1.29.2014

It's a Snowy South for #IGTRAVELThursday

Raleigh, N.C. saw snow for the first time since 2010 on Wednesday this week. We love a good snow in N.C.  You guessed it. Snow is a big deal in the South. So much so that Garden and Gun magazine started the IG hashtag #snowysouth, and will share some of its favorite photos on the magazine's website next week.

@GardenandGun IG account

The IG hashtag is becoming popular with Southerners. By 5 p.m. on Wednesday, #snowysouth had over 1,160 photos.

I had so much fun in the snow that I shared a few myself. This one is my most popular. It was taken in Raleigh shortly after sunrise. I slept in and almost missed color in the sky.

@Hinessightblog IG account

And in keeping with my hotel tradition, a few hotels were excited to post about the area's snow. The Pinehurst Resort in Pinehurst, N.C. has a very white golf course right now. Pinehurst will host both the 2014 U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open Championships in back-to-back weeks in June, marking the first time in history that both tournaments will be played in the same year, on the same course.

@PinehurstResort IG account

Cary's Umstead Hotel and Spa saw some accumulation.

@TheUmstead IG account

I also enjoyed seeing this snowy photo from Raleigh's North Hills account. The Renaissance Hotel at North Hills looks as if it is in the middle of a winter wonderland. 

@NorthHills_ IG account

I also love this IG shot from Offline Media in Downtown Raleigh.

@OfflineMedia account

I love the fact that Raleigh IG user @SPCOGGS captured this great N.C. snow measurement. She lives a little west of me so we had more snow at my Raleigh home. She had over an inch. We had about three inches at my home.

@Spcoggs IG account

Hopefully, it will not be another four years before we see another Southern snow. But, if it is, we certainly had fun being Raleigh snow bunnies.

@Hinessightblog IG account

Join us for #IGTRAVELThursday. 

Do you have a great Instagram travel story to share? Read the linky rules below and join us this week (but don’t forget to grab our logo {here} and link to at least one of hosts in your post). If you are not a blogger, but have an Instagram account tag your lovely travel moments with #IGTravelThursday. No blog, no Instagram? You can still join in the fun by reading our IG-related travel stories and by giving us some feedback love!  If you want to host the IG Travel linky on your blog so that your readers can easily find our posts, you may use this,  get the InLinkz code



1.27.2014

Trees Wearing Sweaters in Raleigh and a Great Read for a Snow Day

I made a joke on my Instagram account that it was nice that the trees on Glenwood South in Raleigh put on their sweaters before the snow rolls in town.


Yes, snow is actually in the forecast for my hometown, and our trees are wearing sweaters. What has happened in the South? I covered this art story for examiner.com today. I'm a new writer for the website covering North Carolina travel and tourism. The entire story is now online now for you to read. If you are in Raleigh, the trees will be wearing sweaters through Feb. 25.

If you get snowed in your home this week then I have the perfect read for you. I am so excited to show you the debut of Skimbaco Lifestyle's first e-magazine. It's wonderful to write for a site like Skimbaco, but you and I both know that the Web is big, and sometimes our stories get lost because you just don't have enough time to read them, or when you do plan do read a post then someone or something interrupts you. I'm behind on reading some of my favorite blogs and magazines right now. The new Skimbaco magazine will have some of our best content plus new content. When it came out yesterday, I had to pinch myself. I think it looks wonderful.



I hope you enjoy the new magazine as much as I do.

It's been awhile since I've said this but I'm signing off to have a cup of tea.


1.22.2014

#IGTRAVELTHURSDAY HOTEL EYE CANDY FROM WALDORF ASTORIA PARK CITY

I'm back in North Carolina after a whirlwind trip to Springfield, Illinois. I can't wait to share with you what I saw and learned there.

In the meantime, I've been searching Instagram for this week's hotel eye candy. These are the types of photos that make me want to experience what the hotel offers.

I'm going to start with the @WaldorfAstoria account. The hotel posted a photo of the ice bar "Powder" in Park City, Utah this week.  The Sundance Film Festival is underway right now in the city so I'm sure this is quite the hot spot to chill. You may even see a celebrity or two.

