Did I even Raise my Children this Year with all that Blogging?

It’s time to say goodbye to 2011.  I’m also ending my freshman year as a first-time blogger.  As I go through my 2011 portfolio, I cannot believe that I have written 187 blog posts.  It will be one year in a few days since I wrote my very first blog post after a daunting trip to Food Lion with my two children.

There are a couple of things I need to tell you that have changed since that first post.  I do like to write to reduce stress, but I have found that I enjoy writing for your comments even more.  I love to hear from you, so I guess my writing, “I don’t care if I’m the only reader,” really doesn’t hold true one year later.

Just like a TV show pilot, some of my earlier posts make me cringe.  Just like a fine wine, I think my posts have become better with time.  I’ve become more comfortable in my space, and the posts seem more entertaining and enjoyable. 

Through blogging, I’ve also made some great connections and some great friendships. I know that may sound unusual to people who prefer making friends the old-fashioned way and not through social media.  But it’s a fact.  I feel blessed to have met so many other bloggers, and nonbloggers who read my blog.  To you, I say thank you. You keep me motivated to continue this quest.  And to think, one year ago I didn’t tweet or own a smartphone.  Santa made sure I was mobile in 2012.

I decided to take some time, look back over some old posts, and pick some of my favorites. 

I’ve shared a lot in 2011 on this blog.  I have featured many luxury hotels and terrific restaurants, and shared some scrumptious recipes. I also gave you a glimpse of my life as a parent. 

My 2011 Favorite Posts

Pirate Princess in the City, January 2011: This is a very early post about sibling rivalry and sharing.  Truthfully, it’s the biggest issue I deal with as a parent today.

Call Me, Nincompoop!, January 2011:  This post was written on a whim.  I love it because it shows you how easily a mom can get sidetracked in a day’s work.

 Is Everyday Like a Monday? May 2011:: This is a little Southern tale about how two kids can certainly mess up a leisurely Saturday morning.

Packing a Boden Swimsuit and Much More in my Pool Bag,June 2011:  I really hate the summer season.  I really do.

The Dish Ran Away with the Spoon, September 2011: This post is for all those parents who keep losing things.

Grocery FlyerMeal: Maple-Mustard Pork Chops with Caramelized Apples, September2011: This recipe is good, but I think the story is even better.


Growing Older, November 2011. This is probably my favorite post of the entire year because I let my guard down and spoke from the heart.

Turn the Never Ending To-Do List Into Done, November2011: This is a feel-good post that I hope inspires us all.

That Goes on the Back of the Tree Plus Cook Our SouthernTree Trimming Meal:  December 2011:  I think this is a funny story, and it shows that one truly grows in a relationship and as she ages.  Also, the recipe I share in this post is an absolute family favorite.

Travel and Leisure Posts
It was Already on My List, April 2011:  In April, I wrote a lot about the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.  I even worked with the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C., to plan a royalwedding here in North Carolina for my blog.  This post on the Goring Hotel is a favorite travel post of mine.  Kate Middleton stayed at the Goring Hotel the night before the wedding, but I tell you the truth when I say the hotel was on my “list” long before that wedding.

Buckle Up: You’re Road Trippin’ with the Hines, May 2011:  I like this post because I love Beaufort, N.C., and as the kids age, I would like to take this blog into more of a travel direction. You may also like One Wedding and A Fort. 

$60 and One Excruciating Car Ride Home Later: Is ItWorth It to Take Children on Day Trips? October 2011: I think the title of this post says it all, but it also shows you what fun we did have on our outing.  Yes, I do think it’s worth it.

A Funny Thing Happened in Durham, August 2011: I like this post because I think the story is funny. Some may call it disappointing, but we find that laughter is the best medicine for disappointment. 

I’m Dreaming of a Filet and a French Chardonnay, December2011: I love to eat, and I had a great time with this post.  

It really is hard to pinpoint some favorites. 

Here’s to many more posts in 2012.  And remember...

 Happy New Year!

Moving on to Birthday Candles

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas.  Our holiday has been picture perfect, and a lot of fun for my children.

We still have our tree up in our family room, but now we're getting out the birthday candles. That is, if we can find them among the after-Christmas clutter.  

