4.28.2017

Escape to the Mountains #OutaboutNC Style: Five Ways to Cool Down in Jackson County, NC

The mountain towns of  Asheville, Boone, Blowing Rock get named a lot in national travel guides. But, the North Carolina mountains have many more towns that offer outdoor adventure for tourists that are within easy reach and can be a day-trip for those who want to stay closer to Asheville.  


Jackson County, NC-Pinnacle Park Hike. Escape to the Mountains #Outaboutnc STYLE


Jackson County, which is made up of the town of Cashiers, Cherokee, Dillsboro, Sylva, Balsam, Glenville, and Sapphire Valley has a plethora of trails, perfect for hiking, backpacking or biking, wind through a variety of landscapes ranging from picturesque peaks to rolling valleys, and lead way to several natural ways to cool off on a warm day. Whether the journey leads to a waterfall pool, high-flying fun or an evening taking in the local culture, adventure for all levels awaits here. 

And let's just say this North Carolina girl knows this area is cool. I lived in Cullowhee, N.C, home to Western Carolina University, as a child and teen before going to UNC-Chapel Hill for college. 

I've written a lot about Highlands and Cashiers on the blog with my visit to the Old Edwards Inn and Spa. This area is less than a two-hour drive from Atlanta.  As summer approaches, here are five ways to cool down in Jackson County, N.C. 


Lake Glenville in Jackson County: 5 Ways to Cool Down in Jackson County


Lounge by Lake Glenville

Lake Glenville is one of the highest lakes east of the Rockies, with 26 miles of shoreline, seven islands and three waterfalls hidden in its alcoves. Visit family-friendly Pines Recreation Area at Lake Glenville with a roped-off swim beach for safe splashing, plus restrooms and picnic tables. Life jackets are also available at no charge so everyone can relax and have a good time. The largest lake in Jackson County, visitors can also hit the water for boating, waterskiing, and fishing.

Waterfalls in Jackson County: Escape to North Carolina #OutaboutNC Style



Find Waterfalls and Views

For those seeking an easy find and short walk, Silver Run Falls is one of the most photogenic waterfalls in Jackson County. The 40-foot cascading waterfall tumbles into Silver Run Creek. The large, sandy pool is calm and glassy, ideal for swimming in the shallows or having a picnic on the banks. In Sylva, the 1,100-acre Pinnacle Park offers several trails that range from moderate to difficult for outdoor enthusiasts and families alike. The trails take guests by streams, cascades, and beautiful vistasThose looking for a challenge can climb to the summit, which reaches almost 1,800 feet of elevation gain and showcases a 270-degree view where guests can see for miles on a clear day.


Whitewater rafting in Jackson County, NC


Take a Wild River Ride
Throughout the summer, paddlers can experience the Tuckasegee River and choose their level of adventure. The Lake Glenville Dam releases, which take place this year on June 10July 1 and 22, and August 12 and 26, create class IV rapids over a 5.5-mile stretch. On the milder side, Smoky Mountain River Adventures offer family-friendly outings for the whole family, including children as small as 40 pounds. 

Open May through September, Tuckaseegee Outfitters gives rafters the choice of five-mile solo or guided trips that last about 2-3 hours. The rapids are beginner-friendly with the speed picking up toward the end of the trip to test rafters’ skills.

Explore by Land and by Sky in Sapphire Valley
Take an adventure to the skies at the Vordach Zip Line at Sapphire Valley Resort. The attraction offers a two-hour excursion with 16 platforms, two bridges, and 12 zip lines. For those that prefer to stay on the ground, Red Bird Foot Golf is the new internationally popular hybrid sport that is a cross between golf and soccer. Players see who can get a soccer ball into each 21-inch hole on the 9-hole course with the fewest amount of kicks – perfect for a morning or afternoon of friendly competition.

Enjoy the Sounds of Nature and Live Music
Perfect for enjoying the cool mountain evenings, several towns throughout Jackson County host live music where attendees can take in the outdoor beauty of the area. On Fridays from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m., Memorial Day through Labor Day, Concerts on the Creek at Bridge Park in Sylva invites music lovers to bring a picnic blanket and chair to watch talented local acts. Performances include everything from bluegrass and rock to reggae and classic pop. Food trucks and craft beer vendors are also featured throughout the summer. 

Head down to Cashiers for Groovin’ on the Green at Village Commons. Friday evenings at 6:30 p.m. from June 2 through September 1, enjoy a variety of musical acts. Bring a blanket and a chair, and dogs are also welcome.

