3.31.2011

All Work and No Play?

Okay, you caught me! I'm taking a break and letting my kids do the housework.




You know with all this blogging, it is hard to get my chores done!   All kidding aside, my five-year old announced last week that he wanted to do chores so that he can earn money so "he can save money to take a trip."   He definitely takes after me, and wants to see the world.  He gets the savings part from his dad!

After talking to the blog's Facebook friends, I learned a few helpful hints.   Silly me!  I was actually going to pay him to make his bed and set the table because that is what I thought of as chores off the top of my head, but thanks to several posts, I learned my ideas were really "expected" behavior and should not be  paid chores.

When I told my husband what I learned he said, "I could have told you that!"  We are on the same page that some things need to be expected out of our child.    The Blog's Facebook friends suggested chores simple household duties such as dusting and sweeping, putting away dishes, and emptying trash cans. Some wise friend even suggested that he babysit his sister while I did some things around the house.

I decided to to put the babysitting chore to the test for ten minutes one day, and called it a "paid" job.   I guess it was a success, he managed to keep her from climbing on the table.



The troublesome twosome even had some fun with their new fireman hats given to them by my friend, Adrienne from The Rich Life (On a Budget).  Thank you Adrienne for the hats, fire safety books, and the wonderful olive oil from Figone's of California.  Adrienne is always going on the leisurely picnics in her wine county "neighborhood" and I tell her all the time how jealous I am.  With her note today, she told me to pick up "some wonderful  rustic Italian bread and have some balsamic handy to go with my olive oil."

Just so it's not all work and no play today, I'm going to take a leisurely lunch break, and not do any newspaper column or blog writing today, and  instead, link up with the Happy Homemaker UK's  Post of the Month Club.






Photobucket
 

Blogs joining her link today will showcase their favorite post in March.    I did 15 posts in March so it was hard to choose a favorite, but I'm going to showcase:
  



 

I think many people may have thought my post was a product review, and didn't read it, but it is actually a humorous little parenting piece.   I do have an update for you today. 
I still love our Roku!

Until next time, I'm going to grab a cup of tea, read some blogs, and enjoy my olive oil while the kids do their chores, I mean play.

3.29.2011

Who Wants To Eat One of Fiona's Cakes?

http://www.fionacairns.com/

You knew I would look, right?  When it was announced that master cake designer Fiona Cairns was named to design the wedding cake for the royal wedding on April 29th, I hopped right to Ms. Cairns website.  Oh my!   The royal bride made a lovely choice.  At the time I browsed the site there was no mention of the upcoming royal wedding.

When I went back Monday to start writing my post, Cairns proudly displays the following:



Everything on this website looks so scrumptious.  I absolutely fell in love with the Easter display.



And you know I adore my tea time.  This makes me want to hop on a plane for London right now.



The teapot cake is an absolute delight, and would look adorable for my daughter's next birthday tea.  But, the star of Fiona Cairns creations will be the 2011 royal wedding cake.  I believe a wedding cake is one of the most important aspects of a wedding celebration.  I don't attend that many weddings any more because I've kind of "aged" out of that fun at the moment,  but I will look forward to getting back in the circuit many years from now when my sitters, children, and my friend's children marry.  You can bet that I will be first in line for a piece of wedding cake.



I have never attended a wedding though where the star attraction was a traditional fruit-cake.  They must be wonderful or why else have one?  For my wedding, I went the simple, classic, southern gourmet path. I wanted my favorite cake; a vanilla pound cake with buttercream icing.  It was delicious, priced over our budget, and was a copy of a design I liked in Martha Stewart Weddings Magazine circa 2001.


Our wedding cake was monogrammed with our initials

The three tier cake was made by the pastry chef of Second Empire Tavern and Restaurant in Raleigh . It was the site of our April 6, 2002 wedding.



The other night my husband and I stopped in the Tavern at Second Empire for a coffee drink and dessert.  I think I was secretly hoping to find a dessert as scrumptious as my wedding cake.   We took a lot of our cake home to freeze following our April wedding, but in December, we were out of power for seven days due to an ice storm.  Needless to say, we did not get to have our cake and eat it, too.

If you would like to share your wedding cake with me then post a photo on the blog's Facebook Page for us all to see.  Be sure to tell us what type of cake you selected in terms of flavor.  Yum!  I'm gaining weight thinking about it.

And to learn more about William and Catherine's royal wedding cake designer, this great article from Homes and Gardens  takes you inside Fiona Cairns's home kitchen in 2005.

Until next time, I'm going to grab a cup of tea and check my Facebook page for your cake.