Waldorf Astoria Instagram Account
Ice Lounge at Waldorf Astoria Park City

The @WaldorfParkCity is also on Instagram. Here is another look at the Ice Lounge from that IG account.

WaldorfParkCity Instagram Account
Ice Lounge in Park City

I found this "Frozen" bar fascinating on Instagram. I've never seen anything like it.  You can bet if I'm ever in Park City then I'll be heading to the Ice Lounge because it just seems so cool.

Join us for #IGTRAVELThursday. 


Do you have a great Instagram travel story to share? Read the linky rules below and join us this week (but don’t forget to grab our logo {here} and link to at least one of hosts in your post). If you are not a blogger, but have an Instagram account tag your lovely travel moments with #IGTravelThursday. No blog, no Instagram? You can still join in the fun by reading our IG-related travel stories and by giving us some feedback love!  If you want to host the IG Travel linky on your blog so that your readers can easily find our posts, you may use this,  get the InLinkz code







1.15.2014

Follow Me on Instagram to Springfield Illinois on Assignment

My suitcase is packed, and I'll be traveling this week for #IGTravelThursday on assignment for Skimbaco Lifestyle. My destination is Springfield, Illinois as a guest of the hotel chain, Country Inn and Suites, to get a first-hand look at its brand new redesign, which is debuting in Springfield. I will be one of the first journalists to experience the new look. I'm excited, and I'll have it all for you on Instagram.

The Inn, as you know it, is changing....for the better.  It's going to be more upscale. More modern. One could interject it to mean a little more lux at an affordable price. I'll be joining several other travel writers from the U.S. to see exactly what these changes mean for the traveler.

New Look for  Country Inn and Suites Hotel 

Country Inn and Suites is not a luxury hotel by definition, but with the Inn's European roots and its design partnership with well-known HGTV designer, Genevieve Gorder, the hotel brand is positioning itself to be a cut-above the traditional mid-range hotel market. I can't wait to see the property in person. I will say that the new bathroom design is in the right direction for simple, boutique luxury.  It caught my attention. This new bathroom design photo beats out any other mid-level hotel chain I've stayed in recently.

New Bathroom for Country Inn and Suites Hotel 

Country Inn and Suites has a great weekend planned for us in the capital of Illinois. We're going to have dinner at one of the oldest restaurants on Route 66.  We will also tour the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. It was the only place I could find on our agenda that was on Instagram.


A new exhibit opens in Union Station called, "Lincoln: From History to Hollywood" on Jan. 17. This exhibit will feature props and sets from the film, "Lincoln." I thought the film was outstanding so I am going to enjoy learning more about Lincoln and his hometown.

I will be late in reading the #IGTravelThursday posts this week, but it will be first on my agenda once I get back to Raleigh.

Join us for #IGTRAVELThursday. 


Do you have a great Instagram travel story to share? Read the linky rules below and join us this week (but don’t forget to grab our logo {here} and link to at least one of hosts in your post). If you are not a blogger, but have an Instagram account tag your lovely travel moments with #IGTravelThursday. No blog, no Instagram? You can still join in the fun by reading our IG-related travel stories and by giving us some feedback love!  If you want to host the IG Travel linky on your blog so that your readers can easily find our posts, you may use this,  get the InLinkz code





1.13.2014

Dazzle the Family with a Wintry Green Salad with Citrus and Cranberries

Great Holiday Side Salad with Citrus and Cranberries. Easy to assemble and delicious.


I have been making this Wintry Green salad for a few years now. It's really easy, and it offers a great simple side to an evening meal, or serve it for lunch with chicken salad. The Mandarin oranges and cranberries make it colorful, and worthy for entertaining.

I had it on the menu for my tree-trimming meal last month, and my Mother-in-Law loved it so much that she requested it for our Christmas Eve gathering. I don't think you can go wrong with this salad. I have, however, cut the sugar amounts for the dressing from the original recipe, which was published in the 2003 Jr. Guild of Rocky Mount Cookbook, "A Dash of Down East." 


