Personal: An Old-Fashioned Holiday Note to You

You probably have pies in the oven, are up to your eyeballs in Christmas bows, or are running around getting those last minute stocking stuffers. The last place that I hope you will be is on the internet, but nonetheless, I wanted to take a few minutes to wish all of the HinesSightBlog readers and social media friends a very Merry Christmas.

I feel as if this month has flown by, and it makes me very sad. As parents, we are already busy then we must add holiday concerts, shopping, baking, and meal planning into the mix.  I've yet to visit my neighbors to take them holiday goodies. I've got ingredients sitting on my counter to make fudge. The fudge is not made. I've got holiday cards that still need to go in the mail. My house looks as if someone has ransacked it. Everything is unfinished.

I've run out of time. The holidays are here.

 I could not let this day pass without sending you a holiday greeting. I would prefer for it to be the old-fashioned way, a handwritten note in the mail, but this will have to do.

I'll soon be approaching  my 5th year of owning this website, and I've gotten to know many of you who stop by here frequently or talk to me on social media. I appreciate you.

May you hold the magic of the season close to your heart.
Merry Christmas, 


12 Photos #OutaboutNC in December

North Carolina is gorgeous 365 days a year, but there is something about December that makes my home state magical. For today's post, I turn to my #OutaboutNC community on Instagram to share with you some of my favorite photos tagged this month.

The Ocean Isle Flotilla by BadPuppyBlues.
 Cameron Village in Raleigh for the holidays by MegHereThere

Bellamy Mansion in Wilmington, N.C. by Allisonbarrettc

Beautiful poinsettias at Homewood Nursery and Garden Center by tdubhokie

The State Capitol Christmas Tree by Santiago2274

A Richmond County Christmas by AbbyFreeman2

Christmas Trees for sale in downtown Durham by WickedBaking.

The N.C. Governor's Mansion at Christmas by Spcoggins

 The NC Chinese Lantern Festival in Cary, N.C by vkearns.
The Angus Barn in Raleigh, N.C. is a North Carolina tradition for the holidays by @RaleighWhatsUp

A coastal North Carolina Christmas by CoastalbyDesign

And finally...from my family to yours, Merry Christmas. Liza in Cary, N.C. via my account @HinessightBlog

Remember to tag your photos #OutaboutNC and be sure to sign up for special OutaboutNC news on the sidebar.


Santa's Nightcap: A Healthy Vanilla-Almond Cocktail

Forget milk for Santa this year. Instead, make him a nightcap that packs a little protein punch for his sleigh ride home.

Santa's Nightcap: A Healthy  Vanilla-Almond Cocktail. It's delish, and packed with a protein punch, too.

He'll love this drink's sweetness so much that he won't even need to eat any cookies. The secret in this drink is Young Living Pure Protein Complete Powder. Usually, I use the powder in a smoothie with fruit, but I decided to mix it with vanilla almond milk, and a touch of cinnamon instead.

Santa's Nightcap: A Healthy  Vanilla-Almond Cocktail. It's delish, and packed with a protein punch, too.

I used a cocktail shaker to mix this virgin cocktail with ice. It was delicious.

It also got me to thinking. What would it be like with a shot of Kahlúa?

It's dreamy. I'm not saying Santa needs Kahlúa in his mug, but you may.

I imagine if I added some of my favorite  North Carolina made TOPO vodka to the recipe that it would be very much like a White Russian.

Santa's Nightcap: A Healthy  Vanilla-Almond Cocktail. It's delish, and packed with a protein punch, too.

Santa's Night Cap

8 ounces of vanilla almond milk
1 scoop of vanilla Young Living Pure Protein Complete-Vanilla Spice
A dash of powder cinnamon

*A shot of Kahlúa is optional. 

Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Pour into glass mug or highball glass. A dash of powder cinnamon on top.

Young Living also makes a chocolate flavored protein powder, too. There is also a vanilla rice-based protein powder which is fabulous. It's finally back in stock.

Santa's Nightcap. A healthy cocktail or mocktail packed with Young Living Protein Powder, Vanilla Spice. Delicious and perfect when you want a little sweetness, but not something unhealthy.

Learn more about Young Living products and how you can get on the path of wellness and a holistic lifestyle. Sign up for my emails with ideas and wellness information.

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Small Victories Sunday Linkup


Our linkup is designed to share your BEST posts to inspire our fast growing community of readers. Share with us anything that will help others live a happier and healthier life. Sunday is the perfect day to reflect and celebrate the week that passed and look forward to the week ahead. Our linkup is open all week long so feel free to stop by anytime, it's never too late to linkup with us. If you need writing prompts or to see past linkups, visit our main Small Victories Sunday Linkup page.

