Every Day Needs to Be a Spa Day: My Heavenly Experience at the Spa at Ballantyne

As a stay-at-home mom, I can assure you that not many of my days are spent at a spa.  In fact, it’s safe to say that my days are usually the polar opposite of tranquil bliss.  Truthfully, I rarely look this calm and happy.

At the Spa at Ballantyne in Charlotte, NC
As you read on Monday, my husband and I packed our bags, arranged overnight childcare, and took a three-hour road trip to spend a luxurious night at the Ballantyne Hotel and Lodge in Charlotte, North Carolina.  We had just over 24 hours without kids, and boy, did we pick the right hotel for us.

After we checked in to our parlor suite, Will made a trip to the fitness center, and I made a beeline to the Spa at Ballantyne, located on two floors of the hotel.  What woman in her right mind would not check out the spa of a luxury hotel if given the opportunity?

Guests check in on the top floor of the Spa
The Ballantyne Hotel recently completed a substantial renovation to the spa.  Oh. My. Gosh! It is gorgeous.  The ladies’ lounge exudes soft blue, khaki, and expresso tones, creating a bright and airy setting.  

Photo Courtesy: Bissell 
And this is what you get to snack on while in the lounge.

Chocolates and Truffles

Fabulous fruit water, coffee, and tea
Hello.  I think I could sit in the lounge all day. 

Believe it or not, you actually can camp out in the spa area all day if you book just one appointment, and you don’t even have to be a hotel guest. 

If you live in the area and book any type of spa appointment, then you have full use of the spa’s amenities all day long.  That includes use of the sauna and both the indoor and outdoor pools.  Now, that is a perk!  I’m jealous of all my Charlotte-area friends. 

The Spa's indoor pool 
In addition to the renovation, the Spa at Ballantyne also has a new menu that is inspired by the Four Elements — Earth, Water, Air, and Fire — and focuses on customization to address each guest’s personal goals for his or her spa experience.  Based on Native American elemental philosophy, each treatment category aligns with a corresponding element.

I know you are on the edge of your computer wondering what element I chose for my hour of relaxation.  Truthfully, I think I needed about 10 different spa treatments to get me back into total balance.  Being a parent has certainly taken a toll on my 43-year-old body, but one treatment was certainly a step in the right direction.

Since it’s winter, and I do a terrible job about taking care of my body, I chose a body treatment, which is in the “Water” category.  Body treatments offer cleansing and nourishment for the skin, conveying the soothing and balancing attributes of water.  Simply speaking, I chose it because I was scaly like a snake and really needed to shed some dry skin.  

This is me as I underwent the Shea Sugar Smoothie Envelopment. My treatment room overlooked the golf course.  Olga took great care of me. She applied a shea butter and sugar scrub to remove dead skin cells.  Later, I was enveloped in a honey oat yogurt mask while enjoying a relaxing foot and scalp massage.

After showering, Olga then applied sweet agave nectar oil and shea butter to seal in a dewy complexion.  When finished, my skin was velvety soft, and, surprisingly, it is still soft more than a week later.  It was just what my body needed.

I also felt relaxed, renewed, and energized after my hour with Olga.  And I absolutely love Olga because she said I looked much younger than 43 and that I had good skin genes.  That made my day.  Who am I kidding?  I think it’s made my year.  I’m asking for her when I get to go back.

The Spa at Ballantyne has so many fabulous treatments that it was hard for me to choose.  I couldn’t go wrong with any choice, really, but I am glad that I chose a body treatment for this experience. It was my first time being wrapped up like a baked potato, and it really did make a difference with my skin.  

Olga, in her lovely Ukrainian accent, told me that I smelled like a cupcake, the perfect dessert for my husband, later that evening.

Oh, Olga, you make me blush.

But, speaking of dessert, I tasted the best coconut ever during my dinner at the Gallery Restaurant.  That story will be on the blog later this week.  Stay with me for Charlotte week.  Lots more to tell.

Want to Go:
Located in The Ballantyne Hotel and Lodge, which is a Starwood Luxury Collection Hotel, and a Forbes Four-Star and AAA Four Diamond recognized hotel.
10000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway
Charlotte, N.C.