While in this part of North Carolina, you can 
find a range of places to stay, from vacation rentals and cabins perfect for large families, or cozy cottages and mountain inns. Jackson County’s small towns all feature unique restaurants for any appetite. Explore more about this area with 
visit, www.DiscoverJacksonNC.com.

Visit my affiliate hotels.com to find the perfect room for a great night or any of my partners on my sidebar. 

This piece was written in partnership with DiscoverJacksonNC. Affiliates are in the post. 



4.20.2017

Fit for a Queen: Afternoon Tea at the Ballantyne Hotel in Charlotte

Charlotte, North Carolina is known as the Queen City so it is only fitting that The Ballantyne Hotel and Lodge, a member of Starwood's Luxury Hotel Collection, serves afternoon tea fit for a queen. The Ballantyne, a resort hotel with a top-rate spa and championship golf course, offers a different type of tee-time for the public on Wednesday through Saturday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. It's traditional afternoon tea delights with a local culinary twist. It's gearing up for its annual Mother's Day tea next month. 


#OutaboutNC: Afternoon Tea at the Ballantyne Hotel


Served in the hotel's cozy lobby, this special reserved tea time at the Ballantyne is in a picturesque setting and was a highlight of my time spent at the hotel. The hotel features a variety of loose leaf teas from Harney & Sons.

The Ballantyne’s creative culinary team pairs sandwiches, savory treats, and confectioneries to complement the tea selection. Signature menu items include black forest ham with local, cheddar cheese, sliced English cucumber with dill cream cheese and free range egg salad as well as sweets such as Chantilly swans, chocolate bonbons, and fruit tarts. My favorites were the sliced cucumber dill sandwiches and the scones, of course. Nothing is better than a freshly made scone with jam and clotted cream.

Afternoon Tea is served in the cozy lobby


The menu is under the direction of the hotel's Gallery Restaurant and its distinguished chefs.

In addition to regular tea service, the hotel serves themed-inspired teas as well throughout the year.  The annual Mother's Day tea is always a highlight. This summer, the hotel will host a summer-themed tea with a slight notch away from tradition. The Queen-City will celebrate Queen Elizabeth's birthday with a special tea in June, and this fall, there will be a Wizard-Inspired (Harry Potter themed tea).

And of family interest, the Ballantyne is close to uptown Charlotte and the Carowinds Amusement park. 

Learn more about Charlotte, N.C at Charlottesgotalot.com.

If spending the night at this luxury hotel is not in your budget, the Ballantyne area offers several other accommodation options including a Staybridge Suites, which I  also experienced with friends several years ago, an Aloft property, and the Courtyard by Marriott property.

This post contains affiliate links. 

4.18.2017

#OutaboutNC Travel Destination: CAROLINA BEACH

In North Carolina, we are blessed to have many wonderful beaches to choose to visit on any given day. And honestly, if you talk to different people from various parts of North Carolina, you will get lots of favorite beach towns simply based on where people live in the state.

Carolina Beach Waterway


As we gear up for beach season, we'll look at some of the highlights of Carolina Beach, N.C. This beach town boasts a state park, a historic fort, an aquarium, a fresh lake, a fishing pier and a boardwalk. It is reminiscent of beaches from yesteryear.  Hotels are more limited on the island, but condo and home rentals are bountiful at affordable prices.

Extended families usually take beach vacations together, and Carolina Beach is a good spot to appeal to all ages.
Courtyard by Marriott at Carolina Beach


Where to stay:

Carolina Beach offers a variety of rental homes that are well suited for large groups. Choose from the amenities that are most important to your crew – including oceanfront, pet-friendly, on-site pool, nearby public beach access and more. Bryant Real EstateIntracoastal Vacation Rentals, and Network Real Estate are all good places to start, but if you want more options, there are nearly 150 Airbnb properties in the area that sleep five or more people.

If you are there for a long weekend and want more of a resort vacation with multiple rooms then the Courtyard by Marriott (Oceanfront rates begin at $313 for Marriott Members and does not include breakfast) or the Hampton Inn and Suites Oceanfront Resort (Oceanfront rates begin around $339 and includes breakfast.) I've not personally stayed in either hotel so I can only recommend based on the brand and not on personal Carolina Beach experiences.

