#OutaboutNC: Mermaids Exist and they're all Coming to North Carolina!

A media story like this one I'm sharing got me out of blog hibernation today. Why you say? From a journalism standpoint, this story is kind of like "Man Bites Dog"....a textbook journalism classic. It's a story that makes you giggle because we all want Mermaids to be real. When you believe in magic, life is just better.  Don't you agree?  And having a seven-year-old daughter, she would love the kid's portion of this conference.

For the second year in a row, merfolk from around the world will converge on the Greensboro Aquatic Center for a 3 day celebration of swimming, workshops and fellowship from January 20-22, 2017. Last year's event hosted approximately 300 mermaids from places as far away as France, England and Canada. It drew a large amount of media, including special segments on CNN and USA Today. This year's attendance number is projected to be even higher.
The convention utilizes the deep well pool at the GAC for leisure swimming as well as underwater photography and videography. Workshops are scheduled to be held both in the meeting facilities of the GAC which will include subjects such as underwater posing, merwrangling, aqua yoga and more. One of the most popular segments of last year's convention that returns this year is the children's programming; "Swimming and Storytime with a Mermaid." This is a ticketed event open to the public in which children can spend time learning about the ocean and learning to swim like merfolk. Trained professionals will read stories of the ocean with a special focus on conservation.

Merfolk, men and women who don swimmable fish tails, are a highly popular sub-segment of the cosplay community. "Mermaiding" as the hobby is called, has been around for decades but has recently been trending in popularity due to increased media coverage and viral articles on social media. Combining athletic swimming skills, creativity and a passion for conservation to inspire people through fantasy, hundreds of men and women now work as "professional mermaids" around the world. Typical work includes entertaining children, teaching mermaid swim schools and fitness classes, and educating the next generation on the ocean and its creatures. It is a lucrative and competitive field that has attracted a very diverse following. Merfolk come in all shapes, sizes, races and fin colors. The convention's aim is to bring people together who are interested in this unique hobby to share knowledge, resources and friendship. Open to both professional merfolk as well as those just starting out, there is something for everyone, including vendors of mermaid related gear and accessories.
"NC MerMania was born of a simple concept, a gathering of merfolk to swim together in friendship. A place where anyone with a tail would gather to feel welcome and that is the spirit that guides our efforts. It has grown beyond my wildest expectations into an event that garnered international media attention and an explosion of interest in this hobby. I am thrilled that Greensboro North Carolina can be the hub of this event," explained Daniel Craig, NC MerMania founder.

Visit my affiliate partner, Marriott.com for direct rate hotel savings to plan your trip to Greensboro, N.C. 


Do you really know what is in your lipstick? The answer is Lead.

Did you know that you digest a little bit of your lipstick every day? And unfortunately, when you do you are eating lead.  Cosmetic companies are not putting lead in your lipstick on purpose, but they are using preservatives to enhance color and those preservatives contain lead. When Personal Care Product Safety Laws haven't been changed since 1938, you are going to find a lot of harmful ingredients in the U.S, including lead.

We only ban 11 ingredients in the U.S. known to cause health risks. Europe bans 1400, and Beautycounter, the cosmetics company I endorse on this blog, bans 1500 ingredients known to cause health risks.  Education is the key to making us aware of what we are putting on our skin and bodies. Over time, exposure to these chemicals can cause damage to our health.  Because of the need for color, it's impossible to avoid lead altogether because it's a catch 22. You need a lipstick that performs well and colors in a lipstick, of course, are essential.  That's why we buy it.  We want to have beautiful color on our lips.

Starting today,  begin making smarter choices and know what you are buying. The EWG "Healthy Living" app can help you navigate smarter choices. Read up on this educational article about lead in cosmetics.
How lipstick can be dangerous. Know what is in  your products. #BetterBeauty

My hope for you is to make safer choices with your purchases. I don't want this blog to be just a gigantic ad with product promotion, but I share what I believe in here. I became a Beautycounter client a year ago then partnered with the company earlier this year on a deeper level because I will always purchase cosmetics and I trust this company. I trust the marketing, the "Never-List" and more importantly, I have the same passion and believe in changes like they do. I started buying cosmetics when I was 13 and never gave safety a thought. I want to start my daughter out on a different path and be confident that know what is in the ingredients she uses. Take the time to educate yourself on the cosmetic industry. This article from ABC News is GREAT START.

My favorite holiday lip sheer shade is Scarlet.  She retails for $30. Beautycounter offers 10 beautiful shades in its portfolio.

Healthy Lipstick: Scarlet by Beautycounter

The red is not an overpowering color at all.  Despite what people may think about red, it can go dramatic or soft. Here, I went soft.