My birthday is today, and my son will be six at the end of the week.  I used to dislike having my birthday so close to Christmas, but after many, many years, I've come to realize that it's a special time of year to celebrate a birthday.  Everyone is usually relaxed and still a little merry.  Also, you can buy whatever you didn't get under the tree for Christmas.  It's not so bad after all.

Baby Diva learned to sing "Happy Birthday!"for her preschool Christmas performance.   She nor my son will be winning X-Factor anytime soon, but they gave us an impromptu performance on Christmas before bed.  We are still the proud parents nonetheless.  And I bet that the sweet little kiss on the cheek was purely for the camera.  You be the judge.

So in-between taking down the Christmas tree, and eating a bite of birthday cake this week, I wish you a happy new year.  

Have a Holly, Jolly, Busy Christmas

I know the calendar says that December has 31 days in the month, but, honestly, it feels much shorter.  It’s true.  December is the most wonderful time of year, but it’s also the busiest.  There’s just so much to do.

I feel as if the month zips by. As a child, I guess it seems so slow until Christmas day, but as a parent, I feel as if Christmas comes in a blink of an eye.  Do you?

Who has time for laundry when there’s baking, shopping, and Christmas card addressing?

Christmas Card 2011

There’s holiday decorating, tree-trimming, and lots of light untangling that will cause you some stressing.

There are tree lightings, Santa, school programs, and festivals to see.  Presents certainly don’t wrap themselves, nor do those pesky little elves move without some help.  Oh, where could our elf, Jolly, be?  By golly, Jolly is never in the same place twice or else our kids would yelp.

Our Elf on the Shelf, Jolly.  He just sits. He never does anything  naughty.

Yes, there’s no déjà vu for an elf.  That would be naughty and not nice.  For we all know that the darn elf just doesn’t sit on the shelf.

I’m sure you have not one, but four, holiday parties to attend because no one seems to host parties any other time of the year.  That’s just not the trend.

Christmas party number one.  I wore the same outfit to all four parties so
that all the photos would be alike.  Ha! Ha! Ha!
Let’s not forget there are holiday meals to plan and lots of snacking. There’s a stocking to fill, and Santa needs cookies and milk, still.  And for some, there may even be some packing.

Christmas Eve comes and goes.  There’s the unwrapping of bows and lots of “Ohhs!”

Can it really be over?  And another year is here? Where did the month go? Gee, I wish time in December would be a little slow.  But we’ll always have a holly, jolly, busy Christmas every year.

I wish your family a Merry Christmas!  The time to do so is here. 

Thanks for being with me all year. It's been a pleasure, and I've made some memories and friends that I certainly will treasure. 

Now go, and have fun with your family!  I'll be back here in a week or so.

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Parenting Tale: Holiday Decorating and Turkey/Chicken Tetrazzini Recipe

Boy, I’ve come a long way through the years.  Every Christmas, my husband brings up the tale of our huge holiday spat on our first Christmas together.  We were having a lovely time trimming our tree with my roommate, Mitch.   However, all of the sudden, I arose with a clatter when my husband placed a Disney ornament with three Dalmatian puppies sitting on a heart in the center of the Christmas tree.

I gasped.

“That goes on the back of the tree!”

Yes, I did.  I was not backing down.  That ornament just would not do in the front of the tree.

As we argued over the placement of the ornament, Christmas started looking more like the 4th of July rather than the joyful holiday that it is supposed to be.  I think my new boyfriend may have even left my condo with his box of ornaments in his hands, and went home to his condo across the street. 

I’m not proud of that moment now, but I was a woman sans kids and my tree, well, my tree always had been decorated with a theme.  You know the kind — the ones like those you see in a floral shop or department store. 

That’s right! The fru-fru kind.

One year, my tree was decorated in crystal topped with a gold bow.  Another year, I added some purple glass ornaments to the mix.  Some may even call me the crazy cat lady due to my huge collection of cat ornaments through the years. 

Before you go and call me a Disney-hater, you must know I had nothing against Disney. In my mind, his ornament belonged on a cutesy tree or a Disney-themed tree.  It did not go well with gold bows, crystal angels and cats.

