Southern Sunday Tales with N.C. Blogger Leigh Hines

Introducing a New Series

I'm coming off of five days of being inside of my home with my two kids with very little to do. On one of those days, we lost power due to an ice storm. When you go without something that you may take for granted, you think about life, and you may even learn some things about yourself even when you have a tiara on your head.

You can call me "Queen Leigh" I cannot get the Royals song out of my head. 

This leads me to today's launch of "Southern Sunday Tales" on my blog. You see, I've spent many hours writing journalism-type articles for a news website lately. I recently attended some online training to refresh my aging memory. It has been a while since I graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a Broadcast Journalism degree. While training, I heard on many occasions why I am now considered a writer and a working member of the press as opposed to a blogger. I like to label myself as both: a journalist and a blogger.

Honestly, I enjoy writing news articles because I don't want to clutter my blog with area news, and the nosy side of me likes to be in the know. Gathering travel news is easy for me because it gets me back to my formal education. But, I did not like putting writer vs. blogger against each other as if one is better than the other. It's different.

Journalists have to rely on a source to describe a bathroom in their stories whereas a blogger can give her own opinions about a bathroom, and can use social media to show you the bathroom in question.  It's probably the most like TV journalism than anything I have experienced.  I felt as if I filed a very professional and insightful story on how Country Inn and Suites is changing today's guest experience, and still was able to put my own spin on it.That's the beauty of blogging as opposed to old-style journalism writing.

You caught me in the bathroom at the new Country Inn and Suites in Springfield, Illinois. 
I'm proud that I can be both. I personally like to keep my blog reserved for the best of my content and for what I can cover in person such as my hotel features. After cranking out news story after news story this month for very little revenue though, my writing started to feel like it was tedious work and no fun.

Where's my opinion? What do I think? It had to be left out of the story. I missed writing for my own blog more than ever, and more importantly, I missed talking with the HinesSightBlog community. I'm going to begin devoting more time to my own personal space here, and I felt my new Southern Sunday Tales would be a good day to start and a way to make sure that I achieve my goal in terms of time management.  Being able to have a voice is the one thing that makes blogs fall into a category of its own when it comes to digital journalism.

I am fortunate that my editor, Katja Presnal,of Skimbaco Lifestyle has the same beliefs as I do, and by interweaving our opinion and experiences into our stories, its sets the website apart from other travel sites. I feel the same way about this space, too.

I hope you begin to join me weekly as we talk about different things each week because honestly, writing is not exciting for me when there is no conversation about it with others. That's just the way it is. I started this blog as a creative outlet in 2011 and it's time to get back to its foundation. Here are a few things I want to talk about today to kick off this new blog feature.

For those who knew me well before blogging, I wanted to share a photo of my cat Bailey. He lives with another
family now since my son is highly allergic to cats. Bailey is happy and healthy, and I love getting these updates. 
Chaos Always Erupts when you are Naked or in a Yoga Pose

I love my children very much, but there are days that I do not like them. Having spent day after day with them doing the same thing during these snow days, I thought I was going to go crazy. I wrote a piece for Triangle Mom 2 Mom called, "Chaos always erupts when you are naked or in a yoga pose" It's appalling that I can't do yoga or take a shower without some interruption. It never fails. If you get a chance, check out the piece and let me know if you experience the same problems.

The Best Coffee K-Cups

When we didn't have power all day on Thursday, all I could think about was tea or coffee. Honestly, I started seeing my kids walk around as giant latte mugs with legs.  Will says I have a huge problem. Maybe he's right.  I got a mini Keurig for Christmas, and I love it. Now, I'm on the hunt for K-cups at a reasonable price all the time. I'm trying to find a coffee that I like best. I bought Starbuck's Pike Place Roast, and told myself I wouldn't buy it again.  I didn't love it, and it's expensive.  I was in Walgreens yesterday and they had a sale on the overpriced Starbucks which made it even cheaper than the generic brands. I caved and bought Starbucks again. When I got home I realized that it was the Pike Place Medium Roast again. I need to start writing things down. What coffee K-cups do you enjoy?