Start making small changes now. Whether you mean to or not, lipstick enters our bodies. If you've been wanting to try Beautycounter and wasn't sure where to start, I recommend trying a lip sheer. The shades of Currant, Plum and Scarlet are perfect to brighten up a winter. Twig is one of the most popular neutrals sold. Rose is a beauty, but I like to bring her out in the Spring.

Choose Safe lipsticks: Beautycounter offers 10 shades

If you have a passion for making a change, email me at hinessightblog@gmail.com. Beautycounter sold 15 million in revenue last month, and we need more advocates to get safer products into the hands of everyone.

Disclosure: commission will be made on purchases


Christmas is Not about Waiting in Line at 4 a.m for Toys

Every year, there is something that puts parents into a holiday tailspin. I can tell you right now that the man in the red suit and white beard is not worried. If a noisy little thing that hatches out of an egg, called "hatchimals" is on your child's holiday wish list, relax right now, put on some stress away essential oil roll-on, which is a therapeutic perfume that is safe and good for you, and just stop the madness right now. No one needs to be in line at Walmart, ToysRUs, or Target at 4 a.m. to get a $70 toy that farts and makes noise.  And paying more than the suggested retail price is insane. I'm seeing $200 and up for the darn toy that may end up sitting on a shelf once it hatches. Articles about this thing and the lack of them are in the news right now for those who have no idea what I'm talking about in this post.

Hatchimal: The hottest toy of the 2016 Holiday season
Hottest Toy of the Year by Spinmaster: A Hatchimal

I first heard of this strange interactive "creature" that hatches out of an egg on Saturday when my own daughter put it at as one of the three things she told Santa in person at our neighborhood clubhouse party.  It's simple. Get something else and have Santa write a note. You can even copy mine. I don't have copyright issues on it, but hopefully, your child sleeps in their bed at night so you don't have that issue.

Dear Liza, 

I know you adore pugs and this little girl was not on your list, but she needed a home this year. I had a conversation with your elf, Jolly. He and I felt you were the perfect person to adopt her. You are loving and kind, which is what this little FurReal pup needs. I know you wanted a hatchimal this year, but so did a lot of other boys and girls. My elves just couldn't keep up with the demands. There were not enough for everyone to have one this Christmas, and many other toys like this sweet pup needed a home, too. I know you are a good little girl. I also heard that you need to stay in your own bed at night, too.  Jolly reveals all. You're getting bigger and this little pug can be your watchdog to keep you safe.  I bet your parents will buy you a hatchimal in 2017 as a reward for your hard work in school and for staying in your bed at night after you complete First grade.  Keep up the good work. 

Love, Santa

FurReal Pug

PS. Don't forget to share your doughuts with her.  This little pug has a sweet tooth just like you, but don't let her eat chocolate and she will certainly try.  Glaze doughnuts are fine, but don't let her eat chocolate because it's not good for her. When you are out of school over winter break, take her to Rise Doughnuts in Cameron Village because she'll love walking around the shopping center.  I put some extra money in your Mom's stocking for this outing, too. 

Parents, please don't waste your precious resources and time with this holiday toy madness. Santa is not the reason for the season. I know for those who have the means to afford it, we all want to make Christmas special for our children. But, this is an expensive toy that is simply not available right now and it is certainly not worth you waiting in line for at 4 a.m. or paying crazy prices just to have one under the tree. 

Spend time with your children this holiday.
My little Liza elf

Instead, sleep in a little and take the time to enjoy the season. Take your child to lunch, make cookies with them, or take in a holiday performance. The gift of togetherness will be what your children remember most through the years. 

This holiday, give the gift of helping others. Some of our school friends do a Raleigh Rescue Mission fund-drive every year. On the way to school the other day, I saw a man asleep on the sidewalk.  I did a story on this blog years ago when they did one when our 5th graders were in kindergarten. The Brewers are keeping up with the tradition. Trust me, there are more important things in the world that need your attention right now that stressing out over not finding a hatchimal. 

All toy links in this post are from Amazon.smile and any purchases support my children's elementary school. 


BBQ Chicken (or Turkey) Chili Recipe using True Made Foods Sauces

This post has been sponsored by True Made Foods in conjunction with NC Blogger Network. I received compensation in exchange for my honest opinion and review.

Since July, I've accepted very few campaigns or really have not done much writing in general on the HinesSightBlog. The why is simple. My husband told me that my priority was to get us moved to our new house, and get our other house ready to sale. 

We are living in our new house and I wish I could say that my home is picture perfect now, but that would be the biggest lie ever. I'm writing this post surrounded by boxes in my office, and at night, I watch TV on lawn chairs because we decided to purchase brand new living room furniture that may not even arrive til after the new year. We are in transition, to say the least. 

