FIVE on FRIDAY: What I'm LOVING this Week

I couldn't let the day go by without joining the FIVE on FRIDAY linky.  Here's what I'm LOVING this week.

1. I am loving the Washington Duke Inn's Summer Menu. It's inspired by everything we love in the summer. Corn, tomatoes, watermelon, berries, kale. I got a first taste of Executive Chef Jason Cunningham's seasonal menu this week. I can't wait to go back and dine on this patio. You can bet that I will order the Blackberry Shortcake. It's been three days now, and I'm still talking about that dessert. You can view the summer menu at this Four Diamond award-winning luxury hotel in Durham here.

2. I tried my very first Vesper Martini this week. It is the drink of choice for James Bond, and since I tell my kids that I'm a secret agent then it is only fitting that I fell in love with it, too. But, it was made with really good gin, and vodka. That makes a difference. Will and I toured TOPO Distillery in Chapel Hill with several of my foodie blogging friends, and we were very impressed.  Top of the Hill is the only distillery in the southeast that handcrafts and bottles its spirits from scratch using local and organic ingredients. We literally raised our glass, and tasted the difference of what 100% organic Carolina soft red winter wheat makes. It's GOOD!

3. I am loving the pop of Lilly Pulitzer in the lobby at the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill. This Destination Resort hotel has undergone an extensive renovation, and I attended the relaunch party this week.  We dined in the Old Well room, and toured the newly renovated ballroom facilities, and guest rooms.

I'm impressed with the guest rooms. They have a very residential feel, and the silhouettes of famous alumni add some historic pizazz.  This is the Inn's sixth renovation since 1924.

The full-length mirror in the hall bathroom is getting a standing ovation from me.  For packages for an overnight, visit

4. I am loving Finnish Tuna Salad.  It's refreshing, and light for summer. It's my editor, Katja Presnal's recipe. She is Finnish.  Occasionally, I just crave it. I love to eat it inside a pita. I made it last week, and I love the crunch of the English cucumber and green apple. You can get her healthy Finnish Tuna Salad recipe here on Skimbaco Lifestyle.

5. I am loving Summer Sidewalk Sales, and my personal shopper who helps carry my purchases.  My 3-year-old was in Curious George camp, but my son did not have a camp today. We dropped my daughter off at 9:30 a.m. and the two of us hit North Hill's summer sidewalk sale.  I was so proud of him.  He did not complain once, and he even helped me pick out a dress on sale.  And I scored some neutral shoes on sale at Monkee's, too.  I call that a successful day.

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Happy to link up with the following blogs today.

"And the Secret Ingredient Is....." I'll be Judging as Triangle Chefs Battle it Out in NC Dining Competition

I cannot wait to hear these words, "And the Secret Ingredient is" when I judge one night of the upcoming "Fire in the Triangle" Got to Be NC Dining Competition series this summer. 

The secret ingredient remains a secret until the night of the competition. It is revealed to the Chef's earlier in the day so they can prepare for that evening's battle. 

I hope my secret ingredient on my judging night is not too strange. It could be anything.  Eggs. Pork. Chocolate. Coke. 

I'm judging on July 9.  On this particular night, Chef Jason Cunningham of the Washington Duke Inn in Durham will battle against Chef Brian Battistella of Battistella's in Raleigh

Folks, this is just like TV show.  I think it's going to be fun. 

Audience members judge, too and will dine on appetizers, entrees, and dessert prepared by the Chefs using the night's secret ingredients.  The audience will not know which chef prepared which dishes during the tasting. 

16 Triangle Chefs will battle it out in the Triangle. Founder Jimmy Crippen (Back-row, left) poses with all the chefs. He's like the guy on TV that says, "And the secret ingredient is......"

Each competition will be held at 1705 Prime in Raleigh. Competition nights sell out fast so get your tickets now.  

Check out the CompetitionDining website to check out pairings.  The event runs though August 19. 

If you go on July 9, say hello to me. 

HOW IT WORKS: Paying guests will savor each course in a blind tasting alongside a panel of culinary and celebrity judges in a series of 15 dinner competitions. Each evening, two restaurants “battle” it out side-by-side in a single elimination format. Guests savor a six-course menu (three dishes from each chef without knowing whose food they’re tasting) created around a “featured” ingredient. For each dinner, the ingredient will come from a North Carolina farmer or artisan producer. The featured ingredient is revealed to the chefs only an hour before they start cooking, and it must be used in each of the three courses.