Carolina Beach is filled with those family-run inns with the vacancy or no-vacancy signs. It's the epitome of hotel travel of generations before us. They are basic, affordable and can provide a traveler a weekend getaway without paying over $1,000 in a hotel for three nights. Visit Wilmington beaches for a complete list of properties. 


Time to bond


For those days when you want to find one activity for everyone to enjoy, consider coordinating a kayak or paddleboard group tour from Paddle NC at Carolina State Park. Looking for something more fast-paced? Take a group surf lesson from Tony Silvagni Surf School, which is owned by professional surfer and Olympic Gold Medalist Tony Silvagni himself. For those who prefer land, a self-guided bike tour lets you go at your own pace while learning about important Civil War and other historic sites at Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Fort Fisher. Wheel Fun Rentals offers single and double surrey bikes, as well as tandem bikes and kids trailers. Customize a group excursion through one of 20 available fishing charters or explore Carolina Beach’s waterways with one of several cruise offerings from Winner Party Boats, including moonlight dance cruises, narrated sunset tours and educational tours.

Fun at the Carolina Beach Boardwalk


Families reign supreme


When it comes to a family reunion or other family getaways, it’s important to consider everyone from the smallest tots to grandma and grandpa. A “tot lot” playground at Ocean Front Park in neighboring Kure Beach is specially designed for children ages 3 to 6. Adventure Reef, an outdoor interactive play area and fossil dig at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, is also ideal for younger travelers. The seaside swings and benches at Ocean Front Park are popular picks for older travelers, as are Fort Fisher State Historic Site and Museum – the second most visited tourist attraction in North Carolina – and the North Carolina Military History Museum. And lest we forget about those hard-to-please teens and tweens, the Carolina Beach Boardwalk has more than enough donuts, ice cream, fudge, amusement rides and live music to keep them occupied during the summer months.

Out and about town


The Tiki Bar at Carolina Beach


Groove to live music with friends at one of Carolina Beach’s live music venues like The Fat Pelican ranked as one of the top “Diviest Dive Bars in America” by Impulcity.com, or The Ocean Grill & Tiki Bar, named one of “America’s Best Beach Bars” by EndlessVacation.com. There are plenty of great nightlife options at Carolina Beach, all possessing that low-key beach charm that makes everyone want to loosen up and stay awhile.

Craft Beer. In the mood to try out a delicious selection of craft beers? Head over to Carolina Beach’s Good Hops Brewery. Stop in for a free tour and tasting at the ale-focused brewery with more than two dozen varieties of beers for distribution to local bars, restaurants, and hotels. Good Hops Brewery is also one of the stops on the Port City Brew Bus – a bus tour that travels to breweries in the Wilmington area educating riders about the craft beer scene.


Don’t sweat it



Like the familiar sound of beach music tunes that float along the ocean air, Carolina Beach has a laidback, casual vibe that encourages regulars and first-time visitors alike to relax and be carefree, just like the locals. Plan your next tribe vacation to the island where flip-flops, tank tops and board shorts are widely accepted almost anywhere, every hour of the day is happy hour, and travel via golf carts is widely seen about town.

Thanks to Wilmington Area Beaches for contributing to this #OutaboutNC Carolina Beach Guide 


Carolina Beach Courtyard by Marriott Resort


Book Carolina Beach Courtyard by Marriott

3.30.2017

#OutaboutNC: REGIONAL Grand TASTE 2017 EVENT Ticket Giveaway

No doubt. Southerners like to chow down on some good food. We've been known for our basketball for a long time, but North Carolina is making a name for itself in the culinary world, too.  Each year, we have numerous restaurants and chefs that receive James Beard Award Nominations. That's like the Oscars for the food industry for those who may be wondering "James Who?"

Food at Grand Taste Experience in Durham, NC


North Carolina is a top agriculture state, and our local chefs get down to our amazing roots. They source seasonal, local ingredients. These chefs are creative and innovative with the merging of flavors from ingredients. As a tourism state with both the mountains and the coast, dining is not about just getting something to eat. Instead, it's a tasting and cultural experience.

TOPO Organic Spirits Crafting Cocktails for TASTE Event in Durham


Each year, North Carolina celebrates the food experience through a four-day food festival in Durham, N.C with portions of the ticket sales going to charity.  It's now in its fourth year and TASTE 2017 will be the biggest yet with the Regional Taste event that will include Southern chefs, food and beverage outside of the Raleigh-Durham and Chapel Hill area.

