11.30.2011

Wednesday’s Wish We Were Here: Salzburg, Austria

Have you ever been somewhere in the spring, summer or fall, and thought to yourself, “I would love to visit this place near Christmas!”



I said those exact words during a spring visit to Salzburg, Austria, fourteen years ago. 

I’ve never forgotten it, and there is something about that place that makes me think it would be magical at  Christmas.
Salzburg, Austria
Image via Facebook Page of  Hotel Goldener Hirsch

See what I mean?

 

I would love to visit the city again, see the Christmas market, eat a few chocolates with Mozart’s face on them, and stay in this charming property that I spotted on my last visit.



The hotel location is ideal, situated on the renowned Getreidegasse road in the heart of Salzburg’s Old Town.  I was only in Salzburg for the day, but I had a love for hotels back then, too.  I spotted the hotel while shopping and thought then that it would be a fabulous location to stay.

Of course, in 1997 the Internet was not widely available, so bookmarking the hotel’s website for future reference when I returned home to North Carolina was not an option.  

Now I can search for hotels as long as my children leave me alone, and when I discovered the 600-year-old property via Starwood’s website, I knew I had found my gem again.

The 65 rooms and four suites boast authentic Salzburg-style décor handpicked by Countess Harriet Walderdorff, who bought the property in 1939.


After World War II, Countess Walderdorff began her quest to refurbish the interior with simple and contemporary décor, creating a country residence in the city center. In contrast to the extravagance of Salzburg at that time, Countess Walderdorff opted for indigenous Austrian furniture and antiques, replacing Persian carpets with traditional rag rugs. Boasting a new pink exterior, the hotel Goldener Hirsh re-opened on April 29, 1948.  Its casual yet sophisticated style soon became the model for Western Austrian hotels. 

Even though the 600-year-old property is very modern in creature comforts, the look and style of the hotel have changed very little though the years.



Doesn’t this photo just make you want to hop on a plane and spend some time in Salzburg before the holidays?
Image from Hotel Goldener Hirsh, Salzburg's Facebook Page
Yes, I know it’s cold, but that is just good Christmas weather.

What other cities make you think of Christmas?  Starwood has put together a list of hotels that will accommodate you throughout Europe’s Christmas Market.  What city should we explore next? 



Linking up with:



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11.28.2011

Striking a Pose with Jacqueline Perry Photography

Every year, I schedule a family photo shoot.  It’s ritualistic!  It’s just what I do, and it was something I did way before a husband and kids entered the picture.

Those were the easy days.  Santa, my cat, and I always smiled for the camera, but now a good family photo takes a great photographer behind the camera.

I went for a different look for our photos this year, but the preparation leading up to the family shoot was all too familiar.

“No, I don’t want to wear that sweater,” my son yelled as he ran off to hide.

“How long will this take?” inquired my husband as he got everyone in the car.

And the baby?  She was happy as long as she could wear these shoes.



We met lifestyle photographer Jacqueline Perry in downtown Raleigh’s City Market area.  It’s a quaint area with cobblestone streets and charming cafes.


Downtown Raleigh, North Carolina (City Market)

You never know what to expect with the weather when you schedule a photo shoot.  At 4 p.m., the City Market area was extremely cloudy and windy.  Jacqueline decided to move us a mile down the road to the historic Mordecai House and grounds.  It was a fantastic decision.

Chapel on grounds of Mordecai House in Raleigh, North Carolina 

The colors on the grounds were spectacular.



My kids forgot that their photo was being taken.  They were having fun. 


The Mordecai House is Raleigh’s oldest residence on its original foundation and was the seat of the largest plantation in Wake County.  It was the perfect backdrop for this Southern girl and her family.

Mordecai House in Oakwood Neighborhood of Downtown Raleigh, NC

Out of 105 photos, I think I got the perfect Christmas card photo, too. But, you won't find that one in this slideshow below.  Some things just have to be in the mail.