No! No! No!

Honestly, I don’t remember now where that ornament ended up that year, but one thing is for sure: By the next year, it was front and center on our Christmas tree.

The Disney dalmations are front and center every year, and we’ve added some other favorites right next to it.  We hang handmade snowflakes, handprint-Christmas trees, and other preschool-made gems in the front.

We have even added Mickey Mouse and a tiara to the mix, too.

I’ve since lost my gold bows, and each year, there are fewer and fewer expensive crystal ornaments on our tree.  I wouldn’t have it any other way now.  Our tree is priceless.

We still pull out some of my treasured, breakable favorites, though. However, we make sure they are up high.  And believe it or not, they go on the back of the tree.

I don’t mind one bit. 
Our friend, Mitch, still comes to help trim our tree.  I’ve decided it’s more fun to let others do the work, and while they argue where the ornaments go, I whip us up a tree-trimming dinner.

My friend, Mitch, helps to trim our tree every year. 
For several years now, I’ve made the southern casserole, Chicken Tetrazzini.  It’s easy!  It’s good! And with red pimientos and green peppers as two of the ingredients, it even looks like Christmas.

Leigh's Southern Chicken or Turkey Tetrazzini

2 large chicken breasts or three boneless thighs (1 baked chicken cut-up)
I poach my chicken, and use boneless chicken to save time of taking it off the bone.
8 oz angel hair or spaghetti cooked in chicken broth
1/2 green pepper, cut up
1 small jar pimento
2 cans of cream of mushroom soup
2 cups of grated cheese
Buttered bread crumbs on top

Mix all ingredients together except cheese, and place in lightly greased baking dish.  Cover with 2 cups of grated cheese.  Top with buttered bread crumbs.  Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. 

Even though my Chicken Tetrazzini is far from Italian, I did pair it with a simple Mushroom, Parmesan Arugula Salad this year.

You’ve probably got your Christmas tree up already, but these recipes will also work well for taking your tree down, too.  

Our family:
Mr. Cool (age 6 next week) and Baby Diva, (2)
Oh, I dread that!  It’s just not as fun as trimming the tree.

Our 2011 Tree

Merry Christmas!

Holiday Green with House Envy

There's something about the holidays that make you a little crazy.  Oh, it's a wonderful time, don't get me wrong, but the month is so busy that I sometimes just want to hide in my bedroom and be a little lazy.  Better yet, I would love to be at a resort with not a care in the world.  Santa can find you anywhere, right? 

It's wonderful to see your friends during the holidays, but it's really hard to cram in visits with 32 of them when there are only 23 days in the month.  No one wants to get together after Dec. 24. 

Something has happened to my bathroom scale, too. It's displaying a much higher number than it did three days ago.  Really? Do 400 cocktail meatballs make that much of a difference?  I swear, I only had five brownies on Friday, two on Saturday, and one on Sunday. 

I've truly been running all over town. So what if it’s been in my car?  Just getting in and out of the car should burn some calories.  It's just not right. 

My shopping list is complete except for my CVS run.  My child asked for Scotch tape.  Why?  I don't know. Apparently, Scotch tape is a necessity for the house.  I really only use it at Christmas.  Not sure why it's needed the other 364 days of the year, but my son must need it.  He's told Santa and every other person that we know that he wants Scotch tape for Christmas.  You should see the looks we get with that request.  "Come on, lady! Buy the child some Scotch tape right now.  Don't wait for Santa to bring it." 

My shopping is done.  My wrapping is not.  I'm too busy spatting about holiday gathering times with the family to get anything done.  Yes, December makes me mean, and my hormones do the talking for me.  In a click of an email, my name automatically goes on the naughty list.  

I also get something that I call "Holiday House Envy."  I just have a bunch of lit tree branches in a basket on my porch because my husband no longer wants to hassle with outdoor lighting.  It started when we had children.  Too time consuming! He also cut his finger one year on a bulb, and it just went downhill from there.  I guess I could attempt to do it myself, but it’s a lot easier just to complain about it and put branches in a basket.  

Think how hard these people worked on their decor. 

