6.22.2017

NC Lawmakers Consider a Brunch Bill that Would Benefit the Hospitality Industry #FreetheMimosa

As I told you earlier this week, my family rarely goes to brunch unless I'm traveling. I went to brunch locally a few weeks ago on a Sunday in downtown Raleigh and ordered a bloody mary. I ordered that drink for a few reasons. Personally, I love the tomato-based, spicy cocktail. I rarely drink them so it was a treat for me. Also, mimosas and bloody marys are a traditional part of a brunch menu. I was at Pizza La Stella to help promote the restaurant's brunch menu for future visitors to N.C.  That's what I do. I market experiences.

Mimosas.



I rarely drink an alcoholic beverage during the day. But, if I'm traveling then I escape the ordinary. My travel days become extraordinary and special. Had I arrived at brunch before noon that Sunday, I could not have ordered a mimosa or bloody mary due to ABC Beverage laws until 12:01 p.m. But, that could change if a new law is passed. The North Carolina Brunch Bill is a pending legislation that would empower local governments to allow restaurants to serve alcoholic drinks two hours earlier, at 10 a.m., on Sundays. HB 460, otherwise known as the Brunch Bill, would update North Carolina’s existing ABC laws to provide a high-demand service to the state’s residents and visitors.

Bloody Mary


North Carolina's hotel and restaurant caters to travelers. By allowing alcoholic beverages to be sold at 10 a.m on Sunday for brunch would increase revenue tremendously for this industry. 

Blue laws, banning certain things on Sunday for religious reasons, are quite controversial. And in some cases, it's not just alcohol that is banned. It's also pots and pans. Sometimes, cars. It varies from state to state. 

As a person who encourages visitors to our state, I am an advocate for the hotel and restaurant industry. I like options. If I am dining for brunch at 10 a.m, I may stick with coffee, but I like to be given the choice and freedom to order what I want especially if I am traveling or attending brunch for a special occasion. 

Jim Beley, the General Manager of the Five-Star Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary, North Carolina offered some insight from the hotel industry. 

Exterior of Umstead Hotel and Spa


"I think our Sunday morning meal period volume would pick up significantly if we were permitted to start alcohol service at 10 a.m. instead of 12 noon. What I see as fair within the bill, is counties can opt-in to the Sunday service of alcohol if they choose to do so. I am a Christian man, who would not think of drinking any alcoholic drink or meal prior to my attending our Church services on Sunday morning. I think most feel the same as I do; if your intent is to attend and worship in Church, no drink will stop you."

Beley says that many of the guests of the Umstead are out of state visiting for a family occasion of a graduation, wedding, Easter or special day. He says these guests are often disappointed to hear that they cannot serve any alcohol until 12:01 pm. 

The wedding industry has the biggest impact on the restaurant's Sunday volume. He stated,  "most weddings are held on Saturday nights followed by a Sunday morning meal for the family. We are regularly asked why we cannot offer Bloody Marys or Champagne and orange juice with their Sunday meal; some respond with “that’s ridiculous.”

Exterior of Ballantyne Hotel and Lodge


The Ballantyne Hotel and Lodge in Charlotte, N.C. also supports the NC Brunch Bill. "Our top priority is to deliver exceptional service to our guests, many of which visit us from out of state, and we want to meet their needs," stated Peter Grills, General Manager. "The ability to serve alcohol earlier on Sundays would provide more options for our guests, which is always a benefit."

The NC Brunch Bill will Free the Mimosa.


What's your opinion? To ‘Free the Mimosa’, stand behind the Brunch Bill by signing the petition at www.ncbrunchbill.com and spreading the word to reach NCRLA’s goal of 10,000 signatures. You can also join the conversation on social media by using #FreeTheMimosa.


Editorial Content. Not a paid ad. 

6.21.2017

Hotel Getaway Deals and Ideas: Sizzling Rooftop Pools in Nashville to Sleek Style in Charleston, SC

Summer certainly makes me want to travel. Most of you already have your trips planned out for this year, but it's nice to get some ideas for future stays. I'm excited to share with you that I' am an official affiliate partner with several Hotel brands directly and several hotel/travel booking agencies. You can book your hotel stay and travel adventures from this blog.These affiliate links take you directly to these websites where you are guaranteed the lowest rates. Travel affiliate marketing became a natural path for me in order to continue to bring editorial content on the blog. I started this blog six years ago with the topic of hotels being one of my strongest passion and interests. Frankly, it just makes me happy so this is a good fit for me.

I'm not a travel agent so I do not book hotels for you, but I can help answer your questions. I'm connected to travel bloggers all the world who live in these cities. I'm hoping to have some destination guest posts in the future.  My expertise will continue to be in North Carolina and with hotel brands. My @OutaboutNC community is over 12,000 strong.