I’m showing you so many photos because I want you to get a feel for Jacqueline Perry’s work. She has agreed to give away a photo shoot and package for my readers.  It’s one of my holiday gifts to one lucky reader because photo shoots are so important to me, and sometimes they may be hard to fit in the family budget.  I thank Jacqueline Perry Photography for working with me this year to make this holiday gift possible.

Anyone can enter this giveaway, but the photo shoot will have to take place in the Triangle area.  This package will be valued at over $200.  She is also offering a special discount to Hines-Sight Blog readers if you book a photo session by 12/31/2011.  Your photo session can take place in 2012.


To enter the Hines-Sight Blog/Jacqueline Perry Photography Giveaway
Visit Jacqueline Perry’s blog, and tell her what type of photo shoot you would like to have for your family so she can get her creative juices flowing.   It can be in your home decorating your Christmas tree or in your favorite park.  Jacqueline also knows some great spots in the Triangle area that are great for on-location photo shoots.  (Remember, anyone can enter this giveaway, but photos have to take place in the Triangle area.)  Once you give Jacqueline your photo wish list, be sure to record your name under my comment section so I can add you into our random drawing.

Additional entries:

Share this giveaway on your Facebook page (two entries).

This is not required for entry, but I would love it if you decided to follow the Hines-Sight Blog via Twitter, Facebook, Google friends, or through email.  Facebook is where I have the most fun interacting with you.  Jacqueline Perry is also on Twitter and Facebook. This is how she informs clients of  her specials. 

Deadline to enter is Tuesday, December 6, at 11:59 p.m. 
Disclosure:  I received a discount on my photo session as well as negotiated the photography giveaway for my readers in exchange for this post.  

11.24.2011

Many Thanks!

I will be surprised if I don't get a phone call from my mom once she sees this post.

"Get off that computer, and get that turkey in the oven! We used to cook the turkey the night before when we hosted Thanksgiving.  Your turkey won't be done," my mom will say with nervousness in her voice.

Somehow though,  all the catalogs, and other junk,  will be removed from the dining room table, and the table will be set for seven by 5 p.m. tonight.

It will get done.

There is no doubt in my mind that the kids will cry at some point, and my house will seem like chaos before we all sit down, and eat a very done turkey.

Our family has so much to be thankful for this year.  We are very blessed.

I could not begin my Thanksgiving preps today without taking the time to wish all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving!  Thank you for the time you give me each week.  In the past year, I have loved getting to know so many wonderful and talented people.

Enjoy your time with your family, and I'll see you back here next week.




Oh, and I hope you remembered to thaw your turkey.  I had some friends one year who forgot.  If you didn't remember, I know some great luxury hotels that are serving Thanksgiving dinner today.






11.23.2011

What's On the Side?

As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, you may be off to Grandma’s house in the woods this year for a delicious meal, or maybe even to Aunt Sally’s house at the beach or Uncle John’s mansion in the mountains.

No matter where you are, it’s a time to be with family, be thankful for your blessings, and if you are lucky, sit down to a scrumptious meal of which you prepared very little.  Your homemade side dish, which you lovingly prepared, is probably your favorite. It will join about ten other side dishes on the table with the star, Tom Turkey.


Yes, bring on the side dishes!  They are the delicious ensembles that complement the star attraction.

Have you ever really counted how many sides are on the Thanksgiving table?  Typically, everyone has a favorite holiday side, and if you ever try to cut down on the Thanksgiving menu, then you will quickly realize how attached people are to their turkey-day sides. 

People fight for their favorite side dishes with their life.  Just try to remove the green bean casserole, and you’ll see what I mean.





I’m hosting Thanksgiving at my home this year for a very small crowd.  It will be just five adults and my two children.  I declared that I want to cook a very simple meal with just a few sides because we don’t have the oven space to handle an elaborate spread.

My husband, who seems to have strong opinions about Thanksgiving sides, agreed.  He quickly named green bean casserole and homemade mac and cheese as the two sides we must tomorrow.  He was done.  That was our menu. 

But I’m not sure the rest of us agree.

My mom, who doesn’t really cook, has decided to tackle cornbread stuffing because, to her, not having stuffing would be like not having a turkey.  You guessed it.  We now need gravy because we all know that stuffing can be dry.