The Grand  Regional Taste Experience will be held at the Durham Armory on April 22


This new tasting event will be held Saturday, April 22 from 12 pm to 2:30 at the Durham Armory and will put more than 30 chefs under one roof for the regional grand tasting experience.

Delicious and local food at the Grand Taste Experience every April


In a media partnership with Durham Magazine,  Chapel-Hill Magazine, and Chatham Magazine, I am giving away two tickets to this April 22 event. Two tickets are valued at $140. Single tickets are $75. 

Good luck. This is a four-day foodie weekend with many of attractions and events from April 20-April 23. Here are a few highlights and you can see all the events and purchase tickets on the TASTE2017 website.

The Grand Taste Experience is a 4-day foodie experience


April 20

Grant Taste Event with Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill Chefs

April 21

Whole Hog Demonstration 
Cider Class and Tasting
The Ultimate Gluten-Free Dinner 

April 22

The Seasonal Chef Class
Regional Grand Taste Chef Experience  (Enter our Giveaway for two tickets below)
Wine vs. Beer
Tacos Y Tequila Night at Dos Perros 

April 23 

JazzBrunch at NanaSteak (Six Seatings)
Salt and Smoke: Taste2017 Style at the Rickhouse

To learn more about the event and purchase tickets, visit TASTE2017 official website. 

CONTEST OVER


3.25.2017

#OutaboutNC Getaway: Village Hotel On Biltmore in Asheville, N.C.

Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C. is my state's biggest tourist attraction. It's majestic. The food is farm-to-table fabulous, and the scenery is breathtaking.  It's certainly a must-see for the first-time Asheville visitor, but it's also a place where North Carolinians and locals want to frequent often.

And with four distinct seasons that the estate promotes, it's easy to visit this Asheville landmark all year.  I've been to the estate many times over the years, especially since starting this blog and have featured Biltmore in many posts and in international writing assignments.

Antler Hill at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C.


Last summer, I made two personal trips to Asheville to take Jack to summer camp in the area.  The hotel scene in Asheville will burn a hole in your wallet if you want to stay somewhere with style and with a good location like I typically do.  Don't be surprised to see prices from $300 to $400 per night in prime locations, and that price-tag is with well-ranked three-star hotel chains, too with prime downtown Asheville locations. A three-day weekend could set you back anywhere from $1,000 to $1500 on hotel alone.

Village Hotel Lobby in Antler Village


Sometimes, you can get lucky and find some great deals.I used the blog's Hotels.com affiliate link and found the Village Hotel on Biltmore in Asheville available for around $280 per night on the dates I wanted to be there. As quick as you could say, "that room is mine," I booked it.

Biltmore refers to its Village Hotel as the estate's upscale, moderately priced hotel with families in mind. There are no bellmen to take your luggage or a valet to park your car.  There is not a spa, afternoon tea, or 24-hour room service, but there is so plenty of charm and the location situated in the middle of Biltmore village is ideal. Room rates start about $150 less per night than the estate's luxury Inn, which is perched above the village.

I've been to a lot of hotel properties and this limited-service property blew me away with design, style, and overall, service.  The hotel has a very European country type feel and the rooms also reflect that uniqueness.

Two Double Bed Room at the Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate in Antler Village


Other than the fact that there are no bellmen, and the hotel has a more casual vibe to it with an open- a-carte type setting to grab a quick breakfast, it seemed like a luxury hotel to me in terms of room size, bathroom layout, and in-room amenities.  The walk-in tile shower was a huge bonus and its sliding barnyard doors added character.

Great bathroom layout at the Village Hotel in Asheville, NC


The design in this hotel screamed quality from the heaviness of the doors to the individual window seats in the room.

I really liked this hotel and really believe the layout is better for families than the luxury inn. The rooms seem more spacious, honestly.

The hotel has a nice outdoor swimming pool which is great during the summer.  As with all Biltmore properties, you have complimentary transportation to take you around the estate.

I highly recommend this hotel for families or couples for those who want to stay on the estate. When staying in the village, you have the choice of three restaurants just by walking out the door in Antler Hill Village. 


Village Social Restaurant in Antler Village on Biltmore Estate


Village Social is the restaurant located within the Village Hotel. It serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late night. It has a nice outdoor seating area as well. The restaurant has a nice kid's menu. In my opinion, Biltmore does children's menus well.  They realize that today's older, sophisticated, health-conscious parents have moved way beyond the processed kid's menu of past generations. My son, Jack, has moved away from the kid's menu selection. He goes for oysters on the half shell now. Overall, this is a great bet for families and for a casual yet upscale bite.

