that I make from this same book, but let’s talk about some beef. Yummy “Southwestern Beef” is a crock-pot cooked chuck roast. It cooks all day, and shreds into a tender, tasty filling for tortillas with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and of course, we like to add sour cream. It received two thumbs up by judges Big W and JH. I can’t share the recipe without written permission from the Guild, but the good news is that this scrumptious Rocky Mount cookbook is still for sale, and has been reduced to $5.00 plus shipping and handling.

The Rocky Mount Junior Guild members are cookbook pros. They produced, “Dixie Dishes” in 1947. They published “Rainbow of Recipes” in 1974, and “A Dash of Down East” in 1986. In 2003, “A Dash of Down East…A Second Helping” was born. These Guild members can certainly cook, and they have great recipes to share. Trust me! If we’re lucky, maybe they are working on a 5th cookbook for us. Hopefully, by that time, I will no longer be cooking my old college staples, and cooking just one whole entrée and sides.

Til next time….I'm off for a cup of tea!


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