Diners, alongside culinary and guest judges, will rate each dish and determine who moves on to the next round and who goes home. At stake in each series is a grand prize of $2,000, a handmade chef knife by Ironman Forge in Charlotte, and the coveted “Red Chef Jacket.” The runner-up receives $500. Tickets for dinners cost $59 excluding beverage, tax and tip. The semi-final and final ticket prices are $69. Diners can attend as many dinners as they like. 

Tickets are on sale now at Hurry. Tickets go fast. The Final Event is already sold out. 


Several of my fellow North Carolina Bloggers have a great thing going with the Five on Friday link-up. I've been wanting to join in for awhile, and finally, I had to some time to join the party. Here's what I'm loving this week on HinesSight.

1. I've become a dumpling girl. No lie. I tasted these fabulous dumplings at An Cuisine in Cary, N.C. on Wednesday night, and I'm totally hooked. Executive Chef Steven Devereaux Greene pictured above with me, and my Raleigh pal @RaleighWhatsUp (right) debuted his new summer menu this week, and we got a sneak peak. My favorite dessert is the Almond Financier.  It is available in normal sized portions on the menu, but I certainly had NO guilt in eating two during my tasting.

2. I am loving the five star service at The Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary, N.C.  Stopping in for a drink in the summer is like ordering up a little slice of heaven.  The minute you step onto this patio, you feel as if you have transported yourself to another destination. It's peaceful and serene.

3. I took the kids for their first Snoopy's hot dogs this week. Since 1978, they've been serving classic "Carolina" hot dogs with mustard, onions, and slaw.  This establishment is take-out only, and we ate our dogs right in the Audi.  We just couldn't wait!  I like my dog with mustard and slaw.

4. Since I wrote about my new favorite summer dessert this week, I've now given it the honor of being a favorite breakfast, too.  There is nothing finer than Carolina berries in the summer.

5. For those who follow my blog regularly know that I'm the Luxury Travel Editor for Skimbaco Lifestyle Magazine. My editor, Katja Presnal, just released this video to show readers exactly what the "Skimbaco Lifestyle" means. It means a lot of different things to a lot of people, but it has one common thread..."Live Life to the Fullest".  I love the catchy beat to this video, and I hope you start living the "Skimbaco Lifestyle" with us.

If you are new here today, please join me on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

My pleasure to link to:

P.S. If you are in the Triangle area or are going to be visiting my area, please be sure to enter my giveaway for a $50 Fleming's Gift Card for the Crabtree Valley Mall location

Banana Yogurt Split with Berries and Coconut: The Healthy Summer Dessert

I am sharing Cat Cora's recipe with you today. Honestly,  I cannot get enough of this healthy and easy dish after making it this week.  I ate it for an afternoon snack the other day with the kids, and I'm even thinking of serving it for breakfast.  It's really good. 

Healthy Dessert for Summer: Banana Yogurt Split with Berries and Coconut

Cat Cora, the well-known Iron Chef of America, and restaurateur developed this recipe and a few others exclusively for Residence Inn by Marriott.  Since all rooms are suites with full-kitchens, guests will be given these recipes along with the option of grocery delivery to make them. This is part of Residence Inn's commitment to balance healthy nutrition when traveling.  You all know that as much as I love to dine out, I even get tired of eating out when I'm on the road.  It's nice to have the option to prepare a simple, home-cooked meal.  My daughter helped me make this recipe. 

Easy, Healthy Dessert

I left out the goji berries when I made it for the kids because they were not available to me at the time. 

Enjoy! I really think this is the recipe of the summer.  You can view the other healthy recipes from Cat Cora, the Inn's Resident Mom of the Year for 2013, on the Residence Inn by Marriott website. 

Banana Yogurt Split

Banana Yogurt Split with Berries and Coconut
Serves 4

2 bananas, peeled and split longwise
2 cups blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, etc.
1 pint lowfat or non-fat plain or vanilla yogurt
1 cup crushed graham crackers
¼ cup shredded coconut (optional)
¼ cup goji berries
4 bowls

In a nice bowl or wine glass, spoon a dollop of the yogurt into the base of the glass and then top with a sprinkling of graham crackers, a layer of sliced bananas, then a few berries, and then start again with the yogurt, continuing the pattern until the glass is filled.  Garnish with coconut and goji berries.  Repeat with the remaining 3 glasses and serve immediately.