Cedric's Tavern offers global pub fare and is another great option in Antler Hill Village. We did not dine here last year but did so on another visit to the estate when we stayed at the main luxury Inn.  It also has a children's menu and lots of comfort food dishes like Shepherd's Pie, and Fish and Chips. It has a lively atmosphere and is named after the Vanderbilt's dog, Cedric.

The Bistro is also in Antler Village and is also a seasonal farm to table upscale venue. The price point for this restaurant is higher than the other two in the village. It offers lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. On this night, we were tired and did not want to leave the Estate. It was very easy to walk next door. Our server had crayons and activities for Liza when we were seated. The Bistro has a children's menu. This particular restaurant has a European feel to it with an open kitchen. Since chefs are working in the open, it's not the type of restaurant where you can hear a pin drop.


Drinks on the Terrace at the Inn at Biltmore.


Biltmore falls into the Disney category to me although it has much better food than Disney.  And what I mean by that is that I would take my children to any restaurant on the Estate except the Dining Room at the Inn on Biltmore, which has a special three or five-course menu. The Library Lounge is still upscale, however, it is better suited for children with burgers and sandwiches on its menu.  One of my best meals was on the terrace. We spent some time on the Inn terrace because it's just a favorite place of mine for drinks.

Of course, there are restaurants all over Asheville, too. But, when I stay on the estate, I have a hard time leaving the estate. I enjoy the tranquility and countryside life it provides just like it did for the Vanderbilts.

Biltmore is currently in the Biltmore Blooms season.

Escape to Asheville, NC #OutaboutNC at Biltmore


#OutaboutNC Links for your research:
Biltmore Estate
https://www.exploreasheville.com/
Hotels
Expedia
Marriott Hotels and Resorts (Best Rates Guaranteed) 

Disclosure: The HinesSightBlog does have affiliate travel links in this post and a small commission will be paid if a hotel is booked.  Thank you for supporting my writing. 

3.16.2017

Not Just Any Cornbread: Will's Recipe plus Southern Discussion

It is amazing that the subject of cornbread would bring me out of my writing retirement. My last post was one month ago on this blog.  That's like years in the blog world. I knew that when I took the time to sit at my desk to write again, the subject matter would have to move me, but I had no idea the subject matter would be cornbread.

Cornbread.  I serve it with Will's chili. I typically make it when we have dinner guests and I must follow Will's recipe down to every ingredient or else, it probably will not get eaten.

So, what's so special about cornbread? This March, food writer and cookbook author Kathleen Purvis, won several awards by the North Carolina Associated Press for this story on sugar in cornbread that was originally published in March 2016 in the Charlotte Observer. I met Kathleen several years ago at a Savor the South cooking festival.

It is a fascinating article and really depicts the history of the South, and how our food can be so divers today based on how we were raised. You really need to read this wonderfully written article, but to paraphrase, it is believed that cornbread styles started to differ in the South based on the type of cornmeal used. Yellow cornmeal was less expensive that the naturally sweeter white cornmeal mix. Only Southern gentry used the white corn meal, and it was baked on special occasions.  It was not an everyday dish for anyone.

In the early 1900s, cornbread was made with flour and water-based white corn meal made with sweet white corn, but by the time the depression hit, yellow corn meal was produced because it was cheaper and would last longer. It is believed that cooks, especially African-American cooks added sugar to their recipes to give it a sweeter flavor.

Cornbread, of course, was made from scratch during that time using cornmeal, flour, which helped it rise, and some added sugar for flavor. Historians think this is one of the biggest differences between Southern food and soul food today.

The modern cook will also recognize this sweeter taste with the already prepared Jiffy cornbread mix.

My grandmother never baked cornbread. At least, I don't remember her serving baked cornbread when I visited. Instead, she made what is called "hoe" cakes. She would fry them in a cast iron skillet and serve them with her entree and the many garden-fresh vegetables she would prepare daily.

My own father learned a lot about cooking from his mother.  My Dad made this fried cornbread, too. He didn't make it a lot, but I do remember him doing it when he would fry fish or if he made fried okra or fried chicken. If he was frying a food then he would make this cornbread, too.

It's been probably twenty years since I tasted his fried cornbread, but I remember loving it. It was like hushpuppy cornbread.