Beautiful home in the Oakwood neighborhood of Raleigh, NC.

I'm envious.

North Carolina's Governor did pretty well with her decorating, too.

The Governor's Mansion in Raleigh, NC. 

Some people just make their homes gorgeous during the holidays.

Well, this is about the best I can do.

From my house to yours, Merry Christmas!

I have a few more posts in my stocking this week so I'll talk to you soon.

Learning the Lesson of Giving One Hot Cocoa at a Time

As parents, it’s our responsibility to teach our children that Christmas is about more than just presents.  It’s also about giving, reaching out, and helping others in need.  Sure, teaching him to give is easy, but teaching him why some people need help isn’t as simple, especially, when your own child has pajamas, a coat, food, and a warm bed to sleep in every night.  Unfortunately, some children are not as lucky.  It’s hard for my five-year-old to comprehend that another child may not have these necessities.  These things, as well as holiday presents, are always there for him in his home. 

On Saturday, two of my son’s friends from his school sold hot cocoa in their neighborhood to raise money to provide Christmas presents and groceries for homeless children in the Raleigh area.  I saw this as a perfect opportunity to drive home the lesson about the true meaning of Christmas, and to also teach a little lesson in journalism, too.  The rest of this story is by my son, who I refer to as Mr. Cool on this blog because he is rarely without his infamous sunglasses.

Holiday Guest Post by "Mr. Cool Hines", age 5. 

Meet Kate.  She's in my class at school.

Jack, her twin brother, is in another kindergarten class at our school, but we play together on the playground. 

They were selling hot chocolate in order to help kids in our area who really need our help.  The money that Jack and Kate raised will buy Christmas presents and groceries for children who don't have homes. 

Some of my other friends from school came, too.  Jack and Kate sold hot chocolate for two hours.  It was really good, too.  I'm happy that I could help support their cause.  My mom tells me that my donation will help other kids have a merry Christmas, too.

Back to you, Mom!

I think the kids enjoyed selling the hot chocolate, but they also got in some great playtime, and left their mom and dad with their hot cocoa stand in-between customers.   This deed was a great way for these parents to teach a wonderful message to their children.  All proceeds from the hot cocoa fundraiser will benefit the Wake Interfaith Hospitality Network.  This organization accepts donations all year, and also has a list of material needs on its wish list.  It's touching to see all the services that they provide to families. 

Have a great weekend, and I'll talk to you next week.  Don't forget to join me on Facebook or Twitter, if you haven't done so already.   I also offer e-mail subscriptions to my posts.  I'm going to reduce my posts over the holidays, but I will still be around on those social media sites.   Also, my giveaway for a Mascot Children's book will end on Sunday.   We will be selecting five winners! 

Bowling with a Wuf and a Ram { Plus Giveaway}

It’s no secret that I do some crazy things.

Like dressing up my daughter in her brother’s N.C. State hand-me-downs and trying to get her to say, “Go Wolfpack.”

Won’t I ever learn that toddlers have minds of their own?

And don’t worry, Carolina fans; I will have this book about Rameses under our tree. It is my alma-mater, after all.


But the Rameses book is popular and sells out a lot.  I haven’t got my hands on a copy yet.  

In fact, all Mascot books are a hot item year-round, but especially during the holidays.  Everyone wants their favorite team’s sweatshirt and a Mascot book under the tree.  I know I do for my kids.

Guess what? I’ve got a great surprise for you just in time for you to cheer on your favorite teams in this year’s bowl games.  I’ve teamed up with Mascot Books to give my readers a chance to win one book featuring their favorite team’s mascot from the children’s books for college.  I’m going to give FIVE readers this opportunity. Mascot Books has all the teams in stock that are going to bowl games this year except Oklahoma State.  Unfortunately, Pistol Pete and his journey around the campus of Oklahoma State are currently sold out.  Also, your team doesn’t have to be going to a bowl to win.  If you win, you can choose any team in Mascot Books’ original collegiate section.

Clemson will be playing in the Discover Orange Bowl.  Kind of fitting based on their colors.

Big Al is going to New Orleans for the AllState BCS National Championship Game.  He'll  meet up with Mike from LSU.