My first offer is a one for future travel from my affiliate partner Hotels.com. This is a great one because you get a $100 rebate and have until the end of the year to book your vacation or getaway.

Hotels.com: Save big NOW on all hotel bookings with Up to a $100 Cash Back Rebate with code REBATES17! Book by 12/31/17, Travel by 1/31/18.

Celebrate the 4th and save 10% off select hotels with code SPARKLERS. Book by 7/4, travel by 9/30.

Nashville, Tennessee is a sizzling destination these days. Summer is no exception. If you love music then Music City USA may be the perfect family trip for you. The newly opened Westin in downtown Nashville has a rooftop pool with spectacular sky views.  Visit the Starwood website for the latest package and promotions.

Nashville skyline at Westin Hotel
Westin Nashville Rooftop Pool and Bar, L27.



Known for its beautiful architecture,  historic charm and extraordinary cuisine, Charleston, S.C. is ranked high as a favorite travel destination. Just in time for the summer season, the Renaissance Charleston Historic District Hotel has a new sleek look. Designed by P3 Design Collective, the hotel boasts 162 home-inspired guest rooms, 4 luxurious suites, creative meetings and events space, an outdoor saltwater pool, an energizing fitness center, and a quintessentially Southern lobby.


New Lobby at Renaissance Hotel in Charleston
Photo courtesy of Isaac Maiselman

 The guestrooms look beautiful, and Renaissance Hotels always have a boutique feel and the wallpaper in the bathroom reflect this brand's eclectic nature.

New Guest Room at the Renaissance Hotel District Charleston
Photo courtesy of Isaac Maiselman


Unique wall paper at the Renaissance Charleston property.
Photo courtesy of Isaac Maiselman


We are thrilled to invite guests into the redesigned Renaissance Charleston Historic District Hotel to have them experience our fresh new look and feel,” said General Manager Brian Wander. “The new features, local art, and overall design speak so highly of our hotel’s emphasis on Southern hospitality and tradition while also fitting into the charming city around us. While we’ve updated a lot of the hotel through this redesign, this hotel is still rooted in history.”

In my opinion, the Marriot brand always takes it up a notch with its restaurants. 1KEPT is the hotel’s new restaurant and bar concept featuring a dining room, a full lounge and bar with hotel lobby access, plus a beer garden and front patio. The menu features New Southern flavors while incorporating sustainable seafood and hyper-locally sourced ingredients with highlights such as the Chicken Schnitzel & Herb SpƤtzle served with caramelized onion cream, braised red cabbage and kale and the Duck Confit served with sauce soubise, pickled shallots, asparagus salad and candied lemon zest. The bar’s Moscow Mule is cold brew-infused for a twist and the Summertime at the Farm combines tequila, fresh lemon juice, and cold pressed carrot juice for a refreshing new take on a classic Southern cocktail. 

1KEPT opened this month with breakfast service from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and lunch and dinner service from 11:30 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. Bar closes at midnight.

Charleston and Nashville are both on my lists to visit in the future. Book these properties on our Book at Hotel page, or find a property that suits your travel needs and budget. 


Disclosure: Post contains affiliate links. 

6.19.2017

North Carolina Ranked 4th Best State to Take a Summer Road Trip

I've said for a long time that North Carolina has a lot going for it. We have the mountains, the coast, vineyards, golf courses, history, delicious food, and a diverse culture. There is no shortage of things to do here. WalletHub recently ranked North Carolina as the 4th best state to take a road trip this summer. It was a top state for road trip travel ranked behind the states of Oregon, Utah, and Washington. In this study, Wallethub compared the 50 U.S. states based on 22 key metrics to find the most fun, scenic, and wallet-friendly road-trip destinations. The data set ranges from the number of attractions to road conditions to costs. N.C beat out Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Louisiana, Texas, and Virginia as the best Southern state to take a road trip. 




Source: WalletHub




North Carolina is divided into very specific regions. The terrain is different all over the state. We have  over 70 public airports. If flying in on an International flight then Charlotte, N.C, or  Raleigh, N.C. are your best bets for cities to arrive into with the least amount of connecting flights. You can rent a car and be on your way to see North Carolina.



Arriving in Charlotte, known as North Carolina's Queen City, will put you closer to our mountains and piedmont regions. From Charlotte, you about two hours from Asheville, N.C. and the scenic Biltmore Estate. Charlotte has a great amusement park called Carowinds, professional sports team,  NASCAR Hall of Fame Museum. and an outdoor rafting center.  It's also close to the quaint town of Salisbury, NC where the popular drink Cheerwine was invented.