I didn't start making my own cornbread until I married Will. He made it. His cornbread has been called "melt in your mouth" delicious. I've served it to guests. My kids eat it like cookies and people have asked for the recipe. It's the only cornbread I've made in the past seventeen years now.

I can't even say it is true Southern cornbread. But, I will tell you that I'm known for messing things up and when I do then it's no good.  I left the canned corn out of it one time and it was not the same. It was Ok, but Will said it was ruined. I also left the eggs out and again, it was not the same. In fact, that batch may have gone into the trash.

After reading Kathleen's article, I'm going to dub this cornbread as gourmet cornbread with soul because the base is Jiffy mix. I was going to make it for guests the other day and bought Trader Joe's cornbread mix. I told Will before I did it and let's just say I had to go to the store the day the guests arrived to get the jiffy mix. It's not jiffy....then forget it.

There is no telling what is in that processed jiffy mix, but we'll never go healthy with this cornbread recipe. Some things just can't be changed.

Photo of similar looking cornbread when I make mine. Recipe totally different, though. 


Will's Favorite Cornbread

1 box of Jiffy Mix
3 eggs
1 small can of white creamed corn
1/2 cup of olive oil
8 ounces of sour cream

Mix ingredients together. Bake in 9 by 9 pan for 40 to 45 minutes.


How do you like your cornbread?




2.18.2017

I miss cats, dogs, children, food, and travels on Facebook

I am in a funk.

And yes, I know there is an oil for that! Lots of them, and I inhale them daily, but even I know the essentials oils in my cabinet cannot change what I see on Facebook.

Will jokes, "Did it take Donald Trump to be President to get you to stop logging into Facebook?"

And I say, "I guess."  But, I still have the habit of logging in and when I do, I immediately regret my decision.

My son chimes in. "Facebook is for old people."

Apparently, it's the old people who cannot stop talking about politics then.

Every time I see my news feed, I get unmotivated.  I just want to hibernate in my home and watch the real news on TV or read the real news in the papers.

You know. Real news on TV where journalists report the facts and not give opinions.

No doubt.  The facts are pretty crazy lately.

To me, social media was supposed to be my Fru-Fru place.  It's where we told our friends where we were having dinner. What movie we saw.  What purse we bought or where we want to go on vacation.

I adore the steak tacos at an immigration founded restaurant here in Raleigh that is near my home. The entire menu is in  Spanish and the food is amazing.  I am so glad I found this restaurant called Don Beto's Tacos. 

 It was an escape from the daily news grind.  It was like the "Downton Abbey" of the dinner conversations where talking politics was frowned upon.

It's so important that people are activists and work to change things for the better good. It's critical that we have these strong people in our country. We need these people. People need to go and do. I respect them. But, why do people feel the need to share news reports all the time on social media?  I would rather see this statement in my feed, "I volunteered at the local homeless shelter for five hours today." That statement I would like. But, instead of seeing those facts, I see news article after news article.

Are they afraid that if they don't shout the news from the rooftops that people will think they support crazy things?  If they don't share political conversations, are they afraid that people will feel that they don't care about other people or immigrants?  Are they just afraid that people won't read or watch the news on their own and they are taking the time to educate others? If they share their cat's photo are they afraid that people will think they don't care about what is going on in the world?

We cannot get enough of our neighbor's dogs these days. The nice thing about logging off of  Facebook is that I now go for walks with our neighbors, too. 

I'm a former journalist, but I migrated to crime, features, and health because I liked that over politics. I used to groan when my assignment editor made me cover a city council meeting. But, I covered it very neutrally and that is what the real press is doing today. They are reporting the facts. I also know how to find the news when I want to read it.

Unfortunately, we live in a world now where we are saturated with news 24 hours a day.  We cannot escape it.

Facebook was once social, frivolous fun where we could log in and escape the constant news cycles for a little while.

Now, we have to turn to crazy filters on Snapchat to do that.

Look, I'm a cat with mutated hands, but man, my husband has good taste.



So, I promise you,  if you follow me on Facebook you're going to see a lot of fluff. But, that does not mean I do not care about this world and the state of craziness it is in.










2.01.2017

Hotel Travel: Hyatt Regency London- The Churchill In London Looks Historically Dreamy

It's no secret that I have a love affair with hotels then mix it up with my passion for London then you've got my attention when it comes to the many press releases I receive daily. Will and I have been watching Netflix's The Crown. Honestly, I'm not sure if this drama depicts more fiction than history, but regardless, I'm interested in learning more about Winston Churchill.

