7.28.2013

Bringing the Tropics Into Your Kitchen: Easy Caribbean Bean Salad



Now that I'm back from Virginia, I am trying to eat lighter. I brought a few extra pounds back after indulging in a glorious afternoon tea at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, which I will tell you about soon. As a result, I have a lot of salads on my meal plan this week, or healthier side dishes. My family will only eat salads so much, and Will doesn't really like salads as an entree at all, unless it's a Taco Salad.

Since I am still in vacation mode, I thought I would bring a little bit of the tropics in my kitchen this week by making a Caribbean Bean Salad recipe I found in the Junior Guild of Rocky Mount, North Carolina cookbook. It has a lot of fiber, and the ingredients are light.


I honestly think this salad could stand alone as a light entree, but to please my husband, I served it as a side to my favorite "Joey" burgers, which are also featured on the blog in the recipe section.

The original bean salad recipe calls for a cup of bean sprouts, but I left it out. I forgot to put that on my grocery list. I am always leaving out something, but I didn't miss that ingredient at all. I think my version is good, and that is what I'm sharing with you today along with my substitutions.


Caribbean Bean Salad

1 15-ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 ounce can garbanzo beans, drained
1/2 cup sweet corn
1 cup of brown rice
2 sliced green onions
1/2 cup of red pepper
1/4 cup of fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 cup red wine vinegar ( I was running low so I had to use some apple cider vinegar, too).
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard


Prepare all ingredients, and mix together in a large bowl, stirring well. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.

Enjoy! And apparently, grilling out on a sunny day in Raleigh requires rain boots. She wouldn't eat the salad, but she almost ate a whole burger.



Be sure to come back for Instagram Travel Thursday. If you are a blogger, we would love for you to link up with us.

7.25.2013

My Favorite Instagram Shots from Visit Raleigh

We are back again this week with our third Instagram Travel Thursday link-up. Just to recap, we are here each week sharing the joy of travel through Instagram photos. If you have been following me this week on Instagram then you know I'm enjoying Colonial Williamsburg with my family this week. I cannot wait to share that trip with you in the future, but today I thought it would be great to a highlight an Instagram account that I enjoy following: VISITRALEIGH

Yes, I live in Raleigh, North Carolina and I follow my own hometown's Instagram account. I love seeing the view of my town through the eyes of others. 




I love this shot of the State Capitol Building.






The history of Raleigh dates by to 1792, and was established as North Carolina's government seat.





Thirteen years ago when I moved to Raleigh, the downtown area had recently started its revitalization efforts. Now, the downtown area is seeing more boutiques. Raleigh purse designer, Holly Aiken, has her own shop called, Stitch. Purse lovers are beginning to recognize a bag designed by Holly as soon as they see it around town.





I love the architecture of this former residence in Raleigh. It is currently the home to Raleigh's Second Empire Tavern and Restaurant, a Four-Diamond Award winner.  It's special to me because it was the site of my wedding reception in 2002.




The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences provides hours of enjoyment for families. 



Raleigh, of course, is named after Sir Walter Raleigh. 




If you ever decide to visit Raleigh, please let me know.  I'll tell you the best places to eat, and stay.  You can start planning your trip at VisitRaleigh.com.

And if you are a blogger, please join us in the link-up.  



Take a look at the official rules on Skimbaco Lifestyle, but here are some important things to remember when linking your post.



Here are the Linky rules:
Link to a new Instagram travel post and use the permalink of your post, not the homepage URL.
Only new posts from the week of the linky and no giveaways, other linkys or sales pitches.
No links to your Instagram profile, only links to your blog.
Link back to one of the Instagram Travel Thursday hosts.
Visit a few other posts in the linky and show them some love (comment, tweet, Pin etc.).
Links that do not follow the guidelines will be removed.
The Instagram Travel Thursday linky is posted on Thursdays at 1AM EST and the linky is open until the following Wednesday.
On a side note, I am returning from Colonial Williamsburg late tonight.  I look forward to reading the posts in the link-up when I return tomorrow. In the meantime, you can find me on Instagram. 