3.27.2011

Pack Your Bags: We’re Heading to Bald Head Island


Photo taken of BHI  by me in 2004

In any spare moment of time lately, I’ve been dreaming of vacations.   Maybe it’s the start of spring, and even though I don’t really want to try to find a swimsuit,  I’m ready for some warm weather, relaxation, and some fun in the sun.  And when I get in these moods, I tend to think of one place.  It is tranquil, beautiful, and in my opinion, one of North Carolina’s most precious gems.


Photo by me
 Pack your Bags!  We’re heading to Bald Head Island, NC.  This picturesque island sits two nautical miles off the coast of Brunswick County, NC and it is only accessible by passenger ferry or private boat.   That’s right!  No cars.   Golf carts and bicycles are the primary form of transportation for guests.    When you leave your car behind, step on that ferry, and arrive to your destination about 30 minutes later, you feel as if you have arrived in paradise.



Photo by Bald Head Island Limited



Courtesy of BHI Limited
 I’ve been in love with Bald Head Island since I was a TV journalist in the 90’s.  The island was actually on my news beat for a few years.  The island has grown a lot since that time, but in all of its growth, it has preserved the tranquility of nature.   Of its 12,000 acres, only 2,000 acres have development.  The remaining 10,000 acres are protected and will always remain undeveloped.   Famous pirates like Stede Bonnett, and Edward Teach, commonly known as Blackbeard, used Bald Head Island as a combat base and hideout in the 1700s.


I have personally visited the island twice for my vacations, and can’t wait to return with my family.  I’m waiting for my youngest to get a little older so that she can enjoy all of the fabulous amenities, too. 

Those who know me best know that I like to like to hop around for vacations rarely returning to the same place, and I joke that I really only like the beach if I have a beautiful resort behind me, a frozen margarita in my hand, a kid’s club to entertain my children, and great dining options so I don’t have to cook often.   Sitting on the beach all day is not really my cup of tea.  Like a pirate, I like to explore to find those hidden jewels in a place.


When I tell you that I would return to Bald Head Island year after year after year then you know that I have found a special place in my heart for this island resort.  And guess what?   It has ALL the amenities I love.  Your  family can rent a beautiful, well-decorated home either with a view of the ocean, the marsh, marina, or in the lovely maritime forest.  The island has such easy access to the beach that you don't have to rent an oceanfront home to have a lovely vacation.  It has 14 miles of a coastline you can explore by foot or in your golf cart, a marina with shops and restaurants, a spa, an 18-hole seaside golf course, and two fabulous country clubs that offer swimming, dining, kid’s club activities and other amenities.  The Shoals Club is the island’s newest oceanfront beach club. 

Shoals Club, courtesy of BHI website



Here we are heading to the Grocery Store!
 And for some reason when I was a guest on the island, I fell in love with island’s grocery store, Maritime Market.  It’s 14,000 square feet, reminds me of a store chain l like  called “Fresh Market."   It also has an excellent café and deli.  I would love to find an excuse to hop in my golf cart, and head to the grocery store to look around.

I could talk about Bald Head Island all day, but I’ll let you do some of your own exploring at www.baldheadisland.com, and the island has also produced this great video to give you an in-depth look at vacationing.  It makes me want to go upstairs right now and pack my bags.


Bald Head Island is offering 20 percent off your vacation if you book before April 1, 2011 through the website or call 1-800-432-RENT.  The island is already gearing up for Easter and Memorial Day celebrations. Trust me, you will love it there!

If you’re feeling lucky, you can also try to win a two-night get-away for the island plus $125 spa gift certificate.   The contest ends on March 31, 2011.  Join the Island Facebook page, and enter.

Until next time, I'm going to grab a cup of tea,  search through rental properties, dream about my next vacation where we start to establish some fabulous family vacation memories.









3.25.2011

Nothin Could be Finer than a Carolina Cupcake!

I thought I would cook up something sweet for the NCAA's Sweet Sixteen this week.   These cupcake goodies aren't Duke Blue, and that is good since they lost to Arizona or even Carolina blue for that matter, but they are called Tar Heel Cupcakes in honor of my great state.  For those of you who are not familiar with North Carolina, our state has the nickname of the Tar Heel State.  There are several legends on how North Carolina became known as the Tar Heel State, all relating to tar and its by-products produced in massive amounts from the teeming pine forests covering the state.  My alma-mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,  uses the nickname for athletics. 

This Tar Heel Cupcake recipe can be found in the Raleigh Junior League's "You're Invited" cookbook which was first published in 1998.   It's a great cookbook, and I have many favorite recipes  from this book.  There are very few of these books left to purchase if any at all, however, The Junior League has now published a second cookbook which I can't wait to get in my collection called  "You're Invited Back."