What happens if there is not a book about your favorite team?  Well, I suggest you write your own version and have Mascot Books publish it.  Mascot Books is always looking for new authors, and your book doesn’t have to be about mascots, either.  It just needs to be a children’s book.  If you are an aspiring author, Mascot Books will help you edit, illustrate, publish, and sell your book through their children’s book self-publishing program

Remember earlier when I said it was no secret that I do crazy things?  Well, my son and I were sitting around the table one night creating a story about a zucchini in the yellow, polka-dotted bikini and all the crazy characters she could meet along the way.  Who knows?  Maybe you’ll see our story come to life one day with the help of  Mascot Books. 

In the meantime, I’m going to say “Go Pack!” and “Go Tar Heels!”  Good luck with your bowl games. 

Can't wait to win until the 19th to find out if you won my giveaway?  Want a mascot book it in time for Christmas?  Get it now with 25% off all collegiate books using the discount code, "holiday."

I’m trying Rafflecopter to run this giveaway because they do everything for you, including selecting a winner at random draw.  I have lots of shopping to do so I need all the outside help I can get right now.   All you have to do is enter a comment on the blog, tell me your favorite team (because I'm nosy like that) then go back to the Rafflecopter box, and hit "I did this".  It will tell you what to do so that it can enter you in the drawing.   All the other options in the box are additional entries and are not required for the drawing.  Good luck, and I’ll announce five winners by Monday, December 19.  If you don't want to enter the contest, but still want to leave a comment then you do not have to do the steps in the Rafflecopter box, but I do hope you consider joining me on Facebook or Twitter

A Little Tarheel Holiday Cheer

I want to end this week by sharing something with you that makes me smile.

Each one of these holiday cards has a little story.  Hopefully, a very merry one. The tiny footprints are real.

These adorable Baby Prints cards are designed by Karen Thaxton, a nurse who works in the Newborn Critical Care Center at N. C. Children's Hospital  All of the tiny hand and foot prints on these cards are the actual size of the babies who donated them.

All proceeds from these Kids Cards are used to fund novel and unique programs aimed at enriching the lives of pediatric patients and their families at the North Carolina Children's Hospital in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  This card called "Rejoice" is beautiful, and is the artwork of a pediatric patient.

These children have such talent.  I pray that they are now well, and are at home with their families this holiday.   A child from Raleigh,who is the exact same age as my son, designed this special Christmas tree.   I  get a lump in my throat when I think about it because I feel so blessed that my children are currently healthy.

Since its inception in 1985, Kids Cards has funded such programs as: camperships for burn victims, bilingual education materials, special car seats for children in full body casts; and memory book supplies for neonatal and pediatric intensive care units.

Take a moment to browse through the wonderful card collection this year, and learn more about this wonderful program.  Cards can be ordered online. They can also be purchased regionally at Harris Teeter, and other retail outlets.   There are so many beautiful ones that it is hard to have a favorite, but I love this one.

Have a wonderful weekend! Hope you are getting your holiday shopping complete.  I still have more to do because it seems that I am a last-minute gal. 

Tinsel on a Christmas Tree Can Hang Longer Than Parents Can at Night

Not too long ago, my husband and I had a date night at a romantic and delicious Northern Italian café in North Raleigh.

Our sitter knocked on our door at 6 p.m. and helped get the kids their dinner. We left at 7 p.m. to travel to the other side of town to make our 7:30 p.m. dinner reservation. The kids were happy, and we were happy. 

We were as merry as this shiny, tinsel Christmas tree when we drove out of the driveway. 

We could finally have a nice dinner alone without any whining, or telling our son to eat over his plate or sit up in his chair.  We could have a conversation and perhaps ignite some romance.
It was a great scenario. 
So what’s the problem?
We are tired, old, middle-aged parents with small children.  That’s the problem!
After a glass or two of Chianti, we became so tired that all we wanted to do was lay our heads down in our veal parmigiana.  I honestly think I drifted off five minutes before entering our subdivision.  Good thing I wasn’t driving.
Look at us.  We look happy, but worn out. 

