Holiday Gift Guide for the Person Who Needs No More Stuff

Some of you may be shopping as we are on the countdown for the holidays. Me? Well, my husband has declared it "declutter in the Hines House" day.  That's not my idea of fun at all.  But, I'm part of the reason we have so much clutter. I have a difficult time letting go of things. I don't collect things, but I always feel as if I need that brochure, magazine, or business card for research on my next story.

Before I get to decluttering, I wanted to suggest a great holiday gift idea of great scents and wellness this year because it's the perfect gift for the person who already has a lot of stuff. We all know that they don't need more stuff except for the things they can use in their lives. You know the person I'm talking about. They do not need another book, dish towel, candle, or figurine.  They are your person on your list who needs no more stuff.

Holiday Gift Idea for the Person who Needs no More Stuff. Give the Gift of Scents and Wellness.

I've been using Young Living products for two years and certainly have my favorite products in the inventory. I like the quality and what I buy.  I adore my bamboo diffuser, and instead of candles, I diffuse great scents in my home without the risk of being exposed to toxins, or the risk of a fire. I've thrown away almost every candle in my home except one or two for a power outage. Instead, I have essential oils and essential oil blends.

Other than my years of experience covering spas in luxury hotels, I knew very little about essential oils and have really taken this year as a year to learn more.  I've learned a lot and when I do spa interviews now, I feel as if I know so much more about the wellness and therapeutic benefits of those visits. I've also learned that you don't always have to spend several hundred dollars at a spa to get the same benefits at home.

I adore the scent of Thanksgiving in my home and I can have it anytime I want without cooking a pumpkin pie or Turkey.

Holiday Diffuser Recipe with Essential Oils

Here's my holiday secret Diffusing recipe:
                                                     3 drops of Lemon Essential Oil
                                                     3 drops of Clove Essential Oil
                                                     3 drops of Christmas Spirit Essential Oil        

The catalog for Young Living products is very extensive.  From protein powders to cleaning products, there is something for all. A good place to start is with the EveryDay Oils. I use their supplements as well. If you've never heard of Young Living then now is the time to start learning.

The gift of essential oils and what some of the oils do. It's purpose. It helps with Mind, Home, Internal Support, Skin and Body Care, and Mind.

I am also a big advocate now of the Thieves products to use for household cleaning products. I make all of my own cleaning products and am saving money by doing this. I gave up my own house cleaners and decided to do it myself. I have to say that my house is cleaner and I never knew how much dirt was really around before I gave up the professional cleaners. I feel so much better not having those strong chemicals around, but now I have the safe scents of pine and lemon.

Cleaning with Essential Oils. Thieves.

Disclosure: Affiliate links. Opinions about the products are my own. 

Holiday Gifts for Tea Lovers

As you know I host my Tea with Leigh chat every Friday on Periscope. Last week, it was so much fun to connect with everyone. I had people from California, New York, Arizona, and Pennsylvania in my scope.  You can catch that scope on Katch at this link.

As the holidays quickly approach, I wanted to do a holiday guide for tea lovers. Here's what I have put together for you.

I purchased this Capresso tea kettle locally at Tin Rin Teas in Cameron Village. I adore it. It has been a game changer for making tea in my home. It boils water in about two-minutes. It also shuts off automatically.  Great for busy and forgetful minds like my own. You can also find it on Amazon.

This Capresso tea kettle boils water so quickly. A great gift for the tea lover.

As a travel writer, I love this tea print from my collection. A cup of tea can give you a little escape daily.  I curated this print from Dickens, Inc out of London. They have some other great tea sayings that are also in my collection.

The tea lover will adore this print in their home.

I love sharing mugs in my Tea with Leigh chats, and I think a personalized mug is so unique and thoughtful. I love a lot of mugs handmade by this Montreal potter, BeardBangs. She has some adorable cat ones that are also in my curated collections on

Personalized mugs are always a great gift idea. A Tea lover would love to have this one in their collection.

I love this small teapot by AnnaWesteruland of Portugal. 

Lovely small handmade tea pot makes a thoughtful gift for a tea lover.