Related Posts: 
Pack Your Bags: We're Heading to the Ballantyne Hotel and Lodge

Disclaimer: My thanks to the Bissell Corporation for having me as a media guest. Even though my visit was complimentary, all opinions are my own.

Pack Your Bags: A Traveler's Look at the Ballantyne Hotel and Lodge

It's long overdue, but I’m ecstatic to be reviving my “Pack Your Bags” segments with a hotel stay that was actually recent, and not before the birth of my children.  Yes, children certainly change things!  It took a lot of outside help, but my husband and I finally got out of town for a night without the kids.  This was our first overnight getaway in two years.  TWO years.  I can’t believe we let that happen.

For this momentous occasion, we chose the Ballantyne Hotel and Lodge in Charlotte, North Carolina, as our destination. 

The Ballantyne Hotel and Lodge in Charlotte, NC
Photo Courtesy : Bissell
The luxury hotel is a member of Starwood’s prestigious Luxury Collection and is an easy three-hour drive from Raleigh.  It's  located in the Ballantyne area, which is about 20 minutes from Charlotte’s uptown.  The area is filled with boutiques and bistros. In the center of the area is the Ballantyne Hotel, with its championship PGA golf course and spa.

Photo Courtesy: Bissell 

On this cold and rainy February day, the hotel was our only destination for the night.  Our time was short, and we wanted to relax. We didn’t need to go anywhere else.  We’ll save that for another time. This trip was about recharging our batteries.  Kids can wear them down.  Besides, we had everything we needed with a beautiful spa, fitness center, and the award-winning Gallery Restaurant on the property.

The minute you walk into the Ballantyne Hotel, you immediately get a warm and inviting feeling.  Being a Southerner, I believe it embodies the grandeur of an Old South Country Club with a lot of Southern charm, but without any stuffiness.  Flowers, original art, and cozy sitting areas make you feel right at home.

The flowers in the entry way of the hotel

Original art can be found throughout the Ballantyne Hotel 
The lobby of the hotel around 5:30 pm
The delightful Juan-Carlos showed us to our room on the fourth floor.

We stayed in a grand deluxe king room overlooking the golf course with a parlor suite.   The parlor is an optional connection. It would be great for families because it has a sleeper sofa, another TV, and a second full bathroom. 

The Parlor Suite has an additional closet and a second full-bath

I cannot say enough great things about our room.  I loved the décor because my personal style tends to be more traditional.  I felt as if I were staying in a person’s Southern antebellum home on the golf course.

Even though we were in a deluxe king with the parlor connection.  All standard rooms look like our bedroom.

The view from our room

The true star of the room, though, was the bathroom with its lavish soaking tub and glass walk-in shower.  Even the tissue box matched the artwork and wallpaper.  As far as bathrooms go, this ranks as one of the best. 

I loved the mirror for make-up

Shhhh! But I am still enjoying the Remede and Gilchrist and Soames bath amenities back in Raleigh.  I love to take a little bit of luxury home.  Juan-Carlos told me that I could take the bath slippers, too, but I left them unused for the next lucky guest.  I also want to commend the hotel on cleanliness.  I was quite impressed.

Our room at the Ballantyne Hotel was a tranquil haven for us.  I found the perfect spot to read and sip on some wine, compliments of the hotel.  It is a delightful place to be. I know a lot of people don’t share my love for hotels and see them as just places to sleep, but, for me, what I’ve described to you is the most important part of the travel experience.  It sets the tone for my vacation, and it’s what I remember the most.  

I could really see myself coming back in the warm, summer months and enjoying the outdoor pool, too.  

Photo Courtesy: Bissell 
Even though we used this time without kids, the Ballantyne Hotel is kid-friendly.  My children would love the indoor and outdoor pools, and the hotel offers supervised summer activities,  a kid menu, as well as the SPG KidsPass program for dining.  I glanced at the kid’s menu briefly, and it had a number of options, from macaroni and cheese for my picky Baby Diva to a kid’s filet for my luxury-hotel, fine-dining-loving son. 