Since North Carolina is the leading producer of sweet potatoes, it would be a sin not to have sweet potato casserole on our menu.  Nine hundred twenty-seven million pounds of the starchy vegetable were grown here last year.  The southern, yummy goodness of sweet potatoes, butter, and marshmallows, blended together for a side dish that tastes like a dessert, cannot be beat. It makes me think of my dad.  It was his signature dish.


But let’s not forget the pumpkin pie, but half of my family prefers pecan pie.  Got to have both.



And last night at dinner, mom said she would bring cranberry salad from the Lowe’s food deli because it was so good when she dined with friends last year, they fought over it. 

So as I made the grocery list for my simple, holiday meal, my son shouts, “Don’t forget the deviled eggs!”



What? OK. Our meal just went from simple to complicated.

What will be on your table this year?

From my family to yours, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!  Safe travels.

This post is linked with:


11.21.2011

I’m Just Not a Same Ole, Same Ole Gal. Are you?

It’s true.  I like variety.

As you have gotten to know me this year, you realize this blog is a hodgepodge. I write about parenting, travel, food, and whatever inspires me that day.  I can’t just stick with one topic, or I would be bored.

I like variety in my closet, too.  You can find lively Lilly to Bohemian chic.  Classic Prep to Trendy.  I’m either a stylist’s dream or her worst nightmare.

My husband, on the other hand, shops at only one men’s store, and every day he totes one ham or turkey sandwich with provolone cheese, some type of half-sandwich, and a handful of tortilla chips in a Tupperware container to his office. 

I just can’t eat the same thing every day like he does.  That’s why you can find me lunching with my mom quite frequently, which is not good for the family budget.  I get tired of the same ole sandwich, and sometimes I want to eat a meal that requires a fork.  In fact, when I was in the working world, I ate out every day and probably spent at least $50 of my salary each week.  Did you know that is $2,600 a year?  Yikes.  It’s also hard to keep those restaurant calories in check.

Healthy Choice sent me two entrees to review
When theMotherhood asked me to give my opinion about the new Healthy Choice Top Chef Inspired Café Steamers, I welcomed the opportunity to put some variety in my lunch choices at home.  I lived off of Healthy Choice in my twenties because it was certainly easier to eat those than to cook for one.  Since having a family, though, I have rarely purchased the frozen, single-serving entrées.

Truthfully, I had no idea that Café Steamers were on the market.  I don’t watch Bravo’s Top Chef, and all that I really know about that show is that the contestants can cook better than I can.  In case you didn’t know, either, Bravo’s Top Chef and Healthy Choice have partnered to introduce an exclusive line of dishes that combine bold, innovative, and exciting flavors.

This exclusive new line includes eight healthy varieties that utilize proprietary steaming technology that produces a fresh-tasting meal in minutes.  The unique steaming technology separates the sauce from the rest of the entrée to steam the meal in the microwave, allowing for crisp vegetables, tender meats and al dente pastas.



Will Healthy Choice Break Me from the Same Ole Same Ole Lunch at Home?


I have to admit that I was excited to eat something other than a sandwich for lunch when I popped a café steamer into the microwave.  The first entrée I tried was the Grilled Vegetable Mediterranean with Rice.  What I liked about it was that it was 230 calories and that it had no preservatives.  Honestly, I think I loved having something other than a sandwich to eat for lunch, and eating something hot, healthy, and only 230 calories more than I loved the taste of entrée.  I can’t put my finger on it.  It was just OK to me, but not really memorable.  I also don’t think I’m a big fan of barley, which is an ingredient in the dish. Will I buy this one again?  Maybe. I think it deserves another taste, but based on my tastes, I think I personally would choose the other seven over this one.  They seem more appealing to me.

Two days later, I happily opened the Barbecue Seasoned Steak with Red Potatoes.