I was using "You're Invited" last week for several meals, and I spotted this cupcake recipe.  I don't make that many desserts, probably because of my laziness for sifting,  but the recipe looked easy enough to do with my son.  I also thought the recipe's name could spark a lot of conversation with him about our state's history plus we could eat these sweet delights while cheering on the North Carolina Tar Heels in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. 


I thought the cupcakes were good.  They are different, and not your traditional cupcake with icing, but the chocolate mixed with cream cheese wowed me.   The recipe makes about sixteen cupcakes.  Isn't that a coincidence with the tourney's sweet sixteen?  I probably filled a couple too full because the recipe says it will make about eighteen.   My husband and son preferred the cupcakes plain and without the almond sugar topping on top.  I think the next time we bake these, we'll leave the almond/sugar mixture out.



Tar Heel Cupcakes

2 (3-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 egg
1 cup (about 6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cocoa
1 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


*Preheat oven to 350 degrees
*Combine cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar and egg.  Mix well.  Stir in chocolate chips. Set aside
*Combine almonds and 2 Tablespoons sugar.  Set aside.
*Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, 1 cup sugar and cocoa.  Add water, oil, vinegar and vanilla. Beat for 2 minutes with mixer at medium speed.
*Fill paper-lined muffin cups 1/2 full with batter.  Top each cupcake with 1 tablespoon cream cheese mixture.  Sprinkle almond-sugar mixture evenly over cream cheese mixture.
*Bake in center of oven for 30 minutes or until cream cheese mixture is light golden brown.
*Cool in pan for 15 minutes.  Remove to wire rack and cool completely.

Now that Duke is out of the big NCAA dance, it's now up to the North Carolina Tar Heels to make our state proud.  Go Tar Heels!

Until next time, I'm going to grab a cup of tea, and eat a Carolina cupcake!

3.23.2011

Playing Hard and Eating Well!

Spring is upon us!  My "to do" list gets longer, and I'm lagging behind on my blog writing due to the demands of being a stay-at-home mom.   As I take a few more days to write, I wanted to share with you some quick snapshots that I've captured in our house lately, and also tell you about a healthy recipe contest in conjunction with National Nutrition Month.

I'm so blessed to have two healthy children who play hard and eat well.




Apparently, I was told this was a sleeping car on a train in my closet.   All of daddy's shoes were in the way! My neat husband is not a huge fan of his shoes being dumped all over the floor, but sometimes you've got to let them be creative, and give yourself a moment to put on some mascara.





My son had some creative name for this little get-up that I certainly can't remember now.   I got called away from writing, and was told, "to take a picture, and put it on my blog."  Guess he doesn't mind being in the spotlight!






Wait, it seems like she was just born!  How is she old enough to play Candy Land?





And sometimes, we sneak chocolate into our days when we are cooking together.    It's not the healthiest eating, but it sure is yummy in moderation.  Later this week, I'm going to share a sweet sixteen cupcake recipe, but today, I have a treat to share with you from Destination Hotels and Resorts .

Courtesy of Destination Hotels and Resorts

The luxury hotel brand launched a  "Kids Healthy Recipe" contest this month in conjunction with National Nutrition Month.  They want to hear about your favorite healthy recipe that your kids love and eat.

The grand prize winner will receive a trip for four including airfare to a full-service Destination Hotels & Resorts property and see their recipe featured on the company's Kid's Café Menu for a year.

Additionally, the winner will receive dinner for four featuring your winning recipe prepared by the chef.  Two runners-up will have their recipes featured on the company's Kid's Café webpage as well as a visit from one of Destination's executive chefs to the winner's school for a class room cooking lesson.  All three winners will receive a Destination Hotels & Resorts kids chef coat.

So put on your chef's hats and let Destination Resorts know what's cooking in your kitchen.   You may enter and vote for the recipes already entered at this
link.   Even if you don't enter, you may be inspired to make some of dishes already submitted.   You can submit recipes up to March 31, and vote on your favorites through April 7th.

Until next time, I'm grabbing a cup of tea and plan some kid-friendly meals courtesy of parents like you.

3.21.2011

Dr. Spock, Help! I have a “Baby Cling-On” in my House

(I am pleased to announce that I write a blog column for the Raleigh News and Observer's Triangle Mom2Mom website on Sundays.   This post was featured on March 20th without photos. If you have visited the Mom2Mom site, and are now visiting my blog, thank you for reading the Hines-Sight Blog and I hope you visit again.  I also have a Facebook page, and I would love to interact with you more there.  We share recipes, talk about a variety of topics as I conduct research for posts, and we even share some laughs from time to time.)