Arriving at  Raleigh-Durham-International airport will bring you closer to our coastal regions and Piedmont. From Raleigh, you can get to Wilmington, N.C. in two hours, the Southern Outer Banks in three hours, the Brunswick beaches in three hours, and the Outer Banks in three and half hours. The towns of Greensboro and Winston-Salem are just over an hour away.  Kitty Hawk is known as the place where the Wright Brothers were first in flight.

Love to relax around vineyards and enjoy wine? Then you may want to visit the Greensboro-Winston-Salem area and visit the Yadkin Valley vineyards. It's the only area in North Carolina where the soil can grow grapes comparable tho those found on the West Coast and in Europe. This is area is now producing some award-winning wines.

Love Craft Beer? North Carolina ranks high in craft beer production. You can go just about anywhere in our state and find a local brewery. Asheville, N.C, Charlotte, and the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill areas have the most breweries in a concentrated area.

Do you love  PBS and the show, "A Chef's Life?" then take a road trip to Kinston, N.C. and dine at Vivian Howard's restaurant, "A Chef and A Farmer.".  Reservations are a must, and if you want to go a weekend night, you need to make those reservations several months in advance.

Love history? We have historic sites in almost every town in North Carolina. Raleigh is our state capital.  New Bern, N.C. houses Tryon Place, the former NC Governor's Palace when we were a colony. New Bern is also the site of where the drink Pepsi was created. The waterfront towns of Edenton and Beaufort had pirates walk the streets. We have battlefield sites, and even a museum devoted to actress Ava Gardner, who was born in the North Carolina town of Smithfield.

If you are a golfer, you may want to visit our Sandhills region in Southern Pines where some may say there are more golf courses than people.  That's not really true, but this terrain is filled with sand, pine trees, and is home to a PGA golf course. Southern Pines is located about 30 minutes from NC Zoo in Asheboro, N.C.  This area is also known for its beautiful pottery.

Ideas for a road trip in North Carolina is endless. I also love the mountain town of Blowing Rock where you can walk across the swinging bridge at Grandfather Mountain. The Blue Ridge Parkway runs through our North Carolina mountains. You can hop on it near Asheville, N.C and take it the Boone area. The Indian reservation, Cherokee, N.C. takes you to the Smoky Mountain National Park. In Franklin, N.C., you can take a scenic rail ride on the Smoky Mountain Railroad.

Map  of North Carolina _Great State to Road Trip

I am not a travel agent, but I know North Carolina well. I will be happy to answer any questions you may have. Visit my OutaboutNC social community to see where locals like to go and you can also follow my own Instagram account.

Visit the blog's Book a Hotel tab on my site so you can begin to plan your North Carolina adventure now. You will be glad you came to visit. Request your map from NC DOT. 

These are some North Carolina cities that you may want to make for your hotel base:

Charlotte, N.C
Asheville, N.C.
Highlands or Cashiers, N.C.
Cherokee, N.C.
Boone, N.C.
Blowing Rock, N.C.
Winston-Salem, N.C.
Greensboro, N.C.
High Point, N.C.
Durham, N.C.
Chapel Hill, N.C
Raleigh, N.C.
Southern Pines, N.C.
New Bern, N.C.
Wilmington, N.C.
Southport, N.C.
Kinston, N.C.
Edenton, N.C.

Happy road tripping!



6.16.2017

#OutaboutNC: Pizza Pot Pie for Brunch in Raleigh, Oh My!

When you visit a city, it may be your tradition to have brunch before you head home. Raleigh has no shortage of places to brunch.  We are certainly a foodie city, and you can point yourself in about any direction and find a good place to eat.

Neapolitian Italian Restaurant Pizza La Stella


As a Raleigh local, I don't partake in brunch too often on the weekends unless I'm traveling. I blame it on being a parent. I'm sure there are other excuses as well such as not wanting to get out of my pajamas before noon. But, let's just say that when I brunch, it better be worth my getting dressed and out of the house. A delicious Bloody Mary needs to be involved, too.

Bloody Mary on the Brunch Menu at Pizza La  Stella in Raleigh


The Hines recently visited Pizza La Stella at their invitation on Fayetteville Street for brunch. This local, Neapolitan style Italian restaurant, under new management, recently partnered with NC company Smash Waffle to serve a weekend brunch.  After we visited, Smash Waffle announced it is also opening its own triangle location. I'm not sure if that move will change the partnership in the future for Pizza La Stella's brunch menu, but for now, it's a staple on this local Raleigh restaurant's menu.