Healthy Choice Entree
There is something about a hot meal that is just pleasing to the palate.  In less than five minutes, I sat down at my computer and took my first bite.  WOW! I loved this entrée.  This was “clean the plate good, and wish you had a little bit more.”  It was a great lunch for me.  It was 330 calories, 20 grams of protein, and 4 grams of fiber.  I stayed full until dinner.  I highly recommend this entrée.  In fact, I have even thought about the entrée this week and wished I had another one in the freezer for lunch.


Will I be buying this entrée?  Yes, I’m going to be storing a lot in Baby Diva’s cart on our next trip to the grocery store.

Healthy Choice Top Chef Inspired Cafe Steamers will soon fill this cart
I don't have to eat the same ole, same ole sandwich again. 
Healthy Choice Top Chef Inspired Café Steamers will definitely give me the much-needed variety I crave in my lunch routine.  I no longer have to eat same ole, same ole again.  Who knows? Maybe my husband will even take one to work to change things up a bit.

These entrees are starting to appear on the grocery store aisles with a retail price of $2.75 to $3.50, which beats eating out.

For all the varieties on the market visit, www.healthychoice.com or www.bravotv.com/showdown


Disclosure: I was compensated by theMotherhood and Healthy Choice to write this post.   As always, my thoughts and opinions are my own, and are not influenced by the company. 




11.18.2011

It’s Not Always Too Good To Be True

I’ve been meaning to tell you this little tale for a while, but everyday life kept getting in the way.

One day in August, I received a strange email.  I thought the email was spam and almost deleted it because as the saying goes, “if it is too good to be true, then it probably is.” 

To make a long story short, I got an email from nine women who call themselves the Nanas.  The email came from their project manager, Sunny.  She wrote,    

“There is a group of ladies in the Memphis, TN area that absolutely adore your blog! And I'm writing because they're celebrating 50 States 31 Days of Giving. For thirty-four years, they've surreptitiously helped single moms and widows. But for the month of August, the Nanas decided to extend their reach and make happiness happen for someone in each of our 50 states.

For the state of North Carolina, you're the chosen one!”

They wanted to send me a gift certificate to a great romantic restaurant called Café Tiramisu to help spread some additional happiness in my life.

What?  I scratched my head.  Like any former journalist, I did a little research. 

I learned that the Nanas owned a cake company, and they were well-known in the Memphis area for their wonderful philanthropy.

This was actually a case in which something wasn’t too good to be true.

The Nanas sent me the gift certificate along with two poundcakes from their bakery.   How did they know that poundcake was my absolute favorite cake of all time?  We devoured the cakes in no time.  They were simply delicious and baked fresh.  The Nanas’ cakes have no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.  It’s cake just like my grandma would bake.


Of course, the cake was long gone, but the gift certificate remained on our counter unused for some time.  Unexpected events would constantly change our plans, and as a result we didn’t use our gift certificate to Café Tiramisu until a few weeks ago.

We had a delightful meal, and you know what?  We were giddy-happy.  We had a wonderful meal and only had to pay for our sitter.  

Cafe Tiramisu in Raleigh

Thank you, Nanas, for spreading some extra happiness in my home.  My husband was happy because his wallet stayed in his pocket, and I was happy because I didn’t have to put my kids to bed and had a great meal to boot.  My kids were happy because they ate lots of poundcake.  Well, they were happy until we all fought over the last bite.  Yes, those cakes are that good.

And as a blogger, it also thrilled me that someone other than my mom was reading my posts when they chose me for this Happiness Project.  It makes me want to smile every time I think about it.

Have a great weekend! See you back here next week.

Disclosure: I was chosen to receive the gift certificate to Café Tiramisu by the Nanas as part of their Happiness Project and was under no obligation to write about it here on my blog.  I chose to share the story with you because I found it interesting, and the gift certificate did not influence my opinion about the cakes.  As always, my opinions are my own.

11.16.2011

Turn the Never Ending To-Do List Into DONE

As I crawl into bed later and later each evening, I sometimes ponder if I accomplished anything at all that day. 


Last month, I captured one day of my life in photos and kept a journal.  