Wintry Green Salad with Citrus and Cranberries


Wintry Green Salad with Citrus and Cranberries

1-11 oz can of Mandarin oranges, drained
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup almonds, toasted
8 to 10 cups mixed salad greens

Sesame Cider Dressing:

1/3 cup sugar (Original recipe calls for 1/2 cup sugar)
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
1 1/2 teaspoons of minced onions
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup olive oil

Combine all dressing ingredients except oil in a bowl. Gradually whisk in oil.
Combine all salad ingredients in a bowl. Toss with dressing just before serving.

Be sure to visit all my favorite recipes in the HinesSight Blog Recipe section.




1.08.2014

Take Me to Warm St. Thomas for #IGTravelThursday

It's unusual for North Carolina, but we were in the deep freeze this week. It looked like this around here.



And temperatures got as low as 9 degrees in Raleigh.  That's cold for us, but it was in the negative numbers above the Mason-Dixon Line this week.

When I saw this Instagram photo from @TheRitzCarlton in St. Thomas this week, I swooned and it made me think of a tropical getaway.




I have not personally been to St. Thomas, but I've had the Ritz-Carlton there on my list of hotels as my number one choice to stay for years. Honestly, I've been waiting until my youngest child reached the age of 5 before going because that's the age where they can participate in the Ritz's Kid Club programs. It's not fun for the child or parent when one child has to be left behind due to age, but luckily, my family will be reaching that "all children over 5" milestone at the end of the year.

In addition to the regular children's programming, the St. Thomas Ritz Carlton is joining other Ritz-Carlton Hotels across the country by offering  a unique children's program and experiences for the entire family, featuring Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ambassadors of the Environment. The new programs look fantastic, and would be a great asset to any vacation. 

The Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas

It is no surprise that sunny, warm resorts are in demand this time of year. The Ritz Carlton St. Thomas has a special offer currently with daily breakfast, and a $100 daily resort credit. The hotel has a $62 resort fee daily, which is in addition to the room cost. One amenity that makes me swoon at this particular hotel though is Lady Lynsey, the resort's 53-foot catamaran. I'm so ready for a sunset cruise in the Virgin Islands one day. 
  
Other Luxury St. Thomas Accommodation Options
  
Frenchman's Reef and Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort 

Frenchman's Reef and Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort: This popular Marriott Resort was renovated and refreshed in 2011, and is the largest resort in St. Thomas. It, of course, is a sister property to the Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas. With a kid's splash pool, spa, several restaurants on-site, and rates below $500 per night, it is a good choice for the luxury traveler who doesn't want to entirely drain the piggy bank, but still get an upscale vacation experience. 

For those of you who may be weighing costs, it is my experience that Ritz-Carlton creates a less busy and a more tranquil environment in the public common areas. Rooms, especially bathrooms, are a step up in luxury and amenities, dining is usually top-notch, and the staff to guest ratio is typically higher, making a more superior level of service. However, the Marriott in St. Thomas looks absolutely beautiful, and as tranquil as ever, but it is a much larger resort than the Ritz. Overall, I think it will have a different feel based on what I know about the brands, but it still be a great place to stay. Two to three hundred dollars per night in price savings does add up in overall trip savings. 

The Marriott has $35 resort fee, but it is about half the price of its sister hotel. The hotel is offering several packages for this season, and I think the “The Best of St. Thomas for Less”package is one to consider.  I think it offers some lux for your bucks by allowing guests to choose three different experiences from four categories. The package is valid through March 15, 2014.

Marriott Frenchman's Cove in St. Thomas


Marriott Frenchman’s Cove is part of the Marriott Vacation Club. This 2-3 bedroom villa resort has no resort fee, free Wi-Fi, and complimentary parking. It’s located near the Frenchman’s Reef and Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort. Guests can stay at the property even if they are not timeshare owners. Space is usually limited though during peak season times. I think this would be an ideal choice for families seeking more space, but still want a luxury resort atmosphere. 

Join us for #IGTRAVELThursday. 