I am cooking, though, and I have a new recipe that incorporates some sauces with North Carolina ties. I still have lots to do around this house, but I accepted this campaign because the company believes in providing healthier choices for consumers. The day that my True Made Foods sauces arrived to try, it was cold enough here to enjoy chili. True Made Foods, a new D.C. start-up company, is making American food healthy, turning empty calorie foods into nutrient dense foods filled with fresh veggies. 

BBQ Chicken Chili w/True Made Foods sauces are filled with veggies. Half the sugar.

Let me tell you now that their sauces are finger-licking good. I loved each one and then I used all three when I cleaned out my pantry to make a BBQ chicken chili.  This company is reproducing America's favorite sauces - Ketchup, BBQ Sauce and Hot Sauce - but what is unique and appealing to people like me who want less sugar and artificial, is they are adding spinach, carrots and butternut squash to naturally sweeten these sauces which cut the added sugar in half. The carrots and butternut squash are from an Eastern North Carolina farm. 

The Ketchup tastes like the ketchup you expect but has half the sugar of top leading brands.. and tons of nutrition from the vegetables. True Made's Veracha is a 100% vegetable Sriracha - made from tomatoes, carrots, butternut squash, jalapenos, spinach and cayenne, it has all the flavor and no sugar. This stuff is fantastic. I've put it on everything lately. I'm addicted. I love these sauces and I love that I'm getting these vegetables even more. 

I don't even think I was supposed to review the BBQ sauce, but I love BBQ sauce and it's so hard to find a sauce without high fructose corn syrup on the market. True Made BBQ is delicious. It was the basis for my chili, but I look forward to baking BBQ chicken in the oven with it, too. 

These new healthier sauces can be found at Lowes Foods, Super Target and Whole Foods.

This recipe can be adjusted to what is in your pantry, but the secret is in the sauce.

I had never made a BBQ chicken chili before, and I found many recipes. I adapted several to fit what I had in the pantry so this is a Hines original without the Heinz ketchup that you know. Instead, this chili is certainly high fructose corn syrup free. 

With Thanksgiving approaching, you could use leftover turkey in place of chicken. I used chicken breasts that I had frozen in the freezer. You can use any beans you want. I chose white kidney beans and pinto beans because it was already in the pantry in addition to a green pepper, diced tomatoes, and an onion. If you are using leftover turkey or already cooked chicken, then you can reduce cooking time. I did my chili in the crock pot for eight hours on low. 

Enjoy. The secret to the goodness in this recipe is definitely the sauce. I highly recommend adding them to your pantry. 

Great weeknight meal on a cold day.  Quick and Easy BBQ Chicken Chili.

BBQ Chicken (Turkey ) Chili 

3 chicken breasts
28 ounces of diced tomatoes with juices
2 cups of chicken stock
1 can of pinto beans, drained and rinsed (black beans would have been even better)
1 can of white kidney beans, drain and rinsed
1 chopped onion
1 chopped green pepper
1/2 cup of True Made Foods BBQ sauce 
1/4 cup of True Made Foods Ketchup
1/4 cup of True Made Foods Veracha sauce (add more if you like spicier)
1 tsp of chili powder
some fresh chopped garlic
Himalayan Pink Sea Salt and Black Pepper to season

Cook on low for 8 hours. 

Serve with sour cream and cheddar cheese on top. I like to add a little True Mades Veracha sauce when serving. You could even add avocado. I now eat the Veracha sauce on plain avocados. So good. These new sauces have spiced up my house for the better. 

Learn more about True Made Foods and its sauces.


Personal: Autumn Spice and Everything Nice

Where do you begin after taking two months off from this blog? That has never happened before.  Unfortunately, I didn't come back today with a snazzy new design or rebrand. I'm just coming back to this writing space because I needed to get back to the HinesSightBlog. Life got in the way with buying a house, selling a house, moving, and serving as PTA President.  You know the drill. You have busy lifestyles, too.

It's not that I didn't have anything to say. It's just that I didn't have time to write it down. And my new house. Well, it's just a mess right now. But, that's OK.  I'm back now and I've got some stories to tell. Oh, so many stories and new ideas.

I'll be quick today and say that my kids are growing up. We had to get a creepy costume this year and he took to his role quite well. No more cuteness from him, I guess. And Wonder Woman?  Well, she knows  how to rock some Michael Kors gold boots and strike a pose.

In our new house, we gave out over 500 pieces of candy. It was quite a night.

During the past two months, I did write some freelance pieces for Skimbaco Lifestyle. Check out the fall edition of Autumn Spice.