We live less than ten minutes from the heart of downtown Raleigh and this restaurant. On the day I decided to do a rare family brunch, half the streets in downtown were closed for the Ironman Race. It took us almost 25 minutes to get where we needed to be. We had to park block and blocks from where we were going. That won't happen to you on an ordinary Raleigh day.  I had one child complaining that she had to walk too far to get where we were going.  I had another child asking why I made him change clothes.  And then there was Will who said absolutely nothing except I was not helping him find streets that were open to traffic.

Let's just say that a lot was riding on this brunch at Pizza La Stella, or I would be in the doghouse for getting my family out of the house before noon on one of the hardest days to travel to downtown Raleigh for a meal.

Long story short, Pizza La  Stella took me from the dog house to the title of the Queen of Brunch on this day. This face. That's what it looks like when a Campfire Smash Waffle is placed in front of her.

campfire smore smash waffle at Pizza La Stella


Jack ordered the Chip, Chip Hooray Smash Waffle.  The kids loved these waffles, but they could not finish them. They were adult portions and really sweet.

Love chocolate then you may love this Smash Waffle at Pizza La Stella


As for me, I ordered the Pizza Pot Pie which is a wood-fired skillet with a fried egg, roasted Brussel sprouts, roasted red pepper, red onion, cherry tomatoes, and mushrooms in a garlic, confit cream. It was one of the best dishes I have tasted in a very long time. I cannot rave enough about this dish. I will go to brunch again there just for this entree. It is dish created by the restaurant's own culinary team.

Pizza Pot Pie for Brunch at Pizza La Stella


Will chose to order the calzone which is also served at night. He was impressed. It's not as puffy as other ones. He would get this again.

Calzone at Pizza La Stella is also the lunch and night menu


I will definitely add Pizza La Stella to my list of local favorites. I'll probably visit more at night, but I was quite impressed.

Oh, and those Bloody Marys? So good. I had two.  Pizza La Stella opened in December 2016 and replaced Bolt Bistro. The menu at Pizza La Stella is about wood-fired cuisine. Two large ovens, handmade in Italy, are the only warming devices in the kitchen to cook pizzas, wings, stromboli, calzones and even Brussels sprouts. In the pizza oven, pies will be cooked at about 1,000 degrees and ready in about 90 seconds. Everything else will get crispy in the other oven, which is set around 750 degrees.


My kids liked the Smash Waffles a lot, but I think the wood-fired specialties and breakfast pizzas are the true gems. That is why I will go back.  That Pizza Pot Pie was delicious. 

Pizza La Stella 
219 Fayetteville Street
Raleigh, NC


Book your Hotel Stay in Raleigh. Brunch at Pizza La Stella in #downtown Raleigh


Book Raleigh area Hotels from my site directly from Marriott, Starwood, Hotels.com and Expedia

Within Walking Distance
Raleigh Marriott City Center
The Sheraton Raleigh Hotel 
The new Residence Inn Raleigh Downtown by Marriott (Accepting Reservations for July 2017)
Holiday Inn Raleigh Downtown
Hampton Inn and Suites in Glenwood South

Quick Uber Rides Away
The Aloft on Hillsborough Street is 2.3 miles away.
Doubletree by Hilton Raleigh Brownstone
Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary
Mayton Inn in Cary
Renaissance Hotel North Hills
AC Hotels North Hills
And many more places to stay in Raleigh and Wake County.



Disclosure: We were media guests of Pizza La Stella, opinions are my own and I do not classify myself as a brunch expert, but the Pizza Pot Pie....go for it.  If you book a hotel stay using my referral links, a small commission will be made. Thank you for booking through this blog and supporting editorial/media writing. 

6.08.2017

The Ugly Truth on Beauty Products: Is your Cleanser Really Natural or Safe?

When you walk into Sephora, Ulta, a Department Store or even your local drugstore, a number of beauty products on the market is staggering. It's a billion dollar industry and there are some ugly truths behind this business. There are hardly any safety regulations in this industry. Something that says natural may also have a hidden manufactured fragrance. Natural doesn't always mean safe. And synthetic doesn't always mean harmful. This article is a good education piece as well as this piece on greenwashing and what five terms of beauty products really mean. 

Is your Cleanser Really Safe?


The truth is that the European Union has banned or partially restricted over 1,400 ingredients from personal care products. Canada? Less than 600. The United States? The answer is 30. Safety laws restrict just 30 ingredients known to cause health risks, cancer, and hormone disruptions.

A beauty cleanser is something you use daily.  Sometimes twice a day. There are thousands of cleansers on the market. Beauty blogs are always listing the best and many cleansers are never even repeated in lists. I use Beautycounter Nourishing Cream Cleanser (Retail Price: $26). It lasts about 90 days and equals to .28 cents a day.