My house may not be the USS Enterprise, but lately, I feel as if I’m Captain Kirk of the Star Trek series battling the infamous Klingon clan, but I’m calling my new nemesis, “Baby Cling-On”.  My 16-month-old daughter talks very little, makes a guttural noise while pointing to something that she wants, and clings to my leg a good portion of our day.



I don’t know if my 42-year-old mommy brain has left me in a state of a constant fog or if too much time has passed since I was at this same stage with my son, but I don’t remember it being like this with him.  My children are almost four years apart so it is possible that I have forgotten some things.  I do know that some of the things that I did for him such as giving him his own kitchen cabinet to explore while I cooked dinner kept him occupied and happy, whereas, she hates that same cabinet.   As soon as I try to put her in front it, she throws a “toy pan” across the room, stomps her feet, and heads toward my spice rack cabinet, which is off-limits.

Certain times of the day, her clinginess is worse. Usually as the day winds down, I have an even longer list of things that I didn’t get accomplished because she was attached to my pant leg.  Like any good mom, I work to engage her in play, and then back away slowly in hopes of finding her in total playtime bliss.   However, by the time, I reach for that shirt to fold, she’s back on me with vengeance.

I’m getting fairly good at walking with a toddler straddled to my leg while folding laundry, putting on my make-up or even making the bed.   For really complicated maneuvers like preparing her lunch before her nap, I’ve learned to do everything with one hand with my daughter sitting on my left hip.   Depending on my daughter’s mood, and if she is tired of playing, it is not uncommon for me to finish the last five minutes of my exercise video this way, too.   I’m secretly hoping that carrying the extra twenty pounds will make up for that little piece of chocolate I sneak in my mouth during her naptime.  It’s my reward for getting rid of my “static-cling”. 

Preparing dinner can be a little challenging when there is a “Baby Cling-on” in the house.  I sometimes rely on my five-year old son to help me out while I do some chopping or sautéing.   Sometimes, he is help, and other times, I’m asking for more trouble. I often find “Baby Cling-On” clinging onto a toy that my son claims he had first.   That doesn’t end well.


Courtesy of HappyBaby

My daughter may balk at first, but sometimes, dinner preps can be a success if I can get her in her booster chair, and let her munch a little.    On occasion, she’ll put up a fight, arch her back, and stiffen her legs as a way to avoid sitting, but a good Starship Captain is always prepared.   One shake of the “HappyMelts Organic Yogurt Snacks” package, and “Baby Cling-On” surrenders.  

I’m sure Baby “Cling-On” will soon turn into “Miss Independent.” and I’ll have a whole new set of problems on my enterprise and still not get many things done in a day.   I think that may just be part of parenthood!



3.20.2011

Weekend Rewind

It's been awhile since I've written a "Weekend Rewind" piece.  After blogging for a month, I stopped doing them every weekend because the posts became time-consuming with all the links and photos.  As a result, everyone in the house got a little cranky.  But, on occasion, I will find a little extra time to produce one.  So, here's a "Weekend Rewind" piece today where nothing gets thrown out, and we add some new "this and that" to the mix.  In  "My Favorite Irish Things," I reminisced about a past trip to Ireland, and shared a delicious Irish Potato Soup recipe.  Well, the luck of the Irish apparently stayed with me.


Chocolate Dipped Coconut
I never win anything.  I'm serious!  There could be two names in a hat, and you can pretty much bet that the other name will be drawn instead of mine, but something happened recently and my luck changed.  I actually won a Luna Bar Giveaway from one my favorite blogs, "The Life as a Suburban Princess."   When my new carton of Luna Bars arrived, getting that package was like winning the lottery.  I was excited!  As I type this right now, I'm eating the new flavor, "Chocolate Dipped Coconut."  It's yummy!   Toasted coconut will fall onto my keyboard, but that's okay because the taste is worth it.   Thank you, Suburban Princess!  You've made my week with these Luna Bars.


Hines-Sight Blog Received the "Blog Love" Award
But, my luck didn't stop there!  On the morning of St. Patrick's Day, I started my daily morning blog reads with my tea in my hand, and I discovered that I received a "Blog Love" award.   Me?   It's my first award.  The award was presented to me by the lovely Adrienne from "The Rich Life (On a Budget)."  I've dreamed of giving this speech since I was a little girl.  Here it goes!




"I would like to thank the Academy..."   

Actually, I thank you Adrienne for this honor.   You were one of the first blogs I discovered, and your blog is such a treasure.  When you receive this award, you are to post your very first blog post.   And just think, if I had gone to my regular Harris Teeter instead of Food Lion on that trying day back in January then I may not even be here writing my blog today.  Life's choices can certainly give many blessings. 