Wellness + Wanderlust + Beauty +Moving = Personal News

I guess by now you have seen that the HinesSightBlog has been on a hiatus for posting. Summer has  a way of making that happen. I hope you are enjoying yours. Here's what is up with me.


Tips for Moving

The Hines are decluttering this summer. We've lived in our current house for twelve years, and in exciting news, we have a new home closer to downtown Raleigh under contract. We will close in the fall.  In every spare moment, I'm going through drawers, closets and getting our current house ready to sale. It's not on the market yet, but as soon as it is, you'll be the first to know.  It will be listed with Raleigh Realty Mom.  I can't wait to share more about our new home, but I will wait until after closing.


Beautycounter at Target

My partnership with Beautycounter is better than ever. I am meeting more and more people daily who want to look beautiful and use products that do not have health risks. Beautycounter bans 1500 ingredients from its products that are known to be unsafe and cause health risks such as hormone disruption, cancer and more. Beautycounter is about to have a special limited run in Target in September for nine weeks only.  It's an exciting time as we begin to reach 65 million new people with our brand. If you have a passion for the beauty industry and our message of #BetterBeauty, contact me. Beautycounter is looking for more consultants. I encourage each of you to also go to Target to learn more about the Beautycounter brand. I offer the full-size brand items on my website. Target will have smaller. limited-sizes and here is a preview.

Wellness + Wanderlust

Enjoy Life Oils Diffuser Jewelry Collection

I am so excited to be part of Skimaco Lifestyle's Wellness +  Wanderlust Magazine issue. I wear Katja's new jewelry design daily.  I love these necklaces. You can purchase this fabulous jewelry line off my site as well as learn more about Young Living Essential Oils in the magazine.  I've been a happy Young Living Member for over a year now. I have my favorite products  and will share more with you as you the year goes on.  One of the products I use is the Thieves Laundry Detergent. Jack just arrived home from camp. That laundry detergent plus a few drops of Purification Essential Oil has turned  me into a happy mama. All of his clothes are stain free and clean. In this issue, we have some great DIY Spa recipes and a terrific smoothie recipe.

Healthy Mint Smoothie Recipe

Read more in the magazine: https://issuu.com/skimbaco/docs/skimbaco_wellness_wanderlust_issue_/1


#OutaboutNC: NC Theatre's Production of Mary Poppins is "Practically Perfect" in Every Way

You know a live theatre show makes a strong impression when you leave the theatre singing the songs, and you are still singing the same songs the next day. Supercalifragillisticexpialidocius is not only hard to spell, but it's hard to get out of your head, too.

Photo  Credit: NC Theatre/Curtis Brown Photography

North Carolina's Theatre's Broadway Production of Disney and Cameron Mackintosh's Mary Poppins is a delight and you'll be singing for days.

The show opened last night in Raleigh for a six-day run through Sunday, July 31. I took Liza, and she knew nothing about Mary Poppins. She had never seen the movie.

I loved watching her eyes get as big as saucers as Mary Poppins flew across the stage with her umbrella.

Photo Credit: NC Theatre/Curtis Brown Photography 

Everyone's favorite magical nanny was played by Broadway Actress, Kara Lindsay. She charmed the audience in this role and I wish I could have hired her as my nanny on the spot.  I had the opportunity to see her facial expressions and her wonderful demeanor in this role. NC Theatre cast the perfect Mary "modern-day" Poppins.  Casting Lindsey in this role wasn't "practically-perfect", it was perfect Her sidekick, Bert, played by Nicolas Dromard, who perfected the same role in the Broadway version, dazzled and brought the house down with his "Step In Time" number. It was fantastic, and it's great to see a show incorporate classic tap.

Photo Credit: NC Theatre/Curtis Brown Photography 

The show is long (ended around 10:15 pm) so it may be late for some kids. An afternoon matinee may be their best option. Seeing performances like this in Raleigh make me feel so blessed that we can expose our children to the arts with performances rivaling the Broadway stage. Liza is six so this show is age appropriate. She is still singing today.

Mary Poppins is the last show of the season for the NC Theatre. The 2016-2017 new season will debut Monty Python's Spamalot in November. For more information on this show and next season, visit NC Theatre.com 

"A Spoon Full of Sugar Disclosure: #OutaboutNC is an in-kind media partner with NC Theatre due to my strong advocation of the Arts.  For this production, I coordinated blogger coverage on behalf of the NC Blogger Network. My tickets were complimentary, but my opinions of the show and that I like the Broadway show better than the movie is certainly my own. 