It was eye-opening.
It appears that I accomplish very little in a day, which is crazy because I know that I’m busier than hell.  My to-do list just seems to get longer, and is never-ending. 
At the end of the day, the mess seems messier, and the laundry just procreates.




At nightfall, I still have emails to answer, errands to run, and people on my list to call.  In fact, it took me three days to call my pediatrician’s office last week to schedule a well visit.  Yes, three days! I would remember to make the call, get distracted, and then it wouldn’t get done that day because I wouldn’t remember until the office was closed.
Don’t even get me started on the kitchen! As soon as I clean the kitchen for one meal, it’s time to start another one.
I rise at 6 a.m. and go to bed as late as 11 p.m. some nights, but it seems I have nothing to show for what I did that day.
When I was in television, I produced a news story every day.  I worked all day for that one news feature.  Once it aired, I had one minute and thirty seconds of work that showed what I did all day.
But motherhood?  That’s a whole different ballgame. Let me be the first to tell you that we really accomplish a lot in a single day, but it’s just harder to measure our work.
A wise friend with children once told me that she makes a daily to-do list, and if she just accomplishes one thing on her list then she considers her day a success.




So here’s my new list.  It will no longer be the "Freakin Never Ending To-Do List" because I'm changing my approach to my to-do list so I can feel some accomplishment at the end of the day. 
You should try this, too. 
Get out your pen and paper, and write the following:
  • Hug and kiss my child lots
  • Make my child laugh or smile today
  • Teach my child something today
  • Read my child a book
  • Transport my child to and from somewhere safely
  • Prepare food for my child
  • (Write one item here that you would like to get done such as schedule an appointment, run an errand, clean the bathroom, do one load of laundry, whatever)
At the end of the day, check off what you accomplished.
I will place bets that you accomplish everything on that list in one single day even the one chore that you need to get done. 


Since I've changed my approach to my to-do list, it has changed how I feel about my days. 
Who knew that making a checklist would feel so satisfying?
I now love my daily to-do list. 


 But, no matter what I do, I still have laundry to fold. I can never seem to get that off my list. 
***
I'm linking this post  with Shell's blog today.  If you are from her site, welcome!



Would love to hear from you. To make a comment, please click on the post title if you are viewing from the blog's home page.

11.14.2011

Christmas Comes Early at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C.

The Holiday season is here in the mountains of North Carolina.

The Biltmore Estate in picturesque Asheville, N.C.  is already decked out for the holiday season and is expected to welcome 300,000  guests from now through the new year. 

Holidays at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C.
The Biltmore House in Asheville, NC

The Biltmore Estate, an 8,000-acre estate once belonging to Cecil Vanderbilt, looks like a storybook wonderland during the holidays.  It’s absolutely gorgeous, and many North Carolinians go every year because it certainly gets you in the Christmas spirit.  

One of the highlights is Candlelight Christmas Evenings.   In the evening, guests tour rooms lit by twinkling lights and firelight, reflected in thousands of ornaments.  Local choirs and small musical ensembles stationed in the Winter Garden will perform music of the season as guests enter Biltmore House.

Known for being one of the largest holiday displays in the Southeast, guests will see dozens and dozens of decorated Christmas trees and nearly 500 wreaths around the estate; 30,000 lights and 125 candles in Biltmore House, with another 125,000 lights around the estate.

Biltmore at the Holidays, Biltmore Estate, Christmas, Candlelight Christmas Evenings
The Banquet Hall Christmas Tree is 34--foot tall Fraser Fir
Can you imagine putting up all those lights? I can’t help but think of that Christmas song with the man who gets upset about the lights to the tune of “Twelve Days of Christmas.”   I think the Biltmore decorating elves deserve a big plate of cookies for the job they do each year.  It has to be tremendous work.

Around 45,000 lights illuminate the Front Lawn tree in front of the house. Three hundred luminaries line the driveway and Esplanade in front of Biltmore House.

Here are some other fun decorating stats:

There are over 57 decorated trees in the house.  The largest is a 34-foot tall Fraser fir in the Banquet hall.