*You could also use frozen yogurt or ice cream.

Disclosure:  No compensation was provided for this post.  I'm sharing this recipe simply because I think it's good.  I have bought the ingredients to try Cat Cora's stir-fry recipe, too, but haven't made it yet.  It's on my dinner rotation for later in the week. 

Day One of Summer Vacation: Trying New Things

What do you do on the first day of summer vacation?  I'm sure many make a beeline for the pool, but if you live with me, you go out to eat breakfast. 

That's not really surprising, is it?

I didn't think so.

I'm loving the coconut coffee at Bruegger's Bagels
My son and I dropped my daughter off at her little preschool camp today, and we went across the street to have breakfast at Bruegger's Bagels.  Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to meet Bruegger's Executive Chef, Philip Smith when he visited Raleigh.  I got an e-mail from his staff a few weeks ago encouraging me to try some of his new menu items for summer. 

Apparently, they know I like to eat. I guess that was evident when I went for seconds on Chef Smith's delicious smoked salmon strata.  They sent me some coupons, and of course, I put them in a safe place, and now can't locate them at all in my home.  Does that happen to anyone else? 

Of course, I was disappointed that I couldn't find my coupons today, but Bruegger's is my neighborhood eatery, and I eat there a lot anyway. Coupon or no coupon. 

You may have heard that Bruegger's has a new "Sriracha Egg Sandwich" on the menu that includes eggs, cheddar cheese, sausage, red peppers, and sriracha, a tangy chili sauce. 

I have a confession to make. I've never eaten an egg on a bagel in my life. I will eat a hard-boiled egg in a salad and I will make egg salad, but that is about it when it comes to my egg eating.  The Sriracha looked good, but I didn't want the meat, and the extra calories this morning. 

It was too early for me to try one of their new salads on this visit so I made an adventurous decision for me, and ordered an egg white and sundried tomato sandwich.  Oh my goodness! I am an idiot for not trying an egg on a bagel sooner. 

It was delicious.  I feel like I've been missing out on something for 44 years now. 

Bruegger's Egg White and Sundried Tomato Sandwich (Whole Wheat Bagel)

I guess the entire world knew something that I didn't know. An egg on a bagel is darn good.  I will definitely order it again. It has less than 500 calories, but if I had ordered it "skinny" then it would have had about 100 less calories.  I honestly stayed full for six hours later. 

I guess I let Chef Smith down by not trying his new spicy breakfast sandwich. I hate letting an Englishman down, too because he has that great British accent,and all.  I'm sure it is wonderful. 

I hope you try it, and let me know how it is.  In the meantime, I'm quite happy about my new breakfast find, and I look forward to trying the new Blue Apple and Chicken Almond Salads. 

Want to Go:
Bruegger's Bagels
26 states, Washington D.C. and Canada

Disclosure: Bruegger's asked me to try some of their new menu items. They sent me some coupons, but I put them in a place so safe in my home that I can't find them now. I paid for our own breakfast at Bruegger's, and my opinions are my own. I will definitely try the new salads at some point because I do frequent Bruegger's often. 

Let's Talk Travel: Join me for #MomsTravelBest Twitter Party on June 12

This is a sponsored post on behalf of The Motherhood

Photo by Katja Presnal of Skimbaco
Where are you traveling with your family this summer? Let's talk about travel in the
#MomsTravelBest Twitter Party on June 12.  I would love to chat with you. 

Here's the Scoop: 

Although travel prices may be rising, Americans are finding creative ways to cover the costs.  Now is the perfect time to discuss budget-friendly approaches to having fun in the sun.

That's why we're teaming up with Capital One for a Twitter party to chat about creative ways you can save and cover the costs of your summer vacation.  

In their recent Rewards Barometer survey, Capital One found that more travelers are planning to use credit card rewards to pay for summer getaways this year than last year.

If you want to learn how to make your summer vacation affordable and enjoyable, then this party is for you! 

Prizes! Five trivia question winners will each receive a $50 VISA gift card. 

When: Wednesday, June 12, at 12 p.m. ET (the party will last one hour)

Where: We’ll be on Twitter – follow the #MomsTravelBest hashtag to track the conversation. You can see more details and RSVP via this Twtvite: 

Hashtag: #MomsTravelBest

Prizes: We will be giving away a $50 VISA gift card to five people who answer the trivia questions correctly. 