Can you tell I loved the hotel? Well, I loved the spa and restaurant, too.  I have not one thing to say negative about this hotel.  We did learn, though, that key cards don’t work if they’re placed near smartphones, but thanks to Juan-Carlos, he got us back in our room.

Stay tuned for the rest of the week, and I’ll update you on those adventures plus some great things to do in Charlotte.  Be sure to check out the great packages that the Ballantyne Hotel offers if you want to plan your next getaway.

The Ballantyne Hotel was just what we needed to recharge our batteries.

Want to Stay:
The Ballantyne Hotel and Lodge
A Starwood’s Luxury Collection Hotel and a Forbes Four-Star and AAA Four Diamond recognized hotel.
10000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway
Charlotte, NC

Disclaimer: My thanks to the Bissell Corporation for having me as a media guest. Even though my stay was complimentary, all opinions are my own. 

Heart Healthy Winter Minestrone

OK. OK. I know spring is right around the corner, so what am I doing sharing a recipe with winter in the title?  And not only that, but I’m sharing a recipe that has butternut squash, an ingredient which my husband says he can’t stand.

But he took one bite of this winter minestrone, and the taste of butternut squash melted his heart.  He’s now a fan, at least when it’s part of this soup.

Earlier this month, I revealed in a post that I hadhypertension, and it was my goal this month to share a heart-healthy meal for my recipe linkup with Daphne from Flip Flops and Pearls.  I think I found a true winner, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

This recipe was originally published in Cooking Light in 2008.  As usual, I modified the recipe because I’m always forgetting ingredients at the grocery store.  

Photo Credit: Randy Mayor/Leigh Ann Ross/My Recipes

Heart Healthy Winter Minestrone


      2 teaspoons olive oil
      1/2 cup chopped onion
      1/2 teaspoon dried basil
      1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
      2 garlic cloves, minced
      1 1/4 cups cubed peeled acorn or butternut squash (about 1 medium)
      3/4 cup diced zucchini  (left this vegetable out)
      1/2 cup chopped carrot
      1/2 cup diced fennel
      1 cup water
      1 (14-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
      5 tablespoons no-salt-added tomato paste
      1/4 cup uncooked ditalini (very short tube-shaped pasta) I used penne pasta
      2 1/2 cups chopped Swiss chard  (I used spinach)
      1/2 cup rinsed and drained canned Great Northern Beans (I used a whole can of white kidney beans)
      1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
       2 tablespoons grated Asiago cheese (I used parmesan cheese)

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, basil, oregano, and garlic to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Add squash and next 3 ingredients (through fennel); sauté 5 minutes. Stir in 1 cup water, broth, and tomato paste; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Stir in pasta; cook 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chard; cook 3 minutes. Add beans; cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Stir in pepper. Serve with cheese.

Enjoy!  Daphne and I hope you find some great recipes in this month's, "Let's Eat Y'all".

Until next week, you can find me on Facebook and Twitter.

Why a Leotard is a Royal Pain in My Prissy Crown

I remember the day so vividly.  Why wouldn’t I?  Everyone typically remembers the day when an ultrasound tech delivers the news of the sex of your unborn baby.  It’s a happy moment, but hearing “It’s a girl!” brought on a feeling of elation for me.

At 40, I knew she was going to be my last child, and to be told that I was going to be able to experience life having both a son and daughter was certainly a true blessing.  After two miscarriages and the diagnosis of “you’re just getting older, and it’s more difficult to find a good egg,” we really felt blessed just to be able to have a second child.  That was the miracle.  Having a girl, well, that was just icing on the cake.

And sweet icing it was, indeed!

Baby Diva, born in 2009

Growing up, I guess you could call me a prissy girl.  Even though I wasn’t big on wearing bows or dresses, dirt certainly wasn’t my friend.  Neither was any type of ball or physical education class, unless we learned a dance routine.  On those rare dance days, I didn’t fake a stomachache.

All I wanted in my life were tutus, pompoms, a baton, white majorette boots, a tiara, makeup, and a leotard.