Biltmore Estate uses 500 gift boxes, 500 ornaments and 500 electric lights to decorate the Banquet Hall Tree. They use around 12,000 on the other trees inside Biltmore House, and that many again around the estate, for a total of 25,000 or more.

Biltmore Estate, Biltmore at the Holidays, Asheville, N.C.
The Banquet Hall in the Biltmore House

Fresh garlands are made of white pine and Fraser fir. Biltmore changes them weekly to keep them fresh for guests.  They use 5,000 feet during the season.  Silk, dried and artificial garlands add another 1,200 feet in Biltmore House and around 1,500 feet in other areas.

Biltmore uses mostly red poinsettias, with some white and a few marbled and pink.  In total, decorators place around 1,000 blooming plants throughout Biltmore House along with several hundred more in the other estate facilities.

Want to Go:
Of course, I recommend staying at the Inn at Biltmore during any season, and it is even more charming and grand during the holidays.
.
For a complete list of pricing for daytime admission and other packages, visit http://www.biltmore.com.

11.11.2011

Some Days I Feel Like the Fish Who Fell In the Teapot

For the past three nights, I've been reading the book, Cat in the Hat.  That's what you read when you have a five-year-old in kindergarten who is learning to read.  We are still 15 pages away from the end, which is page 65 by the way.  But, who's counting?  No, not me!

My son is actually doing the reading.  I'm just helping with words that he does not know.  I'm very proud of him, but let's just say it is a SLOW process after a long, tiring day.  I must admit that I miss doing the reading.  It was kind of therapeutic to cuddle, and read a great children's story after a long day.

As I sit in his bed each night, I relate to the goldfish who landed in the teapot after the craziness brought on by the Cat in the Hat.   I spend a lot of days telling my  own Thing One and Thing Two, "No, No, No!"  and "Stop this right now!"

This is a little example of how one chocolate, birthday cupcake can erupt craziness in our house before the bedtime hour.    And yes, she is pantless again!  This video is post dinner after we removed her pants because they were covered in spaghetti.  She was a mess!


Yep! That's my Thing One and Thing Two.

In my Hines-Sight, I should have done a Cat in the Hat Party for Baby Diva's birthday.   Look at these cute marshmellow pops I found on Pinterest.  They look easy to make, but I'm sure mine would be lopsided.  We may have to make them anyway on a day where we have nothing to do.


These cupcakes would delight the guests.



This red polka-dot dress would definitely bring the mom's dress to life from the book.   Va Va Voom!  Watch the $635 Valentino dress, kids!



But in reality, all I really want  to bring to life, is the cat's dynamic cleaning machine because when you live with a Thing One and Thing Two, you can pretty much bet you'll find a big mess any given day.

Good thing I have Clorox to tackle those pants with the spaghetti. Right?

Oh yeah, it would be nice to finish the book, too.  We can then move on to Green Eggs and Ham.

Have a great weekend! We're still celebrating Baby Diva's birthday.  We're taking her and Thing One to make her own very stuffed animal today.  Will she choose a cat in a hat?

We'll see you back here next week. 




If you are viewing this from the main page, please click on the title link to make a comment.  Also, don't forget about the giveaway for McDonald's gift cards that can be used in North and South Carolina. 


I received information about Clorox’s Bleach It Away campaign and am sharing my messy moment for the chance to win prizes from The SITS Girls. To learn more about the messy moment program, check out www.BleachItAway.com.  Sharing your story on the Clorox fan page gets you entered for the chance to win $25,000 and daily prizes, and you can grab a coupon for Clorox® Regular Bleach.



11.09.2011

Growing Older

My daughter turns two today.  She is such a special joy in my life.

Well, both of my children bring lots of joy, and they certainly keep this old, weary parent on her toes.  They can be lots of trouble, too.


As you can imagine, I love both my son and my daughter more than life itself, but there is something about experiencing a toddler the second time around that just seems easier and perhaps even a little more joyful than the first time you experienced it.

I can’t explain it.

I wish I could.  And I almost wish that I didn’t feel that way because I feel that it’s not fair to my son.

But the truth is that I feel I’m more relaxed with my daughter than I ever was with my son.