Hosts: @theMotherhood, @CooperMunroe, @EmilyMcKhann

TweetGrid for the party: 

Capital One website -

See you on Wednesday. Looking forward to the chat.  Be sure to follow me @Hinessightblog on Twitter. 

This post is brought to you by Capital One and The Motherhood and I've been compensated for my time. All opinions are my own

Are you Traveling this Summer? Show Me Your Resort or Vacation Rental #Hinessightblog Plus More Surprises

A quick hello to you. I'm back from Toronto. It was an amazing experience for me to attend my first TBEX conference with Katja Presnal, my editor at Skimbaco Lifestyle.

I have to be truthful. I didn't see much of Toronto. So, if anyone tells you that they travel all the time when they attend conferences, they aren't really getting the full experience of travel. I spent about 12 hours of the day at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

Luckily for me, this was on my walk to the centre.

And Katja Presnal is an amazing speaker.  Don't forget that you can get her brand new book on "Instagram as Your Guide to the World" on Amazon. It's a great read.

Katja Presnal, Owner and Editor of Skimbaco Lifestyle

The nice thing about this conference for me was, of course, my hotel, The Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square.  You will hear all about it in my "Pack Your Bags", but I will go ahead and reveal that I loved my stay.  Hotel staff make this hotel special.  I already revealed on social media the answer to the buzz behind the gigantic, half-clothed man above the bed on the wall in my room. There were a lot of pro and con comments about the artwork.

Hotel Le Germain is in Maple Leaf Square, which is home to the Air Canada Centre, Toronto's professional sports arena.  The photographs in the room are of 28 different professional Toronto basketball, soccer, and hockey players who posed for the photo shoot by a local photographer.  The entire hotel has a "play" and sports theme, and in my opinion, it works well for the hotel.

My guy wouldn't talk back to me. 

Like any artwork, it eventually blends in with the room and you forget the art is there. Since I was by myself, I talked to my guy.  Unfortunately, he wouldn't rub my feet, and they really hurt from walking.

To answer the question that some of you posted on Facebook and Instagram, I felt the artwork worked for the theme of the hotel, and it did not distract me all.  You will get my full "Pack Your Bags" later, but that is just a quick update about a conversation that was started before I left for Toronto.

While I was in Toronto, I had a new idea and decided to try to get you all to play along with me this summer. SO PLEASE DO.  I would LOVE it.  

A Double Queen Room set up for a family at Hotel Le Germain.  Love the special Angry Birds pillows. 

As you travel this year, I would love for you to share your resort, room, or vacation rental with the HinesSight community.  You can use the hashtag #hinessightblog on Instagram and Twitter.  You can upload your photos to the blog's facebook page or tag the photos with the blog's facebook page.  I will even share some of them with my readers.  I think this will be a great way to show hotels, vacation spots, or fabulous rentals.

Sometimes I hear from you and you say, "I thought of you while I was at this resort."  I love to hear that.  Nothing pleases me more than to know that you thought of me while at a hotel. Wow!  That's special to me.  So, while you are on vacation, please snap me a photo of your room to see.  We would love to see the decor, the pool, or anything about the hotel or vacation property.   Hotel Le Germain's General Manager snapped this photo of me in one of the room's modern chairs while we toured the property.

Yes, I'm truly my happiest in a luxury hotel. Before I went to Toronto, I shared the following photo from the hotel, and a reader jokingly told me she thought the chair looked dangerous.  It's quite comfortable, however, I loved the chair even more in my own hotel room, and you'll hear the story behind that chair in my upcoming "Pack Your Bags" feature later this month.

It will be fun to see where you all are going this summer for vacation.

I hope you play along.  Show me your Room! Show me your Resort! Show me your Suite! Show me your Vacation Rental!

Tag it #hinessightblog on Instagram and Twitter.  Tag my blog's page on Facebook page or upload them directly to the Facebook page.

One travel photo has already been uploaded to twitter. It's from @AtHomeRockStar in Cary, N.C. She visited the Marina Inn at Grande Dunes in Myrtle Beach, SC.  She loved it. She said that she splurged on this hotel, and  felt it was worth it.  She thinks it is perfect for a romantic getaway more so than for a family getaway. Thanks, Cary!

I have to leave you with one more photo.  My 3-year-old had her first dance recital yesterday. She was really cute.

She stopped half-way through her routine, and of course, wasn't always on the beat, but I was still a proud mom nonetheless.

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