Do you have a great Instagram travel story to share? Read the linky rules below and join us this week (but don’t forget to grab our logo {here} and link to at least one of hosts in your post). If you are not a blogger, but have an Instagram account tag your lovely travel moments with #IGTravelThursday. No blog, no Instagram? You can still join in the fun by reading our IG-related travel stories and by giving us some feedback love!  If you want to host the IG Travel linky on your blog so that your readers can easily find our posts, you may use this,  get the InLinkz code

1.05.2014

Where Did the Past Three Years Go? What's Next?

It's hard to believe that it's been three years since I published my very first post on The Hines Sight Blog. When I sat down at my computer on that January day in 2011, I didn't know what I was doing here and I certainly didn't know the pleasure, friendships, and the opportunities that this blog was going to bring me in the future.

Leigh at the Siena Hotel in Chapel Hill. 


All I knew that I was a former TV journalist/public relations professional who needed a creative outlet to help me cope with my full-time job as a stay-at-home mom. Don't get me wrong, I loved having the choice to be able to stay home with my children, but I needed something else in my life. I had just turned 42 a few days earlier, and honestly, I was down. I wondered if my choice four years earlier to leave a good-paying job meant the end of a professional career for me.

About to turn 41, and welcomed a new daughter into our family. 40 was a special year.

This blog has enabled me to get back to my journalism roots, and really write about what I enjoy. I didn't have that joy when I was a working professional. It has helped me meet people in my community, leaders in the travel industry, and it has certainly made me realize that my best professional years are not behind me, but are yet to come.

Parenthood is hard. Being a stay-at-home mom is challenging. It's the hardest job I've done. 




I am a freelance writer now because of this blog. This blog will never be a money-maker for me, but it has been the platform to help me transition into another segment of my life. Because of this blog, I learned to Facebook, Tweet, and to Instagram. I now connect with four thousand individuals because of those accounts, and host an Instagram Travel-Link-Up with five other wonderful bloggers in the world. I have met so many local people that I enjoy hanging out with in my city through this blog. Life without the blog would not be the same. It doesn't define who I am, but it makes life seem whole.

The Hines family in Beaufort the year I started blogging (2011)


This blog helped me gain a luxury hotel writing portfolio that got the attention of the talented and wonderful professional blogger, Katja Presnal, owner of Skimbaco Lifestyle. She graciously has taken me under her wing, and has taught me so much about the blogging business world. I am on my second year of serving as her Luxury Travel Editor for Skimbaco Lifestyle. I helped recruit two of our amazing writers, and I'm excited to be in on the ground floor of something I think it is great. 2013 was a great year for the magazine.



This blog also caught the attention of editors at the News and Observer here in Raleigh.  For the past two years, I have been trusted with my own weekly column on the TriangleMom2Mom website. I share some of those stories here, but many of them you've probably never read. I wrote 47 pieces for the website last year, and here's a list of some of my favorites.



I have a special fondness for Christina Thigpen, with the Ballantyne Hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina because she was the first person who took a chance on me, and my hotel features. The Ballantyne was my first "Pack Your Bags" feature where I traveled on site to a property. Since the Ballantyne piece, I've now written about 20 hotel properties on this blog in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Canada. These travel/hotel features are my true passion, and it is what I love writing about more than anything else.

Leigh at the Ballantyne Hotel in Charlotte, NC in 2012


This blog remains my professional writing portfolio, but more importantly, I only write about things that interest me, and I hope it interests you as well. From a blogging business perspective, it's probably best if my niche was just travel, and this entire blog was travel focused.  However, travel is just a small part of my life and thanks to Katja, I can let travel be my entire focus for articles that I write on Skimbaco.

The Inn on Biltmore in 2013


Truthfully, I stay in Raleigh a good portion of each year. I'm not a jet-setter. I have to be on a budget like everyone else. I'm a parent. I have to cook meals for my family. I like to dine out. I like to share good recipes.I like to experience good restaurants.  I like to tell stories. That's the backbone of the Hines Sight Blog---my Southern Spin on Life.

Tea at the Umstead Hotel and Spa in 2013


I am still a full-time stay-at-home mom. Jack is now in second grade. He had not even started kindergarten when I wrote my first post. Liza had just turned one. She's now 4, and takes a lot of my attention. My time is stretched with all the writing that I do now, and I don't post here as often now as I once did when it was my only focus.