I think these Modern Tea Coasters by photographer Erin Beutel from Ohio, are so unique and different. I've also curated them in my shop and am the first tastemaker to do so.

Modern day coasters are perfect for the tea lover.

I think the colors in this handmade tea towel are so charming. This is made by  MiraJeanDesigns in Arlington, Virginia. I love her designs and her use of fabrics.

A tea lover can never have too many tea towels.

And finally, I think this afternoon tea guide and recipes inspired by the PBS British TV series, Downton Abbey would be a fun read.

Tea recipes for the Downton Abbey fan and tea lover.

I am a firm believer of shopping local. If you are in the Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill area, I support our stores like Tin Roof Teas, Southern Season, Quail Ridge Books, Whisk, and more. Learn more about #SmallBusinessSaturday and ShopLocalRaleigh.  And on a personal note, I will make commission on these products I've shared with you today as they were personally curated by me. Thank you for shopping with me. I love supporting the work of artisans and writers.

#OutaboutNC: Travel to Raleigh, N.C. for the Best Hot Mini Donuts at Sola Coffee

Raleigh, NC, USA
You know when you find something good, you have got to share it. I feel this way about a local business here in Raleigh.  Sola Coffee is a locally owned restaurant in my hometown that is worth the trip. And for me, it really is a trip because its' location on Lead Mine Road is not anywhere on my normal driving routes. I probably drive, John Luther, Sola's owner crazy because I keep telling that he needs a second location in Southwestern Wake, near Cary, Apex, Holly Springs, and downtown Raleigh so I can pop in more often.

Sola Coffee in Raleigh is famous for its Hot Mini Donuts.

The North Carolina Blogger Network recently held a fall event education event at Sola. This cafe is a lot more than just coffee and hot mini donuts even though the hot mini donuts have certainly put this place on the map for local residents. Those hot mini donuts are so good that you just want to pop them in your mouth like popcorn.

Follow Leigh Hines on Periscope at Here she talks with Sola Owner, John Luther.

Sola is about to sell its millionth hot mini donut.  In fact, it may already have reached one million in donut sales by now. Our event was in late October. My favorite is the classic cinnamon sugar flavor.

On Periscope, I took viewers in the kitchen while they were being made.

Sola is also a great place for lunch and dinner. The food is fresh, delicious, and local.

Sola Coffee Cafe in Raleigh is great for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. #OutaboutNC. Located on Lead Mine Road in Raleigh, N.C.

If visiting, Sola is closed on Sunday so make your plans accordingly.

Want to Go:
Sola Coffee Cafe
7705 Lead Mine Road
Raleigh, N.C.

Photography at our NC Blogger Network Events/Campaigns are by © Allie Miller Photography. If your business would like to work with the NC  Blogger Network and #OutaboutNC, please drop me an email at 

Holiday Vacation Planning: Seven Disney Springs Hotels Offering Special Rates

Hotel Savings on Disney Springs Hotel through Dec. 31, 2015. Hollywood Studios at Christmas

When planning a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, there's always a lot of talk about staying on Disney property versus not staying on Disney property. Some people are adamant that staying on property is the only way to vacation. I call those people "Disney Loyalists." Nothing anyone else says will change their minds and they will tell you that the magic will be lost if you check-in anywhere else.

Sleeping Beauty

Whether it is a deluxe, moderate or value property, these Disney loyalists will not be going to Disney unless they are staying in a Disney operated hotel. That's great and their choice.  But, don't let the price of  Disney hotels scare you into thinking you can never take your family to Disney or that you are going to have to stay in a value resort with room doors that open to the outside world. Hello, 1970! I've only stayed in deluxe Disney properties myself. The property was fabulous and so was walking to Epcot. However, the room was not worth the $300 plus price tag.  And for the same amount of money, we could have rented a villa in Europe for the five nights we were there.  As a journalist who knows a lot of other travel writers and as someone who knows her hotels very well,  I can tell you right now that if your family stays in an area near the theme parks, your family vacation will still be magical, and definitely more luxurious than a value or moderate resort. Don't hate me, Disney loyalists, I just want to give straight up hotel facts for those who may be on the fence of going to Orlando this winter.