I'm only showing you this horrible photo to prove my point.   Our heart is saying, "Go have fun!", but our
head is saying, "Check, please! Let's call it a night."

Like most parents, we had a busy day that started with our oldest child tapping us on the shoulder at 7:30 am.  My husband did yard work while I entertained the kids the rest of the day, with a few errands also thrown in the mix.  We basically went non-stop until the sitter came.
After that last bite of dessert at 10 p.m., we knew we were just half an hour or so away from our dream of crawling into our king-sized bed on our separate sides and snoozing until we got that dreaded tap on the shoulder the next morning.
We had a lovely time and great dinner, but I honestly think daytime TV dramas are on to something with their “love in the afternoon” theme.
Personally, I think we need a lunch date when we are still refreshed and still have the energy to enjoy each other’s company.  A romantic lunch date would give us an active break from the kids while they are up and all of us are still full of life. 
Yeah, that is starting to be more appealing than going out when they are in bed, and our sitter gets to do what we enjoy best: sitting on the couch and watching TV in quiet. That’s the best part of our day.
Yep, this may be middle age talking.  I did have my last child at 40.  Or perhaps it is just being a parent, and age isn’t a factor.  
Regardless, I’ve given it some thought. A daytime date sounds like a good plan, or if not a lunchtime date, then perhaps a 5:30 p.m. dinner with the senior citizens timed so that we come home just as soon as the last child is asleep. 
Now that’s amore!  Are you with me? 

Linking up with Shell today. 

Things I Can't Say

I’m Dreaming of a Filet and a French Chardonnay

While most of you may be dreaming of a white Christmas, I’m dreaming of a melt-in-your-mouth Filet and a French Chardonnay this holiday.  I owe these sweet and savory dreams to Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar, who invited me to their restaurant last week to sample some of their 100 wines by the glass and new small-plate appetizers.

Yes, I said 100 wines by the glass. 

Just look!
Yes, Fleming's offers 100 wines by the glass
OK, I’ll let you get off the floor now and catch your breath.  I’ve never seen that many wines by the glass in one restaurant, either.

I had no idea that this little gem of a wine bar was adjacent to one of Raleigh’s premier shopping destinations, Crabtree Valley Mall.  Holiday shopping now takes on a whole new meaning for me with this newfound knowledge.

Last Wednesday evening, I hired a sitter and did something I never do with my husband.  We ate in a very nice restaurant on a school night.  Food expert and blogger Johanna Kramer, who authors Durhamfoodie, joined us, along with her fiancé.  We met for the first time that evening, and I feel as if I’ve always known her.  We definitely hit it off.  She’s currently writing a food guide for the Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill area. 

Raleigh Fleming's operating partner Rebecca Blake and wine manager Jim Soffe also dined with us to talk about new menu items and wines for the holidays.

Fleming's Chef Ron West, Jim Soffe, Rebecca Blake, The Hines, Johanna Kramer, and her fiance, David
I had never been to Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar before last week, and it’s been open in Raleigh for three years.  Why not, you ask?  It’s not that I’m stuck in my house and never eat out.  As a reader of my blog, you know I eat out frequently.  I spend as much money in a year in restaurants as most people spend on designer duds, especially when you factor in sitter costs. 

Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar in Raleigh, NC
I think I had never eaten here because — with two children — our time is limited, and I wasn’t well-informed on what the restaurant offered.  Before last week, I had the perception that most high-end steakhouses were only for special occasions due to the expense.  It’s not that I was choosing other steakhouses over this one; I was choosing different types of restaurants altogether for our nights out.  Since I’m not much of a shopper, I don’t find myself at any traditional mall very often.  If I am at a mall, it is usually at 10 a.m. when it first opens, and I have a toddler in tow.  I’m not scoping out restaurants for dinner.

I quickly learned at this dinner that I could throw my preconceived notions out the window.  Fleming’s is elegant, just as you would find in a fine dining restaurant, but it is warm and inviting. It’s perfect for casual conversations and impromptu dinners.  It’s not reserved for just special occasions.  With awesome specials, like the “5-6-7” bar menu, featuring five tempting appetizers, five premium cocktails and five distinctive wines by the glass — each priced at $6 and served 5 to 7 p.m., you could walk in any given night of the week and have outstanding food at a great price.  