Raising my son, we didn’t have any of those items in the house, except I did sneak in some pompoms one day.  Unfortunately, our fat cat kept eating the pompom strings, so I had to give them to my girlfriend’s daughter.  My son got to play with all of those items weekly when he went to his little girlfriend’s house, and some of my fondest memories are of him dressed in a tutu and a crown. 

So naturally when I heard, “It’s a girl!” visions of pompoms and tiaras danced in my head.

As a toddler, Baby Diva loves balls, climbing, and dirt, everything that her mommy didn’t. In fact, she likes all of that more than her brother, actually. But she loves to dance and tumble, too. 

Naturally, as soon as I could, the prissy side of me enrolled her in gymnastics classes.

I also couldn’t resist buying her a blue leotard.

She loves this leotard. 

What was I thinking? 

I should have bought pompoms instead to drive my husband crazy with the fall-out strands on the carpet.

But, no, I didn’t do that.  Instead, I bought a one-piece leotard for a diaper-wearing child, and this one piece of clothing has essentially become a royal pain in my prissy crown.

She loves the leotard.  She wants to wear it on Monday when gymnastics is on Wednesday.  She doesn’t want to take it off for me to change her diaper. 

She doesn’t want to put on pants over the leotard when it’s 45 degrees outside.

I have created a leotard-wearing monster.

But I think it’s made her ready for dance class.  And she may be the only girl I know that wears a leotard while shooting some baskets. 

Linked to: 

Checked In

Just wanted to tell you that I am loving the Ballantyne Hotel and Lodge in Charlotte.  I will tell you all about it the week of Feb. 27.

I missed snow in Raleigh last night, but I don't even care.  Life is too grand here.

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Frivolous Friday: Is there a Coveted “Get Out of Parenting” Free Card?

I have never been a game player, but for some reason as a child I loved to play Monopoly.

I don’t know.  Maybe it  was the combination of money and real estate that floated my boat.  Whatever it was, it was one of my most  favorite childhood games. 

I was always so happy when I got the coveted “Get Out of Jail Free Card.” 
Image Credit

Smug, really!

Guess what? 

I have a similar type of card.  Thank god, this one has nothing to do with a real jail, but what I’m about to do almost seems like a prison break.

It's been two years since I have had a night away from both of  my children. 

As much as I love my children, that’s really a long time. 

I mean before I met my husband, I never even dated a person for  that long.  That’s 730 days of yells, screams, crying, laughing, nose wipes, butt wipes, bedtime stories, baths, sibling fighting, and early-morning breakfasts without One. Overnight. Break.

Sure, I get sitters a lot.  I don’t want to fool you into thinking I don’t get any type of break.  You read my blog. You know that  my husband and I date a lot, but we always come home at 10 p.m. and see our children bright and early the next morning.

As older parents, it also means that we have older parents, and they help us out a lot, but keeping children, especially young children, is challenging, and, truthfully, a lot to ask of them.

But the time has come.  We have a “Get Out of Parenting Free” Card.  Well, it’s not exactly free.  We’re shipping the older one off with his grandma, and we have hired our sitter for overnight with Baby Diva.  It's easier to divide and conquer.

We finally feel comfortable enough to do this, and as a result I’ll be nurturing the luxury hotel side of my blog a little more as I revive my “Pack Your Bags” feature.

I’m so excited that I can barely contain myself.  A full night off from parenting. 

My husband and I will be staying at the Ballantyne Hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina.  I can’t wait to  tell you about the spa, the Gallery Restaurant, the rooms, and, well, some things will just stay at the Ballantyne.  Can’t reveal everything!

The Ballantyne Hotel is a member of Starwood's Luxury Hotel Collection

Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter, and you may just get some sneak peeks of our travels.

When I talk to you next week, I should be a little more rested and ready to get back to parenting.

If you are a parent with children, how often are you able to travel without your children?

Big-City Cuisine in a Quaint, Small NC Town

The town of Hillsborough, North Carolina, is a small, picturesque town just 12 miles from Chapel Hill and 42 miles from Raleigh.