My friends at Luxe Recess, one of my favorite hotel websites, has a great Disney/Orlando guide for the luxury traveler.

Hotel Savings on Disney Springs Hotel through Dec. 31, 2015, Magic Kingdom at Christmas

You may have heard that Downtown Disney has been renamed Disney Springs. It's about as close to the theme parks as you can get, but none of the hotels are managed by Disney. In fact, the area is kind of like a theme park itself with shopping, dining, and entertainment.  The new name Disney Springs is Disney's way of adding a little more magic with a new name, and it's very close to Disney's own Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa and many of the value resorts.  In fact,  all of these seven hotels have the honor of being named "Official Walt Disney World Hotels"  and they provide a complimentary shuttle every 30 minutes to the four theme parks, two water parks, and Disney Springs.

November and December are magical months to visit Walt Disney World. I was there two years ago this month. Liza was four and met the Disney Princesses for the first time. We want to return again.

The hotels in the Disney Springs are offering special holiday rates so you can enjoy all that Disney has to offer this time of year.

Available from November 1-December 20, 2015, the special “Holiday Rates” are:
·         B Resort & Spa – rates from $89 per room, per night
·         Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort Hotel – rates from $69 per room, per night
·         Buena Vista Palace Hotel & Spa – rates from $99 per room, per night
·         DoubleTree Suites by Hilton – rates from $119 per suite, per night
·         Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista – rates from $116 per room, per night
·         Holiday Inn Orlando – rates from $89 per room, per night
·         Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Resort – rates from $95 per room, per night. 

B Resort and Spa in Disney Springs
See Luxe Recess Review of B Resort and Spa 

If I were to check-in, my top choices would be B Resort and Spa. I trust Robin's judgment at Lux Recess, and she has a story on the hotel in this post.  I also would consider the Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista due to its previous accolades, and the rooms are more lux than most Disney deluxe properties. It also has extended theme park hours available to its guests, a character breakfast on Sunday and heated pools.  And the Doubletree Suites By Hilton Lake Buena Vista is an all-suite hotel for those families who need extra space. And we all know that families need space.  I stayed in all-suite DoubleTree in Charlotte, N.C. last month and was pleased with the hotel. I  typically choose more lux hotels for my personal vacations, but Disney is an extremely busy destination where you are not in the hotel much so I am making the DoubleTree an exception here for a Disney vacation. The brand is also nice for families.  I have never stayed in a Disney Value resort and I have no desire to do so. I would choose these properties over Disney Value Resorts or Moderate Resorts.

Hilton Lake Buena Vista

You can compare all hotels at the main website: and you can view special rates plus in some hotels, children eat free. 

Hotel Savings on Disney Springs Hotel through Dec. 31, 2015, Epcot at Christmas

special events at the Walt Disney World® Resort include:
·         Epcot® International Food & Wine Festival, presented by Chase® -- September 25-November 16, 2015, at Epcot®
·         The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights presented by Siemens – November 6, 2015-January 3, 2016, at Disney’s Hollywood Studios®.
·         Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party – select nights November 8-December 18, 2015, at the Magic Kingdom® Park
·         Holidays at Disney SpringsTM – November 13-December 20, 2015, at Disney SpringsTM
·         Holidays Around the World at Epcot® – November 27-December 30, 2015, at Epcot®
·         Candlelight Processional – November 27-December 30, 2015, at Epcot®

Taking advantage of the special hotel rates also will enable you to enjoy such other benefits of staying at one of the seven Disney SpringsTM Resort Area Hotels as:
·         Disney tickets available to purchase at each hotel
·         Advance tee times and discounts at all Walt Disney World® golf courses
·         Disney Merchandise store located in each hotel
·         The ability to book advance dining and dinner show reservations for all restaurants across the Walt Disney World® Resort.

Well underway in its transformation, Disney SpringsTM already has many new offerings that are already open, including the upscale waterfront restaurant The Boathouse (from the creator of T-Rex CaféTMand Rainforest Café®), Morimoto Asia restaurant, Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar, a dozen new shops, Exposition Park (home to four Disney-owned food trucks), and a new parking garage with 4,000 spaces.