Beauty Product Spotlight: Nourishing Cleansing Balm by Beautycounter

I have a big confession. I had never ever used a cleansing balm before two months ago. It's important to note that contrary to what we might think, oil on the skin is a beautiful thing.  Honestly, I really didn't know that fact until three years ago when I visited a luxury spa and the esthetician said I need an oil. She then put a $189 oil on the counter for me to buy.  I admit, I've probably gone without a lot of clothes, shoes, purses (things most women splurge on) due to my hair and beauty expenses over the years.  It's just the one place I would never cut in a budget. Beauty products have been my "thing". We all have a thing. Some of you, it's shoes. My love affair with the cosmetic industry goes back to my childhood when all I wanted for Christmas when I was 13 was Lancôme's beauty gift basket. 

But, I do have my limits when it comes to money and that face oil product cost from the spa would probably end my marriage. However, I did exactly as she suggested. I started using oils on my skin and thus began my journey of learning more about oils.

I tried less expensive oil concoctions (Tarte brand and I even tried to make my own unsuccessfully) since that eye-opening spa visit. A couple of months ago, I started consistently using the Soothing Beautycounter oil on my skin along with two Young Living essential oils that I add. (I will talk about that in the future). Many of my friends make their own oils from scratch, which they love. They have the talent for DIY and know just the right ingredients and mixes to use. I've let Beautycounter do the work for me instead. I use my soothing oil alone after a day in the sun or I add one drop to my moisturizer when needed. The Hydrating oil is a little too much for my skin in the summer. The Balancing oil is great for combination skin and for redness. All are wonderful oils, but I prefer the Soothing for me. 

I thought I had the perfect routine until I learned more about the Nourishing Cleansing Balm. 

Thanks to my girlfriend who purchased the Beautycounter Cleansing Balm from my website, and texting me after one application, "O.M.G. the Nourishing Balm is amazing. I'm going to order another one for my Mom," I ordered it the next week.  

There are a lot of cleansing balms out there, at various price points. Shape magazine highlighted its favorites in this article, and Beautycounter made the list.  However, not all balms are good for your health.  If you check the EWG database, many products on the market contain natural ingredients, but also synthetic products with man-made fragrances, and other ingredients that Beautycounter puts on its "Never-List" of 1500 products it bans for health risks. After a lot of debate and concern, a lot of other beauty companies are doing better with safer products,  but there still are a lot of trade secrets where ingredients do not have to be revealed. Beautycounter, a transparent Corporation B company, lobbies often in Washington for the #BetterBeauty movement that calls for stricter personal care regulations.   In order to get safer hands in the products of everyone, Beautycounter has partnered with Target for a limited pop-up shop this fall. After that pop-up shop, the products will only be available through consultant websites or through a consultant directly.

Personal Care Safety Regulation Laws have not been changed since 1938. The U.S bans 11 ingredients known to cause health risks from personal care products while Europe bans 1400. 

At 47, I've put a lot of toxic stuff on my skin. That' done. I can only move forward. Studies show that removing toxic products can reverse endocrine and hormone charges. It's never too late to change so I'm not looking back at the past and am moving forward with safer ingredients. 

I still use a cleanser in the shower, but I'm finding myself using my cleansing balm more and more. It provides an outstanding hydration and feels so luxurious after a day at the pool with the kids. 

A little bit goes a very long way. A jar will last at least six months and could last even longer. As soon as you take it in your hands, it begins to soften. 

It has Vitamin C so I leave it for a few minutes and do other things like brushing my teeth so that it has time to penetrate my skin. I then remove it with the 100 % muslin cleansing cloth included with the balm in upward circular motions. I use the cleansing cloth with warm water. 

That's it. Any trace of makeup is entirely gone. I then follow up with my normal skincare routine.

This is a Beautycounter  Best-seller and I've sold many to clients. I really love this product and I think I've loved it even more during the hot summer. 

Shop my Beautycounter website. Your purchases help the #BetterBeauty movement and the costs of  running this blog.

Disclosure: My opinion on Beautycounter cannot be bought through a commission. I was a client for many months before choosing to partner with this company. As a partner with Beautycounter, I receive discounts on the products I use and I actively am part of the company's sales compensation plan. If you are passionate about health safety and no health risks for using beauty products, join us. I would love to be your mentor and supporter in educating others that all women can have beauty without health risks. 


Spa Secrets from Forbes 4-Star-The Spa at Ballantyne in Charlotte

Charlotte, N.C has a jewel in the heart of the city. It's close to everywhere. Think Carowinds, the Discovery Place, and the Whitewater Rafting Center, but yet when you go to this luxury resort, you escape the hustle and bustle of tourism. It's peaceful here. There is a resort pool, a championship golf course, and a luxury spa. It has everything you could ask for and more. 