The charming, Southern town of Hillsborough

It's kind of a two-stoplight-type town with plenty of charm.  Hillsborough, located in Orange County, is becoming a haven for writers, artists, and a new culinary genius.

On this blustery, frigid night for our area, we took a road trip with Will’s mom to Hillsborough to have dinner at Panciuto.

Panciuto on S. Churton Street
We started a new Christmas trend this year and decided to give a dinner out as our present to her.  While the kids were with a sitter, it was time for us to go on a new culinary adventure.

Aaron Vandemark, the owner/chef of Panciuto, received many national accolades last year, including a coveted nomination as a semifinalist for “Best Chef: Southeast” by the James Beard Foundation.

This charming restaurant has a farm-to-table approach for its dining selections, using all North Carolina farms, some as far away as 48 miles from Hillsborough. The seafood arrives fresh from North Carolina or nearby Southern states.  The menu changes weekly, and it is planned around what is in abundance at the farms.  Everything is prepared from scratch.  Forty farms actually supplied the food for the menu when we dined. 

For starters, we shared a Meat and Cheese Board. 

This $17 appetizer was delicious.  Probably better shared with two people

This plate is made up of smoked farmers’ cheese with pepper jelly, New Moon with fig jam, Asiago with banana butter, Hickory Grove with honeycomb, pickled sunchokes, prosiutto, grilled bread and coppa.

Panciuto’s menu is small, but big on the wow factor of marrying flavors and uniting farm-fresh ingredients. We had five items to select for a main course.  Eggs were in abundance this week, and three out of the five courses had some type of egg combination in them. 

I was the odd man out because I just didn’t want an egg in my entrée that evening.  I don’t know why, but it was just my mood that evening.  The waiter suggested the chicken ragu en cream sugo with pici dumplings, carrots, boiled eggs, parcel, radishes, and parmesan for a cold evening, but I didn't listen. 

Choosing between the two entrees without an egg, I chose spaghetti nero with shrimp, seaweed, spicy tomato, bacon, breadcrumbs, and orange zest priced at $25.

Spaghetti Nero

 I truly went outside my culinary box.  I had never eaten black spaghetti in my life.  The pasta is flavored with squid or cuttlefish ink, which turns it black. 

The shrimp were plump and succulent.  The flavors blended nicely.  It was a good dish, but, truthfully, I wanted to eat it blindfolded because the black pasta bothered me, and I had no idea it would do so until it appeared in front of me. 

Will and my mother-in-law raved immensely about the dishes they chose with an egg in them.  Will ordered seared beef sausage with potato gnocchi, tomato butter, fried egg, and arugula.  My mother-in-law’s goat cheese-filled tortelloni in cream with fried egg, pepper jelly, pea shoots, breadcrumbs, radishes, and maple bacon completely disappeared from her plate, which is kind of rare for her.  She was completely delighted with her choice.  I tasted it and was a little envious that I did not choose it as well.

But I quickly put all my past Medusa thoughts about my entrée away when this chocolate delight arrived.

Chocolate Malted Ricotta Cake. Desserts are $7.

This chocolate malted ricotta cake with malt ball and chocolate sauce was pure heaven at each bite.  It was phenomomal.

Our road trip to Panciuto was well worth the trip.  I definitely want to go back and experience the flavors of a spring or summer menu.  There is no doubt that Panciuto is bringing big-city cuisine with a Southern influence to a great little town.  If more accolades come the chef’s way, it may be harder to get a table at this place in town.

Want to Go: 
110. S. Churton Street
Hillsborough, North Carolina
Wednesday through Sunday 5:30 pm-8:30 pm
Entrees: $20 to $30

I must know. Have you ever had black spaghetti?

Love Notes

OK, I’m giddy.  I’m getting love notes.

I never thought words on a piece of paper would warm my heart so much.

What I’m feeling right now is something that I’ve never felt before, even though I’ve been in love a very long time.
Artwork by my son

Before you yell at your husband for not writing you love notes, too, I must confess.

The love notes aren’t from my husband.  The only thing that resembles a love note from him is his signature on our Visa bill for dinner.  And for that I’m very much obliged.  Thank you very much, honey.