The Hyatt  Regency London-The Churchill near West End would be the perfect spot in London to learn more. The luxury hotel recently completed a multi-million dollar renovation and Sir Winston Churchill is at the center of it all.

Winston Churchill statue at Hyatt Regency London-The Churchill


Sir Winston Churchill’s family worked closely with the hotel in the design process, sharing original artworks, photographs and love letters between Churchill’s wife, Clementine, and himself.

The Churchill Bar & Terrace was designed by internationally acclaimed design firm Spinocchia Freund and features elegant bookshelves curated by Daunt Books that contain literature reflecting the interests of young Churchill and Clementine

common areas of Hyatt Regency-The Churchill


 Lawrence Holofcener’s sculpture of Young Winston sits on the bar’s alfresco terrace, with staff placing a fresh rose in the sculpture’s lapel every morning, just as Clementine did.

Fine fabrics and iconic designs – namely bespoke herringbone, button detailing and signature furniture pieces – reflect the iconic leader’s love of quality. 

New Renovation at Hyatt Regency London...featuring elements of Winston Churchill


“We are thrilled to have completed the hotel’s multi-million pound refurbishment, and we are looking forward to welcoming new and returning guests. It was an honor to work so closely with Churchill’s family to bring to life the character and history of the hotel’s namesake and we are delighted with the results,” said Arnaud de Saint-Exupery, area vice president for Hyatt in the United Kingdom and Ireland and hotel general manager. “At Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill, we are proud to offer business and leisure travelers alike the perfect place in which to work or relax in one of the world's most iconic cities.”

Hyatt Regency London Goodies


The renovation now includes a new luxury suite package in collaboration with world-renowned department store Selfridges. The stylish Life is Suite Package with Selfridges offers guests a VIP welcome, luxurious suite accommodation, five-star service, and a behind-the-scenes experience at London's legendary Selfridges on Oxford Street.

Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill boasts a great location tucked away in the heart of London’s West End – just steps away from Hyde Park and London's most famous shopping districts of Oxford Street and Bond Street. The hotel benefits from superb transportation links to Kings Cross St. Pancras and Heathrow Airport, making it the ideal hotel for both business and leisure travelers.

At a quick check on my affiliate Hotels.com link, I found rates for under $400 and if cheaper if paid in advance.  Hyatt is also offering many discounts, too. 

1.27.2017

Southern Parenting Tale: The Day We Delivered Girl Scout Cookies and How it Went so Wrong

It's that time of year again.  If you are on a diet, you hate it. If you count the days until you can get your hands on a Samoas Cookie, you love it.  In the South, we call that Girl Scout coconut cookie a Caramel de Lite because there are two bakers for the cookies. If you ask me, there must have been a spat on Girl Scout cookie names and ABC Bakers who supplies NC cookies, did not win the fight.

The popular Girl Scout cookie
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The original naming rights apparently went to Little Brownie Bakers. I spend half my time during Girl Scout cookie season trying to decipher a person's request for a Do-Si-Dos cookie followed by a Tag-a-Long.  Damn it, we are raising funds for the same Girl Scout organization. Can't people make the cookie names consistent?  Do we really need two cookie names for the same cookie and two different types of s'mores cookies, depending on the baker? Geesh!! But, at least we all know that a thin mint means a thin mint cookie no matter the baker.



As a mom to a seven-year-old Daisy, I have a love-hate relationship with the Girl Scout Cookies. I love eating them. That's where the love stops. As for my Daisy, she is more excited about eating the twenty boxes of cookie that her Dad bought from her than selling and delivering cookies.

We've sold a few cookies to our neighbors. Selling is fun. Delivering the goods is not so fun, especially when you get out of school late and it gets dark early.

I always text before delivering to a customer because I'm certainly not going to waste time going if no one is home. Half the time, Liza doesn't even want to go and deliver to the people who bought cookies from her. I have to tell her that the neighbors may have a cat or dog. That gets her motivated for at least one trip or two.

For one nice neighbor, it took us several days of texting to coordinate a delivery. I would text. He wouldn't be home. He would text and it was too late to go over. At one point, he was in his car getting ready to leave when I texted so I ran outside and he did a "drive-by" on his way out of town. He was a big spender at 5 boxes.