Leigh's children enjoying lunch at the Old Edwards Inn and Spa in 2013. 

I thank all of you for being with me on this ride. I will be taking my first press trip in a few weeks, and will be covering a hotel rebranding story for Skimbaco. I think 2014 will be an exciting year. I hope you continue to be a part of the journey.

Leigh on a solo trip to Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square in Toronoto, Canada


Leigh 




1.01.2014

#IGTRAVELThursday Tip: Learning the Best Time to Post

I spent the better part of New Year's Day analyzing things. At the request of my husband, I had to catch up on tracking my expenses. That caused me to notice that I bought a lot cupcakes in 2013. When I wanted to take a break from my expenses, I spent some time looking at my past Instagram photos, and studied Statigram statistics. It was not hard to notice that I not only spent a lot of money on cupcakes, but I also put my sweet tooth indulgences on Instagram.


This pink cupcake is currently the cupcake IG star of my feed.  No other cupcake got the attention that this sweet delight from Disney's Grand Floridian did on Instagram in 2013. The cupcake was good, but not as tasty as this cupcake that I devoured in Raleigh earlier in the year.


But yet, this cupcake did poorly in my IG feed. It made a debut at 6:49 pm on Thursday, Feb.28, 2013 with 11 likes. No one said, "Yum!" or "You're going to get fat!" or anything at all about the cupcake. I don't know what my follower numbers were in February, but my guess is that this photo was ignored by, at least 250 of you, when you scrolled through it on your feed.

We always want to make ourselves better so I started studying more of my photos, and looking at my engagement to see how I can improve this year. I also dug a little deeper into stats. Yes, I was avoiding those finances at all costs. For the first time, I took note of when my stats suggested would be the best time to post photos.

What is the Best Time to Post to Instagram?




For me, stats show that the afternoon from 12 pm to 5 pm on Monday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday is ideal. Thursday and Friday works best at 5 pm. Wednesday works best around 12 pm.

Guess what? I rarely post during these times at all unless I'm traveling because I'm usually at the bus stop, helping with my son's homework, breaking up sibling fights, prepping dinner, and living a very ordinary life as a mom.  I also miss a lot of your photos during this time frame, too because I am hardly ever looking at any photo this time of day.

These stats made me realize that I'm missing out on engaging with you so I'm going to try to post at different times in 2014, if possible. I'm not always consistent either due to the demands of motherhood, and I think we all know that consistency is important to build relationships. Katja discussed this topic in her Instagram book this year.

Many of my Skimbaco colleagues do a "Good Morning" photo every day. Unfortunately, I just don't get out enough or take good enough scenic photos to make that type of consistency work for me.  I am going to continue my #HinesSightBlogNC every weekend, but I've got to find the right time of day. I was doing Saturday around 10 am, but Statigram says 8 am is better.I'm still in bed at 8 am so that's not good. I may now shoot for Sunday afternoon around 4 pm.

I also did something else for fun as an experiment. I took the same photo, edited it differently for IG, and posted it on Wednesday, January 1 at 3:10 pm.




According to my stats, Wednesday is not the best day for me to post to Instagram. It appears to the be lightest day for my engagement. And, of course, this Wednesday just happened to be a holiday. But, already the photo has performed better this time around than last time.

Is the photo more appealing now that the focus is closer in on the cupcake? Do you think timing makes a difference?

What time of day do you use Instagram the most? How often do you view photos?

Let's start a discussion.


Join us for #IGTRAVELThursday. 


Do you have a great Instagram travel story to share? Read the linky rules below and join us this week (but don’t forget to grab our logo {here} and link to at least one of hosts in your post). If you are not a blogger, but have an Instagram account tag your lovely travel moments with #IGTravelThursday. No blog, no Instagram? You can still join in the fun by reading our IG-related travel stories and by giving us some feedback love!  If you want to host the IG Travel linky on your blog so that your readers can easily find our posts, you may use this,  get the InLinkz code






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