Be sure to follow me on one or more of my social media platforms.  TwitterInstagram ,Facebook, Pinterest, Google Plus or on Bloglovin, if you just want post updates. When traveling, I'm on Instagram the most.  My personal family Instagram account is LeighPHines.



7.22.2013

5 Great Easy Recipes for Summer

Before summer is over, I thought I would give you a list of five of my favorite recipes that are perfect for the summer season. I have already featured these recipes on the blog.




















All of these recipes and many more good ones tested by me can be found on the recipe link on my blog.  Be sure to come back on Thursday for the Instagram Travel Thursday link-up. 




7.18.2013

Instagram Travel Link-Up: Why you Should Indulge in Fried Shrimp, Hushpuppies and Ice Cream in Calabash, N.C.

We are back again this week with the second  Instagram Travel Thursday link-up.  We are here each week sharing the joy of travel through Instagram photos.  Today, I'm going to share why Calabash, North Carolina is a place I like to visit every year. 





































I have been on Instagram about a year. If you have followed me from the beginning then you probably have noticed a repeat photo pattern, such as Leigh and her family, are in Calabash, North Carolina AGAIN eating fried shrimp, hushpuppies, and ice cream.











Why is that? Well, it is because we know what we are getting when we go to Calabash, and everyone wants to experience a good thing again.



Calabash, North Carolina, is located off the Intracoastal Waterway at the North Carolina/South Carolina border in Brunswick County. It is a fishing village where restaurants started serving what the fishermen brought fresh off the boat in a very distinctive cooking style.  They fry it up, baby!  That's right.  The town's abundant seafood restaurants have put Calabash, N.C. on the map as "The Seafood Capital of the World" for its Calabash-style seafood.

I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that people line out the door of these restaurants as early at 4 p.m.  This is outside of Ella's of Calabash when we visited earlier this month. 



Years ago, dining in Calabash was pretty basic.  People only dined on fried seafood, slaw, fries, and hushpuppies, and alcohol was not served.  Many restaurants are changing that atmosphere today, and are offering a full-service bar for diners as well as broiled seafood dishes, steaks, and chicken entrees. The town attracts diners from the coast of North Carolina as well as the Myrtle Beach area. 

I have a confession to make. I was never a big fan of "Calabash-style" seafood until I was pregnant with my daughter four summers ago.  I would always eat deviled crab, boiled shrimp, and hushpuppies when I made the mandatory trip with my husband. He is a fried shrimp lover. On that one trip, I tasted Will's fried shrimp, and was hooked.  I started craving fried shrimp during the last few months of my pregnancy, and have eaten fried shrimp from that day forward.

We usually go to Ella's Seafood when we visit Calabash.


 And my mom goes across the street to The Seafood Hut.



The closer you get to the Calabash waterfront, the busier the restaurants become at dinnertime. The funny thing is that everyone has their own favorite dining spots in this town, and they are going to tell you that the one they frequent is best. No one can really agree on which restaurant in Calabash is the best. I polled my personal Facebook friends, and the Seafood Hut and Ella's were mentioned as the most popular among my friends. 

But, there is one thing that diners agree on when visiting this small town, filled with at least 10 restaurants, all serving the same type of food. The best ice cream in town is at the Calabash Creamery.




I usually the get the "Birthday cake" flavor at this local creamery, but I decided on "Coffee" ice cream time. I loved it, and will definitely get it again.

This little one orders pink ice cream on every summer visit.


Strawberry matches her outfit, of course.

For more on our Myrtle Beach vacation, visit this post on the Coconut Cloud Martini I discovered this year at Tommy Bahama, and the Myrtle Beach Marriott Resort and Spa. 


 And if you are a blogger, please join us in the link-up.  



Take a look at the official rules on Skimbaco Lifestyle., but here are some important things to remember when linking your post.