Rebecca and Jim designed a delicious menu for our dinner in order for us to sample the new small-plate section of the restaurant’s menu.  In my opinion, the small plates make a perfect-sized entrée, especially when paired with a salad and the restaurant’s scrumptious family-style sides.

We sampled five popular small-plate entrees, and Jim paired five wines for each dish. 

I’m usually not a Chardonnay girl, but Jim wowed me with this moderately priced wine from France. 

He paired Joseph Drouhin, Macon-Villages France, 2010, with Jumbo Shrimp Scampi Skewers with Chimichurri dipping sauce and an avocado citrus salad.  This was my favorite white wine of the night.  The shrimp was fantastic, and the duo together made a wonderful gastronomic combination.

We tried our red wines via Fleming’s Wine Flights. 

Enjoy a trio of wine with Fleming's Wine Flight
This is an ideal way to try three different wines with a 2-ounce serving each.  Jim picked a Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Zinfadel for us to taste out of his extensive 100-bottle collection.  Eighty discriminating wines out of the Fleming’s 100 can be found nationally, but the remaining 20 wines are carefully selected by local wine managers to reflect personal guest preferences, regional tastes, and special wine-buying opportunities available only on a limited scale.  

Four out of the five wines we sampled, Jim specifically selected for Raleigh’s Fleming’s.   I generally prefer red wine over white wine, so it’s not really a surprise that I thought all three in the flight were great, but what was a surprise is that I adored the French Chardonnay.  It was my favorite for the night, followed by the Twomey, Merlot Napa Valley, 2006.  

This showed me that with a little education about the wines, and the freedom to try a variety, I like white wines more than I realize.  This alone made me want to go back to Fleming’s because you can sample a few selections before deciding on what to put in your flight.

As for the food, I enjoyed every small-plate entree that chef Ron West put in front of me, but two were my personal favorites.
Ahi Tuna Skewers
The Ahi Tuna Skewers with a wasabi aioli, sweet tomato vinaigrette, and homemade wontonentrée of the evening.  The sweet tomato vinaigrette paired perfectly with the seared medium-rare tuna.  It was simply delicious.  I could eat a whole bowl of the vinaigrette, and that may be partly why this dish is so memorable to me.  It was good. 

No doubt, though, the star attraction was the Sliced Filet Mignon on shiitake risotto, chili oil, and drizzled with porcini butter. It melted in your mouth at each bite.  I loved the tuna, but once I took a bite of the filet, then this dish won top honors as the “best of the night” for me.  I have to admit that tasting this one entrée really made me want to go and try the New York strip or 6-ounce filet.  I think my husband and I will do it before the year is out.  I may be going to the mall a lot now with my main purpose to eat and not shop.

Sliced Filet Mignon on the Small Plate Menu
So yes, my recent outing has me dreaming of a Filet Mignon and a French Chardonnay. Jim, of course, did pair red wine with the steak, but he did tell me as I kept sipping my Chardonnay that when it comes to wine, it is important to drink what you like.  The good news is, with a wine flight trio, I can have a blend of whites and reds to go with a variety of small plates.  That just makes the meal fun.

Fleming's waiter, Curtis Workman, poses with us on a tour of the private dining room.
If you go to Fleming's, tell  Curtis hello. 

Johanna and I had a blast on our dinner adventure.  Fleming’s feels like dining with family. We all had such a great time together.  Chef Ron, Rebecca, and Jim take such pride in this restaurant.  I immediately bonded with Rebecca, who is a mom my age. I learned that Baby Diva and her son were born the exact same day, in the exact same hospital, and within the same hour.  That was some great dessert conversation over a seasonal bread pudding.

Want to Go: Fleming's is located at Crabtree Valley Mall, just north of the Raleigh Beltline at 4325 Glenwood Avenue.  There are numerous Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar locations throughout the U.S.  The restaurant is also very conscious of dietary restrictions and has a gluten-free menu for its guests.

Disclosure: Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar and McKeeman PR and Marketing invited me to dinner as their guest. As always, my opinions are my own and are not influenced by the company.  

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