Losing Weight and Staying on Budget

I've been trying to lose about 10 pounds, and save money in my financial budget. That's like a double whammy of pure hell.  I've successfully lost 3 pounds, but did not succeed in going under budget  for January and the really disturbing thing is that I really tried my best. I did not eat lunch out nor did I go to any of my local favorites for a scone and coffee. I made healthy food at home using mostly Denise Austin recipes.  I blame the cost of groceries and tampons for not staying within budget. My husband blames the category called "Hair and Skincare". And here's the bad part, I already need new mascara, and eye cream. I'm really hoping that the fact that February is a short month will be in my favor. It's frustrating that I used to be able to manage a work budget of several hundred thousand dollars, and was always under budget which delighted my boss.  But my current "boss"  is displeased.  I think the problem could be that it is the same budget I had for when we just had one child.. I've talked to friends and my grocery bills are in line on what they spend or even less. So, how do you save on groceries? If you don't mind sharing, what is your monthly expense for groceries?

Afternoon Tea at Southern Season in Chapel Hill, N.C. 

Southern Season tea

Southern Season in Chapel Hill is now hosting afternoon tea at its Weathervane Restaurant on a monthly basis. The price is $19 per person. I think it is something you should check out if you are an afternoon tea lover. The menu looks delightful. I toured Southern Season on a media visit for Skimbaco Lifestyle last month for a story on the popular gourmet food store that ran this week. The store has been reorganized and it's impressive. My kids and I attended a special children's tea with a Mad Hatter theme as guests of Southern Season so I did not pay for our tea. It was a fun experience, the food was, of course, child-friendly with items like cheese sandwiches and peanut butter sandwiches instead of the typical adult tea fare. They did have scones though.

Someone loved the face painting. 

I would certainly do it again as a paying guest. Southern Season has so many events going on each month, and the store is working to offer more events for families in the future. Spring will be a popular time for those.

Top North Carolina Luxury Hotels 

I wrote this article on N.C.'s best luxury hotels recently. I have visited 7 hotels out of the top 10 in the list. I was impressed with my hotel staying portfolio. My goal is to keep you in the know about hotels so that you can plan your future travels. The only hotels that I have not actually slept in are: The Umstead,  The Carolina at Pinehurst Resort, The Sanderling,The Washington Duke Inn,  and the O'Henry Hotel. I have "Pack Your Bags" on 4 out of 10 properties. Any favorites on the list?

I listed Old Edwards Inn and Spa has my absolute best stay in 2013. The hotel does not pay me to talk about them. I talk about them because I liked the hotel. However, after I named it the best hotel of my 2013 stays, I did receive a special keepsake so that every morning can be a morning like waking up at Old Edwards Inn except without the mountain view.

I love my new Old Edwards Spa Robe 

Meet Triangle Explorer

Triangle Explorer is in the know in area events.

For my local friends, I want to introduce the blog, The Triangle Explorer. John, the writer, is a friend of mine and he covers a lot that is not on my blog. Hint: He has no children and he can get around the Triangle with ease unlike me. Plus, I rarely cover event previews on my blog unless it is a hotel and that is why I turn to John's blog to find out what is going on the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area. I'm only in the know because of the Triangle Explorer.  He also likes to tease me about my love for coffee mugs. I don't like my coffee in paper cups so he loves stirring things up on twitter by starting hashtags like: #PapercupsforLeigh when he goes to coffee shops.  He also plays the trombone around town. You can follow him on Instagram @TriangleExplorer. 

Triangle Explorer also plays the trombone.  Here he is at the Krispy Kreme Challenge. 

I'll be back on Thursday with a hotel feature for #IGTRAVELThursday.  In the mean time, please check out my hotel review on the Disney Yacht Club at Walt Disney World. If you are going to Disney this year, you may want to read it.  I'll be back next Sunday for Southern Sunday Tales.

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