Disney SpringsTM Resort Area Hotels ( is a consortium of seven Official Walt Disney World® Hotels that includes:  the stylish B Resort & Spa, opened in June 2014 with 394 newly renovated guest rooms and suites, the full-service B Indulged® AVEDA Spa, and American Q signature restaurant; the 18-story, 325-room Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort Hotel, overlooking Lake Buena Vista and the Walt Disney World® Resort, and offering two restaurants, lounge, and wireless internet; Buena Vista Palace Hotel & Spa, offering 1,014 guest rooms and suites, three pools, tennis, basketball and sand volleyball courts, five restaurants/lounges and a full-service spa; the luxurious and spacious 229-suite Doubletree Suites by Hilton, the only all-suite resort hotel in the Disney SpringsTMResort Area; Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista, walking distance to Disney SpringsTM and the only Disney SpringsTM resort offering Extended Theme Park Hours; the Holiday Inn Orlando, the only Holiday Inn located in the Walt Disney World® Resort Area and featuring elegant rooms with modern Florida décor;  and Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Resort, featuring 626 guest rooms (which each feature a refrigerator), the Oasis Aquatic Playground with two pools and interactive water features, and six dining options. 

Hotel Savings on Disney Springs Hotel through Dec. 31, 2015

Love hotels? Be sure to subscribe to my hotel newsletter. Can't stand the thought of staying offsite or need help with tickets, visit Magical Adventures Travel with Jennifer Eacret. She teaches at my children's school by day and plans Disney vacations at night.

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Enjoy Fall with this Easy, Healthy Sweet Potato and Sausage Skillet Meal

Sweet potatoes and butternut squash are in abundance in the fall. In fact, North Carolina is the top producer of sweet potatoes in the US.  It's the perfect fall staple and it's cheap. When I was on my detox/cleanse, I ate a lot of butternut squash, and really became a fan of the vegetable.  

Easy, Healthy sweet potato and sausage skillet meal using chicken and apple sausage as meat option in the dish as well as butternut squash, apples, and onions.

Skillet meals are easy because it's one-pot for clean-up. I love this recipe because it's easy, uses items found at the Farmer's Market in the fall such as apples and butternut squash, and it's fairly low-budget because the products are in-season and in abundance. 

Easy, Healthy sweet potato and sausage skillet meal using chicken and apple sausage as meat option in the dish as well as butternut squash, apples, and onions.
Sweet Potatoes are North  Carolina's top crop

Easy Sweet Potato and Sausage Skillet Meal 


3 med sweet potatoes or 3 med white potatoes or a small to med butternut squash - cut in bite size chunks (Or use butternut squash and sweet potatoes together. Be creative)
1 onion, sliced
2-3 small apples cut into chunks the same size as the potatoes/squash.
1 pkg Chicken and Apple Sausage cut in to 5 or 6 pieces each
1/4 Cup Beer or Apple Pie Moonshine or Apple juice or cider
2 T Maple Syrup
Seasoning a dash of Cumin, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper, mustard.

Easy, Healthy sweet potato and sausage skillet meal using chicken and apple sausage as meat option in the dish as well as butternut squash, apples, and onions.
Warm your chilly fall evening with this farm fresh,  easy, healthy sweet potato and chicken-sausage skillet meal

Roast the potatoes/or roast them in the oven @ 400 degrees for about 20 or 30 minutes, until almost done.  In the mean time, caramelize the onions in a large pan.  Mandi likes to use her cast iron pan since it's oven safe and cuts down on clean up.  You could use a baking dish or Le Creuset, which can go from stove to oven like a cast iron skillet. 

After the onions are caramelized, add the sausage, apples and roasted potatoes/squash. Add the liquid and seasoning, mix to coat everything and pop it into the oven for about 20 or 30 min on 350 to heat the sausage and cook the apples.  Stir once or twice along the way as needed. 

This easy fall dish is a one-pot skillet meal utilizing ingredients that are in season in the fall. Sweet Potatos and sausage are combined with apples and butternut squash to make a wonderful one-pot meal.

Updated October 2018

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