The Ballantyne Hotel and Spa in Charlotte, N.C.

Starwood's Luxury Collection, The Ballantyne Hotel and Spa, is a destination in Charlotte all of its own and it's ok to come here and never leave the property if you want. That's a play from my own playbook.  I did that this Spring with a girlfriend and guess what folks....we never left the grounds. Not once. And we loved every minute of it. 

Ballantyne Selfie 

A Girl's Spa Getaway-The Carolina Lavender Treatment 

The Spa at Ballantyne Features the Carolina Lavender Treatment

The Ballantyne is about a two and half hour drive from Raleigh. A relaxing spa weekend away from kids was the goal. My friend chose a facial. I chose a treatment from the Carolina Lavender Collection. This spa series is exclusive the to the Ballantyne, and the spa uses fresh grown lavender grown in York, S.C. 

In aromatherapy, Lavender has many healing effects on the body. When compounded down to essential oil, it's one of the most versatile oils sold on the market. Some call it the "Swiss Army Knife of the Essential Oil World." 

All About Lavender

In this exclusive treatment series, I chose The Carolina Lavender Body Wrap where the body is exfoliated with a lavender body scrub, followed by a lavender shea butter body mask. While wrapped in warm linens, you enjoy an invigorating foot and scalp massage. You end your treatment with the softest skin ever, more relaxed and with a cup of lavender tea and lavender infused dark chocolate, all made and created by La Bastide des Lavandes. 

Luxury Spa Secrets to Use at Home

Relaxing Spa Tips for Use at Home by the Ballantyne Hotel and Spa

When I go to these spas, I do relax, but I am typically on assignment, too. That means I'm finding news that you can use in your daily lives. The number one spa tip I learned on this trip is the importance of body exfoliation. We all should be doing this weekly at home.

Yes, that's right. I said weekly.  

Unless you are Bill Gates, and can afford a $135 treatment weekly at a spa like the Ballantyne, most people need to exfoliate at home with a sugar scrub. Pick a day and do it. 

You can buy a sugar scrub, but make sure it is all-natural. Many products on the market have artificial fragrances and other chemicals that will absorb right into your skin. The label may say natural, but that is not entirely true. The Beautycounter line that I endorse has a citrus and brown sugar scrub that is luxurious and moisturizing and has an EWG rating of a safe green.  Do your homework. Look at the EWG database for product safety. 

For example, this popular spa product didn't score well based on its ingredients nor did this one by Tree Hut, both of these products are sold at big beauty stores. 

But again, don't be fooled on what you think is natural even  brands like the popular Burt's Bees, well-known for being natural sometimes don't always score well because of a few ingredients, mainly artificial fragrances. It's the biggie no-no that gets most personal care products and because the U.S. personal care laws have not changed since 1938, beauty companies are protected by chemist trade secrets and they do not have to be revealed to the consumer. 

Save Money: Make Your Own Sugar Scrubs

DIY Spa Beauty

And you can also save money by making your own sugar scrubs. It's really simple. They can be tailored to your own preferences, and typically take about 5 to 8 drops of a good essential oil to get the health benefits from it. 

An easy recipe: 
3/4 cup of Sugar (you can use brown, organic, or white) 
1/4 cup of Oil ( you can use olive, coconut, grape seed and even almond) 
5-8 drops of Lavender Essential Oil (Lavender is one of the versatile in a Young Living Starter Kit, an essential oil brand I use. ) 
Store in an airtight container. Make your own label and you are set for your sugar scrub routine. 

Initial cost: Less than $15 for your first sugar scrub, but many of you already have sugar and olive oil in your pantry. A 5ml bottle of Lavender from Young Living contains 85 drops. A 15ml bottle has 250 drops. Learn more about this company's Seed to Seal process. 

The Ballantyne uses lavender and grapefruit mostly in its scrubs. Both are great for the skin and even grapefruit essential oil has been to know to help tone and tackle cellulite. 

Exfoliate Correctly

It's best if you do not wet your skin before exfoliating

But, when you exfoliate, you need to do it correctly and according to the Ballantyne, this is key to the product working correctly. 

The product does not work as well when your skin is wet. It does not have the same impact as it does on the body dry. 

It's best to get in the shower, use the product all over your skin when it is dry and then scrub off. 

Also, do not use soap except on key parts of your body when needed. Let the oils penetrate and do their job. 

Follow up with a good hydrating Lavender lotion, hydrating butter type cream or your own DIY lotion/oil blend. (note: The recipe I linked calls for an overwhelming amount of Essential Oil. Based on my experience using Young Living Oils, and it's potent quality I suggest using less than 20 drops if using this particular recipe.)