As a recipient of this prestigious award, I now have to pass this award to up to ten other blogs.  This is really hard because I'm discovering new blogs daily that I'm enjoying so much.   Adrienne and I read some of the very same blogs, and she already passed this award on to two blogs that I would have chosen as well.   I'm going to mention them as well because I really do think they deserve this award from me.   The bloggers who write these blogs have been very supportive to me by sending an encouraging word my way or helping me with my HTML questions.    I've needed a lot of mentoring in that area since I know very little about web design.   Some of the blogs I've chosen today are actually new finds, too, but their writing and style captivates me.   I love many blogs, but I can only name ten.

My "Blog Love" Award Winners

I feel as if this blogger is me 15 years ago.  Ensley is a great writer, and makes me laugh daily as she talks about single life and searching for Mr. Right.   She is witty, charming, and I love it when she writes about all those pre-schoolers she teachers.

This Canadian Princess is a charmer.  She enjoys her tea in the city, and is always discovering new things to giveaway.  She loves pink and green, and her random thoughts are just the best.

This expat homemaker gives us insight on what it is like for an American to live in London.   She's creative, and one fabulous photographer.  She shares my love for tea.

This Australian mom has three little pixies under the age of 6.  As a mom, I can relate to her daily life, and I love to see all that she does "Down Under" especially when she takes us in town, and shows us what we can find in those cute little shops.   She traded in her legal briefcase to become a full-time stay-at-home mom.

Bella Michelle is a true Southern Belle.  She loves the south, and has the talent of finding the most wonderful historic photos on her Wordless Wednesday features.  She's a mom, too, but is in a different stage in life than me so it's nice to get a preview of my Southern future.

I love the title of Janet's blog.  Her children are out of the nest now.  This is one talented Virginia lady.   She can make almost anything.  She just redid her kitchen for less than $500.  It's amazing. She turns thrift store finds into creative masterpieces, too.   Her specialty is aprons, and her talents have been featured in many magazines.  She was one of the first bloggers who began following my blog.

Mama Henley is good friends with my sister-in-law so I feel like I know her even though we've never met in person.  She has a set of triplets plus two other children.  Can you say busy house?  She has wonderful spiritual wisdom, and lots of tips to help your family save money.

I've just found this blog, but I can already tell you that if this DC Blogger and I lived in the same town, we would be BFFs.   She's newly married, and currently kid-free so she gets to go to Embassy parties on a whim.  We've had similar career paths, and she is just a delight.  Just to tell you that "great minds" think alike, we both did a royal wedding post on the exact same day!  I love her blog so much that I think I may convince her to post daily.

This English lady living in the south lives a life I dream about daily.  She has two beautiful homes, lots of Louis Vuitton luggage, and a great sense of style.  One of her Tory Burch tunics would blow my monthly stay-at-home budget as soon as I brought out my credit card.   Also, when I read her posts, I hear a lovely English accent in my head.  She definitely brings out the anglophile in me and my love for the finer things in life.  

When this mom discovered my blog, she told me that she thought we lived in parallel words because our children are the  same age, we live in the same town, and we were experiencing some of the same sleep problems.  She's not a mean mom though.  She's a real mom, and I love her witty, sense of humor.  I think you will, too.

*Bloggers it is optional to pass the "Blog Love" award on to other blogs.   If you do, just post your very first entry, tell readers who gave you the award, and pass on the love.


Lucky Find!
And finally, we've had some lovely spring days in the Tar Heel state this week.  It's time to put away the heavy coats, and go for something lighter for those spring mornings where there still is a little chill, but by lunch, you can go coat-free.  Honestly, I never dress right for our spring weather.  I'm either too hot or too cold, and that's because the weather can change so quickly.  We'll have a hot day then a cool day, and I'm always dressed for the day before thinking we will have two of the same days in a row.  However, it is my responsibility to try to dress the kids for the right weather. 

My daughter needed something lighter for these chilly mornings.  Since  it will be too hot for a spring coat in no time,  I didn't want to invest in something new.

My luck actually continued this week when I stopped in a children's consignment shop.  I found this bright, little Gymboree brand coat in her size for $5.00.    It was really meant to be because apparently, the little girl who wore it before had the exact same name as my daughter.   My daughter's name is already in the coat.  Is that luck or what?


Until next time, I'm going to grab a cup of tea, and catch some March Madness basketball.  I'm pulling for UNC and Notre Dame!   My extended family is pulling for Duke.   Who will have the luck and stamina to be the NCAA champs this year?