With my son, I never felt as if I knew what I was doing.  I still don’t on most days.

I went from living in a world with all the time I needed to do something to a life in which someone needed me every minute of the day. 

It was not an easy transition for a 37-year-old woman who had never changed a diaper in her life.

I remember crying in the hospital because I was afraid that my husband could change diapers better than I.

When my daughter was born, I probably could have put on her diaper blindfolded.  It was a totally different story, and I had almost four years of parental experience.

Honestly, it is still not an easy transition as my son enters new stages because we enter uncharted territories where I still have no experience.  With him, I just want him to “grow” out of it a lot of times. 

This child keeps me on my toes.  And, truthfully, he's so much
like me with his interests, and stubborn ways. 

With her, it’s the opposite.  I savor the stage and sigh, “I wish she could stay little," as she runs to the corner to put herself in a time-out. 

I want to freeze time.

It’s hard to believe she’s two already.  I’m certainly not ready for her to grow older.   


That goes for me, too.  My 43rd birthday is at the end of this year. 

I try not to think about my age that often as a mom to two young kids.  I feel the same age as my friends who had their first child at 30, but in reality I do have about seven years on them. 

When my baby is in kindergarten, I’ll be 46.  I’ll be one of the oldest parents.  I just hope I look as young as the others.  Got to have dreams, right?

Since having my children later in life, I’ve never wanted so badly to find that fountain of youth, not for vanity purposes, but because I want to keep on living.  I want to see my children grow up.  I want to be there for them throughout their lives. 

I guess my dream is no different from any one else’s because no one knows what life will bring any day.  We can only hope that we will live a long time to see our children grow into adults. My only issue is that I got started a little later than most. 

I want to be there for the first kiss, the prom, birthdays, graduations, weddings, and the births of my first and last grandchild, and all those in between.

I don’t want to miss a thing.   I also hope that they don't wait to have children as long as I did.  Thirty will be good, kids. 

Happy Birthday, my sweet Baby Diva!  I hope to share many, many more with you,  your brother, and dad.  


This is my first "Pour Your Heart Out" post with Shell at Things I Can't Say. Thanks, Shell, for causing me to dig into my emotions for this post. 

(If you are viewing this from the blog's homepage, and cannot find the comment tab, click on the title of the post and it will take you to the comments page. My comment link likes to disappear from time to time.  Also, don't forget about the giveaway for McDonald's coupons in North and South Carolina. Deadline to enter is Monday, November 14.)








11.07.2011

Making the Right Choices in a Fast-Food Restaurant

One of the things I enjoy about blogging is that I’m starting to get out and about in the Raleigh area, and am meeting other bloggers and community leaders.  Recently, I was invited to attend a fall blogger luncheon hosted by local business owner Carol Martin, who owns and operates several McDonald’s in the Triangle.


Martin, now a proud grandmother, has owned a McDonald’s franchise since 1986.  It’s no surprise; as her franchise listened to consumer complaints and suggestions over the years, she’s seen a lot of changes.  She’s been through numerous menu changes and restaurant remodels in her 25 years of owning a fast-food restaurant.

2011 McDonald's Blogging Luncheon
 In fact, for this luncheon we dined in a quaint room with brick walls, which certainly didn’t make me think of fast food.  It was cozy and reminded me of an upscale coffee shop, as opposed to the brightly lit, plastic-type décor I remember from my youth. 

At our table, there was not a burger in sight. I dined on a Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken accompanied by Paul Newman’s Creamy Southwest dressing.  I had never had it before, and, truthfully, it was as good if not better than any upscale salad that you pay $8.99 for in national, gourmet-type lunch restaurants.  With dressing, the salad is 420 calories.

I’ll go ahead and share with you that I didn’t eat in a lot of McDonald’s growing up.  You see, that restaurant was my dad’s competition.  He owned a KFC franchise, so you can imagine that he didn’t take me to a McDonald’s very often. 