Best Hotel Bets for Pampering Yourself at the Ballantyne Spa in Charlotte, N.C. 

The Ballantyne offers several day spa and overnight packages for the spa. The Girl's Getaway Package is a great bet with a $200 spa credit per night, a cocktail flight for tasting in the Gallery Bar. 

The Ballantyne also offers a great spa lunch just for spa guests. And if you are traveling with your family, you can purchase Carowinds tickets at the hotel plus take advantage of the Summer Getaway package.  (Sunday-Thursday stays). This includes a $50 resort credit and rates begin at $229. 

In addition, my blog affiliate partners Hotels.com and Expedia.com have  room rate specials under $250 per night for a room.

Disclosure: Some links in this post will result in a direct commission if purchased from my site. Thank you for your business and supporting my writing. Some experiences at the Ballantyne were done through #OutaboutNC Travel Marketing and were complimentary and reduced as part of media.  As with all of my stories, I carefully research my stories and any direct retail commission does not influence my written words and opinions. 


First Resort in the Yosemite Region in more than 25 years is Ready for Guests

El Capitan-Kim Carroll Photography 

Rush Creek Lodge officially opened to guests, welcoming guests to the first resort in the Yosemite region in more than 25 years.

Conveniently located less than a mile from the park’s west entrance, the 143-room rustic modern resort is nestled on 20 wooded acres and offers an abundant array of activities for families and couples alike.

Rush Creek Resort Hillside Villa-Kim Carroll Photography 

  • Ideal for creating unforgettable getaways inspired by nature, the resort’s Lodge Rooms, Suites, and Hillside Villas ($215-$495) all feature decks overlooking the wilderness, the majority with sunset views.
  • Everyone can fuel up for the day at the resort’s restaurant or tavern offering fresh, hearty California cuisine.  The restaurant’s open display kitchen showcases a wood-fired oven and cozy hearth and features indoor/outdoor seating options. 
  • Kids can enjoy the striking mountain scenery from high above the ground during a zip-line adventure and cannonball into the 2,400 square foot, salt water pool.
  • Adult guests can head to the hills for a crowd-free, guided hike offered by the resort’s full-service recreation department  featuring over 30 guided excursions and wellness programs, or steal away for a soak in the hot tub just for grown-ups.

Architect Rendering

The resort is just a 3-hour drive from the San Francisco Bay Area along scenic Highway 120, the most direct route to Yosemite from the Bay Area, and with year-round access to the Park.

Resorts like this usually reserve years in advance so get in on the ground floor now with reservations. 

Reservations can be made directly with the hotel, Hotels.com is offering 10 percent off, and reservations can be made on Expedia

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.


Can't Stop the "Raleigh" Feeling: Summer Happiness

Yesterday, I got a text that said: "be at our elementary school at 3 p.m. because one of our alums is making a video and he wants us in it."

Due to an appointment, we couldn't make it, but our Principal and other Washington friends danced away. I love it.

Our school is rich in history and is a historic landmark in downtown Raleigh. It was built in 1923.

No doubt. I love Raleigh. Here is the video courtesy of Triangle Traveler of Raleigh and  Co.

I was so bummed that I missed that when the same song came on the radio last night, I decided to do my own dancing on Instagram.


Lifestyle: Practical and Classic Gift Ideas for Dad (From Travel to Accessories)

Will and I have known each other sixteen years now. Sometimes I think back to that summer where we met in 2000, and try to pinpoint the qualities that he possessed that drew me to him and why I stuck around. He's a perfect Dad and husband, but I didn't know that then.

It sounds silly when you write it out, but Will was and still is a very classy individual. Will thrives on planning for the future in a fiscally responsible way.  He knows the difference between his wants and his needs and thinks about every purchase he makes. 

Sometimes, people who are known to be frugal in life are not given the true accolades they deserve. My husband is not cheap by any means. He likes quality. He buys very little, but when he does, it is usually very good quality and then he wears until he gets his money worth. 

He's not into fads and trends. He's timeless. He's classic. He's like a classic, luxury hotel resort in many ways. No wonder I love him and hotels so much. 

He does not buy a product just to buy a name. He does not care to impress anyone. He buys something because he likes the quality and believes in the quality the item possesses. If he buys something and it doesn't live up to his expectations, he will probably never buy the brand again. 

Will has needed a new wallet for quite awhile now.  He has owned and used the same Hartmann wallet for the past twenty years. It's on his last leg. Seriously, the driver's license ID is about to pull away at the seam.