3.18.2011

Pulling Me Right Back In

A lot has changed in thirty years.  I'm now a busy wife and mom, full-time blogger, and some would even say I've approached middle age.   I certainly don't think I act middle aged, in fact, some would say I'm acting more like a teenager lately.  You see,  I'm guilty of wasting valuable minutes of my day not to mention taking time away from my precious children by reading about Catherine Middleton.  I guess you could say that "I've been pulled right back into the royal watching hoopla AGAIN".

The royal wedding is in 42 days, but who's counting, right?   I've actually gone way beyond reading about wedding preps though.   I now like to see what the future princess is wearing on her public engagements.   I guess if I wore something besides jeans and a slim fitting long-sleeved tee then maybe I would dress similiar.  I like her classic, simple style.

Courtesy of Hello Magazine

Courtesy of Hello
The other day I was in CVS to pick up some items, and I had to take both children for the trip.    I didn't even bother to put my daughter in a cart because it was to be quick.  I let her walk with me.  CVS has their magazine section in the back of the store near the pharmacy.  This is where they keep the good stuff; not the tabloids.   

As I walking by the rack, I spied Life Magazine's Royal Wedding Issue.   My son had my daughter's hand so I grabbed this thick magazine quickly to thumb through it.   Unfortunately, my children kept walking, and when I told them to stop, no one listened.

I flipped through pages at rapid speed with one eye on them and one eye on Kate.   It got to the point that I actually let them get five aisles in front of me at the pharmacy counter.

My heart was saying, "Oh, this is good.  This has some great historical background and articles. You should get this!"

By this time, my daughter who is still five aisles in front me with my son starts pulling things off the shelf.  I make a face, and turn the magazine over to look at the price.  It was $12.99. 


Magazine cost equaled the cost
of Two Gallons of Organic Milk

My head was saying, and I probably heard it in the tone of my husband's voice, "You don't need the clutter, you don't have time to read it, and that price equals two gallons of organic milk."

I listened to my head instead of my heart, reluctanly put the magazine back on the shelf, and ran to catch up with my children before they caused devastation to the pharmacy's candy counter.

I have refrained from actually spending money on my royal obsession, but I do take some daily quiet time with my English Breakfast tea with milk and sugar to see read news about the royal couple.   One article I read today said that this upcoming royal wedding is causing the news media to spend more money than they have these days to cover the actual wedding on April 29th, and it's taking funds away to cover real hard news.

Courtesy of People Magazine

On the FLIP side, businesses are trying to make money off the royal couple.  And when you read a lot about the royal wedding then you can find little jewels like this china mug made in China.  The manufacturer didn't know one royal brother from the other.  Look carefully!  Go to the Guandong website for an even better view.



They used Prince Harry's photo instead of Prince William.   This error really made me giggle, and I still giggle each time I see it.   I wonder if the person who made this flub still has a job?  This is just one of the many wedding trinkets on the market that is not endorsed by the royal family, and it's such a goof that I bet people will snatch it up and hope that it will be worth something some day.   I'm leaving it in China though.

However, Prince Harry is still on the market,  and I'm going to play matchmaker.  I've got the most perfect date for him, and in my opinion, she even resembles his soon to be sister-in-law.

Prince Harry meet my great babysitter and adopted "little" sister.   Some would even say I am "middle-aged" enough to be her mom, but I like the sound of sister better.



I bet with my children being part of their wedding party if love blossomed, I would have GREAT seats at that royal wedding.

Until next time, I'm off for a cup of tea, more reading, and perhaps some matchmaking.




3.16.2011

My Favorite Irish Things

I'm green with envy for anyone who is celebrating St. Patrick's Day in Ireland this year.   What a beautiful place!   While my son is busy searching for leprechauns and giving me a few minutes of peace, I thought I would take this time today to talk about some of my favorite Irish things.

Old Ground Hotel

In October 1998, my college friend, Stacy and I, traveled with the UNC Alumni Association to County Clare, Ireland for a week.   Our base was the charming town of Ennis.  Our home away from home was the Old Ground Hotel, a former manor home now clad with ivy and filled with lots of Old World charm. The hotel is conveniently located in the center of town, and is a property that I definitely would stay in again.  It's about 20 minutes away from Shannon, and 40 minutes away from the Cliffs of Moher, and its breathtaking beauty.  While staying there, I actually crashed a wedding cocktail hour.   Well, not really, but I did linger for awhile with a drink in hand. The town cathedral is across from the hotel, and the sharply dressed guests all came back to the hotel for the reception and pre-dinner cocktail hour.  I, of course, was not married at the time, and just couldn't get enough of weddings.  I still remember seeing the beautiful bride on this October day.  She wore a fashionable maroon velvet cloak over her gown.  It was stunning!  I think my friend Stacy finally had to pull me away.    I guess the two of us were hopeless romantics.   We both bought Waterford champagne flutes to commemorate love and happiness while on that trip.  The flutes were packed away, and not used for many years later. 