More than likely, a lot of my friends didn’t eat in a McDonald’s very often, either.   Getting a happy meal with a cheeseburger and fries was a celebrated treat.  During the ’70s and ’80s, most families ate home-cooked meals, so a night or two of extra sodium, and calories, was OK because it was all in moderation.

But times have changed.

McDonald's in North Raleigh

The drive-thru line at Martin’s McDonald’s was never-ending while I was there.  There was always a line at the counter, too.  More and more families are turning to fast-food restaurants for lunch or dinner several times a week.  Fast food makes a busy mom’s life less hectic.   Martin realizes how much families now rely on her restaurant and says that McDonald’s is committed to helping families stay healthy by giving them top-quality products and choices. 

You’ve probably already read that McDonald’s is changing the happy meals so that each meal will have fewer calories.  Parents will no longer have to choose between apples and fries.   The new meal will contain smaller 100-calorie fries and a smaller package of apples.  This change will roll out after the holidays here in the Triangle. 
New package for 100-Calorie fry in McDonald's Happy Meals

I’m fortunate that I don’t rely on fast food often to feed my family, so french fries in moderation were never a concern for me.  I always let my kids have the fries, but they are not eating them four out of seven days, either. 

I may ruffle a few feathers, but parents are responsible for their child’s eating habits, not a restaurant.  I think this is a great addition to the happy meal menu, and it’s appreciated that McDonald’s is working to get calories and sodium content down in their products.   However, I believe that parents need to think beyond a box with a toy and a lower price if they rely on fast-food restaurants for the majority of their meals. 

If your child likes a salad, then order a side salad.  Buy your child a plain grilled chicken sandwich, a fruit and yogurt parfait, a fruit salad, or an oatmeal, if fast food is on your menu plan several nights a week. McDonald’s is giving you a wide selection of healthy menu items under the recommended 600 calories; it is your job as a parent to go for that variety.

Sure, I have a second child who is picky, and it’s difficult feeding her at home and in a restaurant, but I offer her what we eat most nights.  I don’t make her chicken nuggets and french fries every night. She would live off of them if I let her.  Many nights, she will go to bed eating only yogurt and cereal because she refused to eat our kid-friendly, healthy meal.

Martin realizes the difficulties busy parents face in meal-planning day after day.  Guest speakers for our luncheon included two nutritionists from Wake County’s Health Promotion-Chronic Disease Prevention office.  We all know we need to make smart choices about our diet, but it is still shocking when you are shown a large soft drink bottle of a well-known lemonade brand with 17 teaspoons of sugar in it.  Sports drinks are just as bad.

 It’s best to choose water or milk for a child.  One hundred percent juice is OK if they have not consumed a lot in one day.  The nutritionists really recommend only four ounces of juice a day; otherwise, water it down.

Healthy choices are becoming more available in places like McDonald’s, but it’s your decision to choose them. 

***



(Regional Giveaway)
As a gift for attending the blogging luncheon, McDonald’s gave me free food coupons that can be redeemable at regional McDonald’s in North and South Carolina only.  I plan to share these coupons with my Carolina readers because I want to thank you for sticking with me week after week.

Two lucky winners will receive:

5 gift cards for a free Small McCafe Beverage
5 gift cards for a snack wrap
5 gift cards for a Premium Chicken Sandwich
5 gift cards for Fruit and Maple Oatmeal

*You will have until December 31, 2012, to use them, and only one card can be used at a time. 

If you can use the gift cards, then leave a comment below saying you would like to be entered into the drawing by Monday, November 14 at 11:59 pm.  The winner will be selected by random draw.

Oh, and by the way, “I’m lovin’ it” … the oatmeal that is.  You've got to try it.  I think I've had it three times this week. 

Bonus Entries

In an effort to reach Carolina residents, please help spread the word and share giveaway on Facebook.  (One entry) 


Tweet the following: Hines-Sight Blog is giving away free McDonald's coupons that can be used in North and South Carolina. http://bit.ly/uBHbgp #McDfall (One entry)

Disclosure: McDonald’s paid for my lunch and gave me these regional gift cards to use at my discretion.  As with all of my posts on this blog, my opinions are my own and were not influenced by the company.

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