He has loved this wallet and the quality that Hartmann provides with its leather goods. Both he and I own Hartmann luggage and have been very happy with our purchases. This American-made company has been in business since 1877 and makes travel and leather accessories. Will has been so pleased with his wallet that he knew that he wanted to get the exact same wallet. He just had not bought it yet. Priorities like summer camps, two trips to Asheville (You know me...it is not just run and up and drop off or pick-up. It's now a vacation with four nights at two different hotels) and probably a new air compressor on my Audi. 

The good news for Will is that he is getting this wallet as a  Father's Day as a surprise. I was contacted by the company last week asking if I was working on any Father Day's stories. I told them his current wallet story and together, we decided this was a story to share. His brand new wallet is here courtesy of Hartmann. Even if I had not done this public story, he would have replaced his wallet with the same one. 

Practical and Classic  Gift Ideas for Dad (Hartmann Wallet)

Will has been supportive of my blog, and quite honestly, I've spent a lot of time here in this space without a paycheck, dinner has been late on the table because of a deadline so I'm glad to be able to give him this gift instead of him buying it himself. 

I have put together a few other ideas for good gifts in addition to the wallet. You already know his wallet's back history. It retails for $185. Will used his Hartmann wallet for twenty years.  There is a good change on this model though. The ID section comes out so if you wanted to take your ID and a room key to the pool then that it all you would need to take. I think that is an upgrade that he will enjoy. 

Hartmann wallet for Father's Day

I also think the Hartmann travel kit would be nice for Dad.  It retails for $135.  If you wanted, you could fill it with some of the necessary items I've included on my list. 

Hartmann Travel Kit for Father's  Day

My other gift idea for Dad is very practical and that is a good sunscreen.  Whether  he is playing golf, on the beach, or mowing the lawn, sunscreen is important. Will was diagnosed with melanoma last year and we caught it early, but sunscreen is at the top of our list. I've got Beautycounter sunscreen ready to go for our trip to the beach. It's one of the best-rated sunscreens on the market according to the EWG database.  I have both the lotion and stick packed for our annual beach trip with Will's family. 

Beautycounter sunscreen

If  you have a Dad who uses a regular razor then Young Living's shaving cream is ultra luxe and conditions the skin. Made with pure essential oils and moisturizing botanicals, Shutran™ Shave Cream delivers an incredibly close, smooth shave. Combining hydrating palm, grape seed, and olive oils, naturally derived vitamin E complex, and mango and cocoa butter, this luxurious shave cream provides a frictionless glide to reduce razor burn and nicks. There is also the Shutran Essential oil, which acts a cologne for me. It is a clean scent designed for gender-neutral use, and more importantly, it is free of harmful synthetic fragrances. 

lux shaving cream by Young Living

My final gift idea is travel. Even Dad needs a night away in a luxury hotel.  I think Dad deserves a massage. Many men will never book their own appointments so I think it's up to the wife to do it. I have two ideas for North Carolina. 

Treat Dad to a Hotel Stay at the Umstead Hotel in Cary, N.C.

The first is in Cary, N.C at the Umstead Hotel and Spa.  If your Dad is over 50, then you can get the AARP rate which is $360 for the night. Will is now eligible for this. I think I will one day take advantage of it. But, the best deal is the Summer Escape Deal with $100 property credit to be used in the spa or restaurant. It is $449 for the night. Even if you don't spend the night, drinks or dinner at the Lobby Bar is a great night out. We did this recently with family and loved it. 

Charlotte Ballantyne Summer Savings Perks.

The Ballantyne Hotel in Charlotte, N.C. is located on a golf course so it Dad loves to golf then this is a perfect getaway, and it happens to have a great spa on site as well. The hotel has golf packages, but the Summer Getaway package is a bargain. Rates begin at $229 and include a $50 resort credit. I just returned from the Ballantyne and cannot speak highly enough about the resort. I think Dad and you would love it. They also have a great afternoon tea. Will loves afternoon tea, too.  But, he likes beer even better. The Ballantyne is hosting the Ballantyne Beer Garden  on  Sunday, July 3 from noon to 7 p.m. on the South lawn of the hotel.  This pop-up Ballantyne Beer Garden will feature live music, local beer, a cookout, and prizes. There will be no admission fee and is open to the public. Menu items will be available à la carte.

Happy Father's Day! 

Be sure to follow the #OutaboutNC community on Instagram to know more about North Carolina travel.  Also, shop my sidebar for your latest vacation or overnight via Marriott, Expedia, Hotels.com and Living Social. 

Disclosure: Per FTC guidelines so you can weigh a blogger's words and opinions, no monetary compensation was exchanged for this post, but there are affiliate links. Will's replacement wallet was a gift from Hartmann. 


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