On Thursday, we finally had a free block in our schedule to try to tackle some more deliveries. She wanted to ride her bike. We weren't going far, but a bike trip turned what would have been a five-minute walk into a 20-minute bike ride one way. She is slow. Biking is not faster.  Math was never my strong point, but that is almost an hour to deliver just four boxes of cookies when we have a whole stack to deliver in the garage, but it is what is is.  At least one Girl Scout cookie customer would be eating well in the neighborhood tonight.

Since my son was in the house, I closed the garage door and went out the side garage door. I checked the handle and off we went.

We returned almost 40 minutes later, in the dark.  I told you it would take us a long time with her on that bike. I told her to stay in the driveway and I would let her in through the garage. Or so I thought. It turns out that when I checked the handle of the side entry garage door before we left, it really was not unlocked.

We were locked out of the house. Luckily, I had my phone so I didn't feel totally helpless, but the two of us went to the front door to try to get Jack's attention.

I imagined at this point that he's celebrating that he is alone in the house. I envision him with his headphones on and deep into whatever computer game he's playing.  He was not answering the door.

We kept ringing the doorbell like maniacs.  And we didn't just ring and stop. We did a continuous ring that would signal panic to most ears.

Honestly, we were in panic mode by this point.  Once we realized we could be stuck outside then the little one had to pee, and pee badly.

I did what anyone would do in an emergency. I called my husband.  This just happened to be the one night he had plans getting the Cub Scout Pinewood Derby race set up.  He didn't answer.

I was on my own.

We rung the bell again. And again.  And again. Finally, I saw a figure. He opened the door looking at us as if we were wild, crazy people.

He said, "Why didn't you ring the doorbell like a normal person? I thought it was Liza playing."

We were not playing, but I was so happy to be rescued. I then walked out the patio door to get her bike, and bam...somehow my finger got smashed into the door.

In less than a minute, I went from panic to misery.  All because of Girl Scout cookies.

That my friends is my tale about the day that we delivered just four boxes of cookies to a customer. Just forty more to cookie deliveries to go and two cookie booths to work.

But, at least she's cute. I do all of it for her. but I draw the line at camping. Not going to happen. What's your favorite Girl Scout cookie?

Shop Liza's online cookie site for those out-of-towners.


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1.25.2017

Who are these Hottest Chefs in the Triangle? (Food Bank Calendar Debuts for Charity)

With the rise of TV cooking shows, dining competitions and culinary awards being featured in the mainstream news, popular chefs are becoming like reality stars.  Patrons don't just visit a restaurant.  They visit a certain chef's restaurant. The Triangle is rapidly becoming a foodie mecca with a lot of hot chefs serving up the best cuisine in their restaurants. 

This year, twelve chefs have the honor of starring in a fundraiser calendar where all proceeds support the Food  Bank of  Central and Eastern North Carolina. This debut calendar is called, "The Hottest Chefs of the Triangle Calendar"

Hottest Chefs in the Triangle Calendar


Inside you'll find chefs from across the Triangle who craft masterpieces in their kitchens on a daily basis. This inaugural calendar features a diverse pool of chefs based on their culinary involvement and contributions to the Triangle's food community.

Here's who made the list:

Regan Stachler from Little Hen
Michael Pryor from Cave 1912
Teddy Diggs from Il Palio
Liz Reedy from Carroll's Kitchen
Mario Huante from Chef Mario's, Inc.
Daniel Benjamin from lucettegrace
Kim Hunter from Kimbap
Ricky Moore from Saltbox Seafood
Serge Falcoz-Vigne from Saint Jacques
Mike Lee from M Sushi & M Kokko
Ryan Conklin from REX Healthcare
Gabe Barker from Pizzeria Mercato

Proceeds for Hottest Chefs in Triangle Calendar go to Local Food Bank


All profits from the calendar will go towards the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina. The Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina is able to help thousands of people facing hunger each year in their 34-county service area. Your donation from this calendar will go directly towards helping local families in need.

The cover chef is Michael Lee of M Sushi, which was revealed at the Hottest Chefs of the Triangle Calendar Launch Party hosted by Crank Arm Brewing Company on January 16, 2017. Chefs featured in the calendar were in attendance and proved light snacks and desserts. 

I was invited to join in the fun, but my two kids ruled the roost that night and I had to stay home. A mom's work is never done. 

Purchase calendars:

Have you dined with any of these chefs?  


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