The flutes now sit in my cabinet.   They may even be a little dusty, but are still special.




This handmade Irish creamer sits in my kitchen window.  I bought it from an artist in Bunratty Village.  I love the details of the shamrocks, and I feel as if it feels my home with warmth and luck.





While in Bunratty, I ate at the Original Durty Nelly's Pub which was established in 1620.  One of the things that I remember most about my trip to Ireland is the excellent soups that I had on this trip.  I tried carrot soup for the first time, and had some delicious potato soup during my week in the country.

Ireland's delicious soups were on my mind this year for St. Patrick's Day.   I decided to venture out and try to make some homemade Irish Potato Soup.   I adore potato soup, but usually eat in my local Irish pubs and not at home.  While my five-year old entertained himself with my camera, I enjoyed a glass of red wine in my Waterford balloon wine glass and went through  ALL my cookbooks looking for the best and EASIEST recipe.

Photo by my son


Photo Credit: Ralph Anderson
I had to move my potato soup recipe search to the internet due to the lack of potato soup recipes in my many cookbooks.  Honestly, I don't know how we did anything before the internet!  I found an easy recipe originally published by Southern Living in 1999.  I went through the recipe reviews and changed the recipe based on what cooks suggested.  It was a hit in my house! The potato peeling, onion and leek chopping paid off. (Well, confession, I bought my groceries at Trader Joes this week, and they did not have fresh leeks so I had to use frozen already chopped.  It worked for me.)


Irish Potato Soup

1/2 cup unsalted butter. ( Don't know why, but thought I would put more calories in the soup so I added an extra tablespoon of butter).
1/2 onion, chopped
3 leeks, sliced ( I used frozen from Trader Joes, and I didn't know the amount that three leeks would produce so I used almost two cups of frozen.  I may have used too much, but we liked the soup.)
5 large baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices. (I think my potatos were on the smaller side so if you have smaller baking potatoes, I would recommend adding one or two more potatoes.  The original recipe called for only three).
3 (14 1/2 ounces) cans chicken broth (I used Trader Joes, organic)
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Toppings: shredded cheddar, crumbled cooked bacon (I used no nitrates added turkey bacon), chopped fresh chives.


Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat; stir in onion and leek.  Cover and cook 20 minutes.  Stir in potatoes; cover and cook 15 minutes.  Stir in broth, salt, and pepper; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes or until potatoes are  tender.  Remove from heat, and cool slightly.

The original recipe says to put the soup in batches in the blender.  Instead, I took a mixer and pureed the soup in the pot.  My suggestion is to really  let the soup cool though.  I got a little splatter from a very hot potato! Reheat the soup over medium heat until heated.  Serve with desired toppings.

*Budget Note:  The soup cost less than $10 to make, and that includes all the toppings.  You will have enough for several meals.

I hope to go back to Ireland one day.  This photo taken on the trip is a favorite of mine.  I would have loved to have brought the sign home with me.



Apparently, I need it because I have some little leprechauns in the house.


Have a great St. Patrick's Day!

Until next time, I'll be chasing my leprechauns around, and enjoying some Irish Potato Soup!

3.14.2011

I Need My Hour Back, Please!

I've lost something! It's just one hour, but apparently, the loss wrecks havoc on me for a week. I run around saying, "New Time, Old Time, I don't have enough time!"

I heard the alarm at 6:20 am (New time, that is. Old time would be 5:20 am), and I was so (insert curse word of choice here) comfortable. My covers were just right. Pure perfection. I ignored the alarm, and dozed back off to sleep. You know how it is, right? It's some of the very best sleep of your lives. You wish you could have sleep like this all night long.

At 7:15 am, my husband comes into our bedroom. He wakes me.

I yell, "I can't. I can't get out of bed. I need my tea water. Please turn on my tea water!"

I finally roll out of bed at 7:20 am, and stroll down the steps. I rush my tea water, and have to heat the Twinings tea in the microwave. Go ahead, true tea lovers, GASP!

The kids are still asleep so I waste even more time by checking my blog, my facebook accounts, a new social networking site for moms called "MomnBaby" plus the Southern blogging network, "Southern Mommas".

Can I waste any more time? Sure! A really good mom would have showered and got ready. Instead, I made a second cup of tea. I would have had a third, but I seriously ran out of time.

My son gets up.  We get him ready for school, and he ate breakfast while I woke sleepyhead.  I fed her quickly, and off to school we go at 9:15 am, a good five minutes after we should have left to be on-time.

My son's pre-school teachers laughed at me. They've always seen me with wet hair in a clip, and at least some make-up on my face. Not today! They got bedhead crazy.