Beautycounter Nourishing Cleanser: Safe and Effective



This list of "BEST" cleanser ranged from $8.99 to $52. My cleanser is the middle for price ranges.

Some of the drug store brands that people lean toward buying are CeraVe, Neutrogena, Cetaphil, Clearasil,  Aveeno, and Simple Cleanser for as little as $2.99. They all look like simple and safe cleansers, but upon further investigation, you are putting your health at risk. There are lots of ingredients in the red zone.

Photo of CeraVe based on EWG Database: Not Safe

And more expensive does not mean it's safer either. Click the link to look at Kiehls, Clarins, Elizabeth Arden, and Clinique ratings on the EWG.

Out of all the products I've mentioned in this post, Beautycounter has the safest rating. But, Beautycounter's mission is to educate consumers on making safer choices. The products are fantastic, but some people cannot afford it or even fathom paying more than $10 for a cleanser. This natural living blog has checked the EWG and has a list of other natural and safe cleansers based on the EWG ratings at some lower price points. Beautycounter is committed to changing safety regulations so that you can find safer products everywhere. I know my cleanser works and I love what it has done to my skin.  Prior to Beautycounter, I used some harsh dermatologist products. My skin did not look as good.

Beautycounter bans 1500 ingredients known to cause health risks. The Nourishing Cream Cleanser is made with coconut oil and aloe leaf extract. This lightweight daily cleanser is hydrating and soothing. Witch hazel gives the creamy formula skin-toning properties for a fresh, taut appearance.

Twice a week I use the Essential Nourishing Cream Exfoliator (Retail $34 and lasts an entire year). This gentle yet effective, exfoliating cleanser relies on non-abrasive jojoba beads instead of plastic to help slough off dry skin and sweep away impurities, revealing a fresh, radiant complexion.

At 48, my skin is the best it's been in a long time. I use Beautycounter


I also use essential oils and moisturizers on my face, but I don't want to go into that topic today. I want to keep it simple with cleansers. Everyone should be washing their face.  Everyone needs to have access to knowledge because knowledge can help you make better choices.

Beautycounter has a Band of Beauty Member Program where clients get free shipping, special perks, and 15 percent back on purchases in product credit. The yearly membership rate is $29. If you buy a one-year membership today and purchase $50 in product, you will also receive a free membership gift.

Beautycounter is growing daily and they are hiring additional educators/consultants. If you have a passion for education and skincare/cosmetics, contact me. You set your own hours.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own in this piece. Income will be made if any Beautycounter is bought from this site. 



6.07.2017

THE BEST BROCCOLI SALAD YOU WILL EVER TASTE

Broccoli salad is not necessarily a dish that I gravitate to on salad bars or at picnics. I don't dislike broccoli salad, but usually, the base is mayonnaise and a whole lot of sugar. When it comes to sugar, I would rather eat a piece of poundcake instead of eating it in a broccoli salad.

We recently hosted a family reunion, and I made broccoli salad for it. I know what you are thinking. It's odd that I would pick to make a dish that I rarely eat to make at a family reunion, but I had interviewed the owner of the North Carolina-based Little Black Dressing Company for a North Carolina product campaign and really became a fan of her dressings after trying them.

And you all may hate me right now if you do not live in North Carolina (because unless you order the dressing online you will not be able to replicate this recipe) because I firmly the believe that the Creamy Dreamy Vinegarette dressing is what makes this salad so delicious  Will thinks the cranberries and glazed walnuts help, too, but I know with 100 percent confidence that it is the dressing that is the star.  I also have to give credit to the talented high school student Lillian Knepp who won $500 for the development of this recipe at the Dixie Classic Fair in North Carolina's Triad area.

Broccoli Salad Recipe Using Creamy Dreamy  Vinegarette


The BEST BROCCOLI SALAD YOU  WILL EVER TASTE RECIPE



  • 4cupsbroccoli florets
  • 3/4cupdried cranberries
  • 3/4 cup   chopped walnuts
  • 3/4 cupColby Jack cheese
  • 1/2cupshredded carrot for garnish
  • 1cupDreamy Creamy Vinaigrette


  1. Cut fresh broccoli off stem and into small florets. In a large mixing bowl, mix broccoli, dressing, cranberries, cheese, and walnuts. Pour into serving bowl and garnish with shredded carrots or extra cheese.

Note: I used glazed walnuts

Creamy Dreamy Vinegarette can be found in North Carolina specialty stores, Lowes Foods, and Fresh Market.  It is always in the refrigerated section near the produce. 



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