Here are the Linky rules:
Link to a new Instagram travel post and use the permalink of your post, not the homepage URL.
Only new posts from the week of the linky and no giveaways, other linkys or sales pitches.
No links to your Instagram profile, only links to your blog.
Link back to one of the Instagram Travel Thursday hosts.
Visit a few other posts in the linky and show them some love (comment, tweet, Pin etc.).
Links that do not follow the guidelines will be removed.
The Instagram Travel Thursday linky is posted on Thursdays at 1AM EST and the linky is open until the following Wednesday.
On a side note, I am traveling today to Charlotte, N.C. to take the kids to Carowinds for a quick adventure.  I look forward to reading the posts in the link-up when I return tomorrow. In the meantime, you can find me on Instagram. 

Be sure to follow me on one or more of my social media platforms.  TwitterInstagram ,Facebook, Pinterest, Google Plus or on Bloglovin, if you just want post updates. When traveling, I'm on Instagram the most.  My personal family Instagram account is LeighPHines.



7.14.2013

A Southern Parenting Tale: Making S'mores a Family Summer Tradition

It's been awhile since I've shared a southern parenting tale.  Since we are at the midpoint of summer, I thought I would share our new family tradition with you, and tell you why I'm calling S'mores, "The Dessert of the Summer."




You know. There is always some song declared as the “song of the summer.”  Of course, I can’t tell you what that particular song is for the summer of 2013. In fact, I can’t name songs of the summer for past years, either.

But I can tell you the dessert of the summer.  And in my house, it is the S’more.  Yes, good, old-fashioned S’mores.  Nothing fancy.  Just marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate. 
So how did a S’more, something that has been around for decades, all of a sudden become the “it” dessert of the summer?




Last year, I did a family travel feature on the beautiful Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Virginia.  At night, families sit around the massive fire pit and make S’mores.  Kids run around in their golf shirts and best sundresses on the lush, green lawn. They stop only when it’s time to make the S’mores.  It was really a lot of fun and a great memory.

I definitely can’t wait to return to the Homestead one day to do all of that again, but this year we decided to bring a little bit of the Homestead to our own homestead.




We now have a small firepit in our backyard. 

S’mores are now our dessert choice of the summer.  We don’t do it often, and, because of that, it is still looked upon as a treat, kind of like going to the Homestead.

We’ve done it a couple of times with our extended family, and it was a fun, special time.  I definitely think we are making cherished memories with the kids.




But the other night, as some “song of the summer” was playing on Pandora, I was home alone with kids while my husband worked. I really craved a rich, gooey S’more.

Could I possibly?

Yeah, I wasn’t about to start a fire.

We made indoor S’mores.

Making indoor S’mores may not be as fun as making them in the fire pit, but they are still good.  And you can make one in half the time.



Hmmm!  And I wonder why my behind looks like a marshmallow. 

Hines S’mores (Fire Pit not needed)

I large marshmallow
I graham cracker, cut in half
1 mini bar of chocolate or 1 bar broken off a larger bar of chocolate.
Heat marshmallow for 10 to 12 seconds in microwave.  Carefully place it on graham cracker. Add bar of chocolate. Top it with another graham cracker. Mash it, and enjoy.  It tastes just like the ones made in the fire pit.

You may also like a S’mores cupcake recipe that has also been featured on the blog by Mandi McClure of Southern Gnome. 

Enjoy the dessert of the summer!  I know I do.


This piece was originally written for my TriangleMom2Mom column that runs every Wednesday. But, with everyone on vacation for the Fourth of July holiday, no one saw it so I'm sharing it here, too. 


Also, be sure to join us for Instagram Travel Thursday this week.  You can read  more about the link-up on Skimbaco Lifestyle.  Join us. 

7.11.2013

Instagram Travel Link-Up: The Myrtle Beach Marriott Resort and Spa

I am beyond thrilled to co-host the new Instagram Travel Thursday linky with some of my favorite bloggers, who I now call, my friends. We are going to be here each week sharing the joy of travel through Instagram photos.




In my bio, Katja wrote that I have a slight hotel obsession. She's starting to know her luxury travel editor well. Since she said that, I thought it would be only fitting for me to share my recent visit to the Myrtle Beach Marriott Resort and Spa at Grande Dunes, located on South Carolina's beautiful Grand Strand, with you. 