Enjoy! Get a good laugh. My hair stylist will NOW know why I have to wash my hair daily.



As for baby girl, she must be like her mommy. She'll adjust eventually, and she'll soon start loving the early evening hours where she can swing in daylight and have dinners on the screened porch. Spring is almost here!

Hope you're adjusting to the new time!

Until next time, I'm off to shower, and drink some more tea.

3.13.2011

The Love of the Game


Every March, I can’t help but think of my dad.   He loved all collegiate sports, but he was a die-hard March Madness basketball fan.  Being from Durham, NC, it was no secret that the Duke Blue Devils were his favorite team, however, he happily cheered on the Tar Heels (my alma mater), and gladly accepted a NC State Wolfpacker in the family when I married my husband.   Even though he had favorites, he always pulled for teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference, which was established in 1953. 

This “old-school” ACC print hung in my dad’s office for at least thirty years.   I always loved it as a child, and following his death almost six years ago, it is the one thing I specifically asked to have of his, and the print now hangs in my home office.  It features the Maryland Terrapin, the Clemson Tiger, the UVA Cavalier, the Wake Forest Demon Deacon, the UNC  Ram (Tar Heels), the NC State Wolfpack, and the Duke Blue Devil.  I’m not sure when the print was created, but based on some clues, it was made sometime between 1972 and 1978.   The University of South Carolina Gamecocks withdrew from the ACC in 1971 so that gave me my first clue when I tried to research the history of the print.   The Gamecock is missing from this photo.

I also know that this guy, Buzz the Yellow Jacket, from Georgia Tech, didn’t become part of the ACC until 1978.    He’s missing from the print, too.  That was my second clue for the print's time period.

Courtesy of Georgia Tech Website

My friends love to tease me about my love or my unique fascination with mascots.   I think it stems from all that early exposure to college sports.  My dad’s best friends were coaches of about every sport.  As a result, I traveled with sports teams, had dinner with players, cheerleaders, and even mascots (out of uniform) since about five years of age. It was just part of our life.   I also have to admit that I was kind of a prissy little girl, and cared nothing for a ball, but loved all the sideline entertainment.   Sure, the boys are the stars on the center court, but without the cheerleaders, pep band, mascots, and the college crazies, it wouldn’t really be a GAME.  All of those elements work together to form team spirit and school tradition.

Photo Courtesy of the Chatham Journal

In 1991, 2004, and 2005, the Atlantic Coast Conference expanded once again, and new mascots, I mean, teams came on the scene.  A Seminole, a Hokie Bird, a Duck, and an Eagle joined the “old school” ACC mascots.   It’s quite a crew now!

I’m not going to lie to you.  I do have my favorites.  I’m always a sucker for any type of cat.  So, the Clemson Tiger was always a favorite of mine growing up.   Now, I’ve moved on to howling as opposed to growling.

2008

NC State has not one, but two mascots to love.

2009
Note: I was to be in the photo, too, but my husband said the sun was in his eyes
and he cut off my head.  I was NOT happy, and I never let him forget it either.

I would feel like a traitor if I didn’t love my alma mater’s mascot.  I think my college friends would give me too hard of a time.

The North Carolina Ram
I guess a foot with Tar on its Heel would be kind of odd as a mascot

Grover Powell
1933-2005

The funniest story of all about mascots though came from my own father.  As I told you earlier, he traveled a lot with the teams, and on this particular trip, the mascot was not feeling well and someone needed to step into his suit.   The team asked my father and another man if they would mind putting on the mascot suit for the game.   My dad, who was quick-witted, immediately looked at his friend and said, “I don’t think I’m tall enough. You’re going to have to do it!”   If only I had been there.  I so would have made him put on that suit for the team!

In 2005, my dad was glued to the TV during March Madness while undergoing chemo and radiation treatments.   That year, one of his ACC teams, North Carolina Tar Heels, became the NCAA champions.  He lost his battle with brain cancer a few short weeks later.  I have always been so glad that an ACC team became the champions that year.   I’m sure he was mad that Duke didn’t win the title.

As another March Madness basketball season approaches, my family will be thinking of my dad as we cheer on our teams this week.  In order to keep my dad's collegiate sports tradition alive in my family, I have also found University mascot books for my children.  They love to read about Mr. Wuf’s adventures across the NC State campus.  These adorable books feature some of the most well known University mascots across the country.





It would really be great if dad could be here to read these mascot stories to my kids or take them to games like he did me.   He didn't get to meet his grandchildren, but they are getting to know him one story at a time.

Until next time, I'm off to watch some NCAA basketball.  Go, Team, Go!





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