Ways You Can Follow Your Hosts:
Your Small Victories Sunday Linkup Hosts: Mom's Small Victories, Sunshine and Sippy Cups, The Mad Mommy, Frugal & Coupon Crazy, GeminiRed Creations, Keystrokes by Kimberly, Tidbits of Experience, Hines-Sight Blog, Simply Save, All Inspired Mom, Oh My Heartsie Girl, O Taste and See, Shandra White Harris and One Hoolie Mama

Tanya M from Mom's Small Victories (books, food, chronic illness)| Pinterest | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Google + 
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Echo from The Mad Mommy (family/parenting, humor)| Pinterest | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Google +
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Crystal from Tidbits of Experience (family, entertainment, books) | Pinterest | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Google + 
Leigh from Hines-Sight Blog (lifestyle, food, travel) | Pinterest | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Google + 
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Shandra from With Heart Wide Open (life, faith, family)| Pinterest | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter Suzanna from One Hoolie Mama (family, recipes, fitness)| Pinterest | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Featured Blogger

Each week, I like to feature at  least one post that caught my eye. This week, I am featuring Silver Foodie with this simple and elegant cashew and blueberry salad. 

Now It's Your Turn to Share Your Favorite Posts and Small Victories!
Mom's Small Victories
* Follow your hosts.
* Grab the Small Victories Sunday button and place it in your sidebar or the post you are linking up. * Share up to 3 of your favorite blog posts you want to share. Enter your link below and let’s celebrate our small victories together! Please refrain from linking up posts with mature themes like erotica, new adult or offensive language. * Please comment on the 2 posts ahead of you for every link you enter. This linkup only works if we support one another, your visits are crucial to fellow participants. * By linking up, you are giving the hosts permission to share your post and post images on their social media pages and our Featured Blogger collage. * By linking up, you are giving the hosts permission to email you notifications when the linkup is open. Your email addresses are not shared and you can unsubscribe to emails at any time. * Stop by our Small Victories Sunday Linkup Board on Pinterest and like and repin the posts to your boards. * Spread the word! The more you share about the linky, the more visitors you will get to your content too. Please use the #SmallVictoriesSundaylinkup hashtag so we can find your posts and share them too!
Be sure to follow our Small Victories Sunday Linkup Board and repin these great ideas to your Pinterest account!


Holiday Gift Guide: Give the Gift of Good Food and Family Connections

Food.  That word is in my vocabulary a lot. In fact, I think about food a lot. I plan what I'm cooking for dinner. I plan where I want to make a dinner reservation. I plan what I want to come in my weekly produce order. I plan with my daughter on what she wants in her lunch box.  I think it's safe to say that everyone likes good food, and everyone needs it in their lives.

Foodie Gift Ideas. Give the Gift of Good Food and Family  Connections.

Truthfully, edible bites are a holiday gift that fits everyone. My wise uncle used to give cash for Christmas because he said that it is  always the "right color, fits everyone, and no one returns it." I see culinary items in the same light. I'll take it one step further and say that we all need to spend more time with each other around a dinner table, whether it is at home or in a restaurant. This is something that the Europeans do so much better than Americans. Here, it is all about fast and quick with drive-thru windows and eating quickly at your work desk. Many may say that today's society "works all time time and has the freedom to work anywhere." If that is truly the case then you should take some time to eat lunch in a restaurant that focuses on locally sourced, sustainable ingredients once in a while with your co-workers and order a cup of coffee after lunch, too. Discuss business and connect with each other.  You may get more accomplished than you think.  Food can create so many connections and memories.

Here are a few gift ideas to help families connect with each other around food or gifts for the foodies on your list.

Holiday Food Gift Baskets

Chapel Hill-founded Southern Season is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. Great place for foodie gifts online at Southerseason.com

North  Carolina has lots of great products made locally from chocolates to cookies to coffee. There's not a better place to shop for the largest selection than Southern Season in the Southeast. The original store is located in Chapel Hill, N.C. and you could spend hours going through this store. The store is celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year, and a top gift is the anniversary sampler. Everything in it is delicious, but I have two absolute favorites: The Moonshine Cordials and Chapel Hill Toffee.

Everyone loves Food. Southern Oak Gift Company has reasonable prices for the foodie wrapped up in adorable packages.

For my local friends, the Southern Oak Gift Company is a new business.It offers a great gift basket for $30 with the Chapel Hill Toffee, Videri Chocolate, and Salem Baking Cheese Straws., This company also produces the famous Moravian cookies that I learned about on my #OutaboutNC trip to Winston-Salem. You could even include your own wine or craft beer in it. I have a few suggestions for wine based on my #OutaboutNC Yadkin Valley Wine Trip. Jones von Drehle,  Shelton Vineyard, and McRitchie Winery and Ciderworks are available in Southern Season in the  Chapel Hill store, and some grocery and wine shops.