I sent my two kids to the beach with Will.



I hurriedly left my mom's beach house, Surf Chalet, in North Myrtle Beach, and hightailed it 20 minutes south. 




Truthfully, I think the conversation went with my husband like this, "Here are their swimsuits, sunscreen, and I may be gone all day. Bye!" I think I let the back door hit me in the behind because I got out of there so quickly. 

My day was planned. A tour of Myrtle Beach's only Four Diamond oceanfront resort, lunch at Ocean's on 82nd, and a luxurious massage in the Hibiscus Spa. Since my family owns Surf Chalet, I never get to see luxury hotels when I visit the Myrtle Beach area.  This was a royal treat, and this oceanfront resort reminds me of paradise. 




There are two outdoor pools, an indoor pool, and two outdoor restaurants. 




The beach is just steps away, too. 




I dined in the hotel's more formal restaurant, Ocean's on 82nd, by the sea. My entree, the Cobb Lobster Salad, was fantastic. 



But, the true crown jewel came with this key lime pie. 



I honestly don't remember having a key lime pie this good since I ate a slice of pie in Key West,  Florida in 1997. This was fantastic. I may have to go back to Myrtle to get another slice the next time I visit. 



Somehow I managed to roll myself downstairs to the Hibiscus Spa for my spa appointment with Christine.  The Hibiscus Spa is a peaceful sanctuary without ocean views, but your time here will truly make your vacation relaxing.  Relaxation areas are cozy, and serene. 

I was happy to trade my Jack Rogers wedges for spa slippers. 




I visited the Myrtle Beach Marriott Resort and Spa at Grande Dunes during their busiest time so I was not able to see a room on this visit. They were booked. Room rates start at $339 during the summer.  It's also important for parents to note that the hotel has a very active Kid's Club, too. 




I think these two would approve of the Myrtle Beach Marriott Resort and Spa at Grande Dunes just like their mama does.  I did not lie to my husband.  I was pretty much gone all day on my outing. But, it's hard to pry yourself away from a place that looks like this. 




Want to Go:
Myrtle Beach Marriott Resort and Spa at Grande Dunes
8400 Costa Verda Drive
Myrtle Beach, SC

These photos appeared on SkimbacoTravel or on my own account. Be sure to follow me on Instagram and Facebook or on Bloglovin, if you just want post updates.  My personal family Instagram account is LeighPHines. And if you are a blogger, please join us on Thursdays in the link-up.  Take a look at the official rules on Skimbaco Lifestyle. 

Disclosure: I was a guest of the Myrtle Beach Marriott Resort and Spa on this visit.

7.07.2013

Pack Your Bags: A Traveler’s Look at Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square in Toronto



I’ve got one word for you: staff.

The staff at Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square in the heart of downtown Toronto makes a stay there extra special.  As soon as you check in, you feel as if you are staying with family.  

And they are even known for leaving familiar family photos on the nightstand for regular guests when they check in.




Yeah. They are that good at their jobs.  But they are genuine in how they do it, and that is what sticks with you after your stay at Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square, the Germain Hotels’ newest 167-room boutique property.

Now that I’m back in Raleigh, I miss Omar, Susan, and Mike. It’s simple for me to remember their names a month after my stay because they made an effort to make me feel welcome in a big city.  Everyone I came into contact with did.




I fell in love with this modern, yet inviting and cozy boutique property.  I certainly call it a HinesSight favorite now.

And let’s talk about d├ęcor.  Hands down, it is probably the most contemporary-styled hotel I’ve stayed in thus far in my travels.  It’s the total opposite of my personal space, but yet I liked it.

It’s minimalist chic with a loft-style space.




Sexy athletes over the bed.




Chairs that resemble hockey pucks.




Yes, there is a theme you are seeing here, and it works well for the hotel.  It’s all in the details.




Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square is adjacent to the Air Canada Center, the sports arena for Toronto’s professional hockey and basketball sports teams.  The sexy photos over the bed are professional Toronto athletes. The bar is called “Play,” but let me tell you … this hotel is no gym, but rather it is a GEM.  This is a luxury hotel with great beds, rainfall showers, and luxurious Molton Brown bath products.




My absolute favorite detail is the Ovopur water filtration system, which is available on every floor.  It keeps water fresh, and at turndown your carafe is filled and placed on your bedside table.  The first year of implementation, the hotel saved 15,000 plastic water bottles.





The rooms at Hotel Le Germain are designed really well for the use of space.  A lot of that can be credited to the owner, Christiane Germain.  She makes sure that she doesn’t have things in her hotels that bug her when she travels.  As a result, all lights can be turned off at one switch. Closets are large, and there is a great space for luggage.   You can also turn on all the lights in the room with your key card.  I loved that amenity.




I, of course, took this trip solo, but Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square welcomes families.  Again, it’s all in the details.  If you have a potty-training child, they’ll put this little guy in the bathroom. Little touches like Angry Bird pillows make the room inviting for children.  They supply children’s robes, pack and plays, and baby monitors.




A European continental breakfast is also included in your room rate.   Nothing says good morning like a great muffin and a cappuccino.




And if you need a snack during the day, just grab an apple. These green apples are scattered around the hotel. They imitate art, but it’s edible art.




The “Play” Lounge serves food starting at 4 p.m.  If Mike is working, ask for a margarita.  It’s his best drink.  He says he loves to make it because it tastes like the ocean.   Mike, your margaritas are much better than the ocean.




Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square is located in a complex with condominiums, a few restaurants, and even a grocery store.  One of the nights I stayed, there was a small kitchen fire in the grocery store in the complex so the fire alarms in the hotel went off at 5:30 a.m. Safety first. Those things happen, and it was taken care of very quickly, but I must admit that I had to have looked like a fool as I made my way to the street.   I grabbed my rings, my passport, and put on pants under my gown, and then put on the comfy hotel robe on top of it all. I exited quickly and didn’t even brush my teeth.



Half the crowd was fully dressed, and the other half were like me.  Some were even sans pants.  Those of us who looked as if we rolled out of bed in an emergency will be better prepared from this point forward.  Hopefully, there will NEVER be a next time, but it was certainly a learning experience.

I was so distraught when I got back to my room that I couldn’t find my cappuccino capsules for the Nespresso machine, but, fortunately, the hotel brought me some coffee very quickly.  I needed caffeine.  I later learned that the capsules were in a drawer under the machine in the mini-bar area, which is also a clue that in-room coffee is not complimentary.  I missed that little detail at orientation.  




My best coffee came at breakfast in the lounge, though, and it is indeed complimentary, as is the complimentary cappuccino machine in the second-level lounge.

Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square is an urban, sophisticated, peaceful retreat in the bustling city.  After a long day at the TBEX conference, I was happy to walk through the doors of my home away from home.

In HinesSight on my Stay



I would definitely stay at Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square if traveling to Toronto again.
I loved the idea of fresh carafes by the bedside table and the ovopur water system in the common areas.

I loved the modern elements of the hotel. Getting in bed and hitting one button to turn off the lights was cool.

I like the idea of the Nespresso machine in the room, but not sure I love the idea of paying to have coffee in my room.   A lot of luxury properties I have visited lately have had a Keurig in the room to brew tea and coffee, complimentary.

I loved the complimentary wi-fi and the fact that a continental breakfast is included in your stay. That scored big points.

They also had an umbrella in the room. I should have used it. I got drenched one night leaving a party.

I had neither with me on this trip, but staff spoil your children and your dog.  It is a pet-friendly establishment, but coming from a person who does not have a pet, there is no evidence whatsoever that a dog has been a guest in your room.  This is a very clean, luxurious hotel. They deep clean after every visit.




Want to Stay:
Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square
75 Bremner Blvd
Toronto (Ontario), Canada

Disclosure: Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square helped sponsor my trip to TBEX by providing both a comp rate and a media rate for my duration in Toronto.  As always, opinions are my own, and I did have my own expenses.



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