No, these love notes are from a future romantic who will one day melt a girl’s heart when he takes her to tea on a whim at a luxury hotel or buys her that local, handmade artisan necklace just because the color will look great with her eyes.

He will open the car door for her and notice when she bought a  new shade of lipstick.

He will want to take her on hikes because he gets that from his dad, but he will end the hike with a nice bottle of wine and a scrumptious French baguette.  He gets that from me.  He’s my little cupid in training.

But, for right now, I am the happy mom who gets his love notes.  I love looking in the backpack to see if he wrote a new one at his writing center in kindergarten.

Oh, I see a note.  What?

It’s addressed to his sister, not me.  How can this be?  It’s the longest note I’ve ever seen, too.  My notes only had “mama,” and “I love you," but this one…

It includes a drawn picture of the two of them, and reads,  "I am glad the I love you. I like you.”  So, he's still working on learning the use of the word "that."  The incorrect grammar makes his notes even that more special.  I’m so proud of him.  He’s blossomed in education since starting school.

The Love Note

Even though he aggravates his sister on a daily basis, she is so lucky to have him as her brother.  I can’t wait to show it to her when she’s old enough to understand. 

There’s no way he can deny it.   It's his written word.   A little love note. 

I hope I get one tomorrow. 

Have a wonderful Valentine's Day!

Is there a Recipe for Happiness?

I decided to end this week with a goodie I stumbled upon in one of my church cookbooks. It was sandwiched between Pistachio-Basil Butter and Teriyaki Sauce.

By golly, it was a recipe for happiness.

A Recipe for Happiness
Recipe for Happiness from Macedonia United Methodist Church in North Carolina 

Is there such a thing? Is a recipe for happiness that easy?

The recipe called for two cups of patience, but I may need a bigger dose.   I blame it on my advanced maternal age, and perimenopause.

After dinner last night, I tossed the said ingredients together.

Later, I found a picture perfect moment in my son's room.

My son was reading a bedtime story to his sister, and dad.  He's just learning to read.

My valentines looked so sweet.  All three of them.   Well, all five, if you count the two bears.

My family in a joyful and happy moment

I may be sappy, but I think the recipe worked.

There were little tears of happiness in my eyes.

I would suggest giving it a try.

Have a wonderful Valentine's Day weekend.  I'll see you back here next week. You know where to find me in the meantime.


Wednesday's Wish We Were Here: Peter Island Resort, BVI

I don't know about you, but I need a mid-week escape.  There is too much on my plate, and I'm not talking about food.  Believe it or not, it's time for me to think about summer camp registration, spring swim lessons, and I need to help my children address 30 valentines by next Tuesday.


You all know what I do when I feel stressed.   That's right!  I dig through my 6,000 travel e-mails in my inbox, and find paradise.

I found it at one click.

Luxurylink is one of my favorite websites to swoon over hotels.  It's also a great site for people who like to find a good deal on luxury travel.  Currently, a 7-night package for two travelers to the Peter Island Resort and Spa is on the auction block.

If you have wanted to venture to the British Virgin Islands in luxury then this package is a great buy because it includes all meals, daily afternoon tea, and your choice of an excursion for just over $500 per day during the peak travel season.  The minimum bid changes based on the time frame for travel. Unfortunately, it does not include taxes.   Darn!  Even though you have to factor in taxes, it's still a good deal, and it is the lowest price I have found for this tropical resort.

I love the oceanview room decor with the blue and green accents.

The Peter Island Resort and Spa is also member of the Preferred Hotel Group. Since Valentine's Day is almost here, I'll go ahead and admit that I'm in love with a lot of their properties.  This particular resort is part of the boutique collection.

Who wants to bid?

The Peter Island Resort and Spa, British Virgin Islands

I believe this hammock is waiting for you.  And if you want to have a little fun, listen to the island beat on the Peter Island Resort and Spa website.   I'm dancing as I type.

I guess it's time to get back to reality, and make class valentines.

If I'm not back here this week, you know you can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.    

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