NC Made has the perfect gift for foodies. N.C. is known for its BBQ so this gift is perfect for the BBQ explorer.

N.C. is known for it's BBQ. NCMade.net has the North Carolina Barbecue box with hush puppy mix and famous BBQ sauces from the eastern part of the state and the piedmont. They are two distinct styles. You can also travel N.C. in search of forming your own opinion about our BBQ with a map to the best in the state.

The Gift of a Nice Dinner for your Family

wood grilled “crostinis” or "little toasts" in Italian are a new Il Palio specialty.  Guests can order house made ciabatta bread that has been slightly charred and smoked over the wood coals, imbuing the bread with a rich smokey flavor. The crostinis are then topped with extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and 10-12 different options, from traditional salt cod mantecato (whipped Venetian salt cod) to luxurious chicken liver mouse, house-made ricotta and local honey or warm Dungeness crab salad. The crostini section also encourages table sharing as well as a great opportunity for appetizers for our guests at the bar.
Wood  grilled “crostinis” or "little toasts" in Italian are a new Il Palio specialty.  Guests can order house made ciabatta bread that has been slightly charred and smoked over the wood coals, imbuing the bread with a rich smokey flavor. The crostinis are then topped with extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and 10-12 different options, from traditional salt cod mantecato (whipped Venetian salt cod) to luxurious chicken liver mouse, house-made ricotta and local honey or warm Dungeness crab salad. The crostini section also encourages table sharing as well as a great opportunity for appetizers for guests at the bar. 

I believe food dining should be an experience. I'm not talking about going to your local Chilis or Outback Steakhouse. No. No. Absolutely not! I realize dining out like what I am recommending can be expensive,  but the experience of being together in a nice restaurant where a culinary-trained chef leads the kitchen is an experience you will never forget. This is why I am suggesting giving the gift of dining out in a locally-owned restaurant for your family this holiday.

I have a whole list of restaurants that I would recommend in my hometown. A good place to start would be OpenTable in your area.  You may want to dine before the holiday or anytime in 2016.  If you wanted to get a head start, I'm going to recommend Il Palio in the Siena Hotel in Chapel Hill, N.C. I'll be sharing my family experience at the hotel soon on the blog, but this is an example of the type of culinary experience I'm recommending for you to do at least once a year to start.  Il Palio is one of the top-ranked Italian restaurants in North Carolina, and because it is a hotel restaurant, it is used to serving children as well. For a family of four, your bill will be over $100 but it is an experience that is absolutely worth the splurge.

 Executive Chef Teddy Diggs has even cooked dinner for President Obama. I think it's fun to say, "Hey, my chef cooked for the President and now he's cooking for me."  And he really did it on the night we dined, and it wasn't because I was press, but because he's that's hands on in his kitchen. It's a busy time for him and he was down a chef that night.

Chef Diggs got the ultimate compliment from Liza. And we learned he actually did flip her burger. She told him, "My burger was cooked perfectly." He has  had lots of practice. He has two children around the same age of my kids, and he told us that he has burger night for them at the restaurant at least once a week.

Il Palio now brings something special to North Carolina for the holiday season. The Feast of the Seven Fishes is a seven-course seafood tasting menu that is custom to holiday tradition in Italy. The cost is $82 per person. The Feast of the Seven Fishes is often served in Italian households on La Vigilia (Christmas Eve), a night that traditionally calls for a partial fast during which no meat should be served. Over time, the evening’s “fast” transformed into course after course of luxurious seafood dishes, often as many as seven, 10 or 13. While few are entirely sure of the significance of the number of courses, the meal carries great traditional symbolism, and most importantly, provides a celebrated opportunity for families and friends to gather. 

Give the Gift of Farm-To-Table Produce

I adore my weekly local produce box from Papa Spud's. I feel as if I'm eating healthier and saving money, too. I am also able to support one of North Carolina's top industries: farming. My weekly box is about $24 a week so a great gift idea would be one month of produce delivery for your family or friends.  It's the gift of eating fresh.

Give the Gift of Helping Others Put Food on the Table

I'm saving this gift idea for last because I feel it is most important. Many families need our help, and the Food Bank of Eastern and Central North Carolina is doing its best to make sure families don't go hungry.

  • A gift of $35 will feed a child for two months
  • A gift of $85 will provide groceries to an elderly couple for over two months
  • A gift of $120 will provide enough food to sustain a family through the winter months
  • A gift of $210 will provide more than 1,000 piping hot holiday meals to local families


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