#OutaboutNC: Interesting Facts on the Carolina Panther's Hometown of Charlotte

Confession here. Usually, I have to ask who plays in the Super Bowl. But, this year, I'm excited about the Super Bowl game  and will probably glance at the TV a lot more when I go to a friend's party this year with either my hot sausage dip or one of these avocado dips. 

The Super Bowl-bound Carolina Panthers represent the states of North and South Carolina, but call Charlotte, North Carolina home. Coming off of a record 15-1 season, these hometown heroes will make their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history on February 7.  The Charlotte skyline is sporting Panther Blue at night. 

Carolina Panthers are on the way to the SuperBowl. Interesting facts about Charlotte, NC.
North Carolina's Queen City. #superbowl ready. Thanks for the #OutaboutNC   tag @lisasmithclt 

Since writing, I've spotlighted Charlotte a lot on this blog, and it is North Carolina's largest city. I recently wrote a piece on our Queen City for SPG Weekend, but that article is not out yet. I think Charlotte makes a great travel destination. I'm going to link some of my past stories below for quick reference.

Five Family Attractions Not to Miss in Charlotte
The American Girl Experience in Charlotte
Family Fun at Discovery Place in Charlotte
Hotel Features I've written in Charlotte (Ritz-Carlton Charlotte and Ballantyne Hotel and Lodge)

Charlotte is hoping that the Carolina Panthers will bring them another list of firsts. Here are some facts that I've gathered from this urban North Carolina town for you. 

Before the Panthers put a spotlight on Charlotte, the region had carved a name for itself with key innovations that have touched every part of the nation. Some were big and impressive, like the rise of huge banks and the growth of national retailers, such as Lowe’s Home Improvement. Others were small and quirky, including Lance’s beloved peanut butter snack crackers and the orange traffic barrels that pepper highway construction sites across the country.

Take a peek into the fascinating history of the Panthers’ hometown.

The Meck Dec. 1775
While no copies have ever been found, local tradition holds that Charlotte farmers signed a Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence on May 20, 1775, more than a year before the nation’s Declaration of Independence. On this day each year, the May 20th Society still celebrates Charlotte’s rebellious history and visionary spirit. On May 31, 1775, citizens did sign the Mecklenburg Resolves, which declared the authority of the King to be “null and void.” 

1837 U.S. Mint Photo Courtesy of the Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room at Charlotte Mecklenburg Library
1837 U.S. Mint Photo Courtesy of the Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room at Charlotte Mecklenburg Library 

First gold discovery, 1799/First branch of the U.S. Mint, 1837 
After a 17-pound piece of gold was discovered in Charlotte in 1799, mines sprouted across the region, including in what is now Uptown Charlotte and South End. Today, you can visit the Reed Gold Mine historic site near Albemarle, North Carolina (just east of Charlotte). In 1837, the first branch of the U.S. Mint opened here, and its reconstruction can be seen at the Mint Museum Randolph. 

NASCAR stock car racing, 1949  
In Charlotte on June 19, 1949, the first NASCAR Strictly Stock (now NASCAR Sprint Cup Series) race was held. Many of the sport’s most innovative promoters, engineers, and drivers, from Bruton Smith and Humpy Wheeler to the Pettys and Earnhardts, have made the Charlotte region their home base over the years. Read my story on the NASCAR Hall of Fame Museum on Skimbaco. 

Interesting facts about Charlotte, N.C.

The birth of funk music, 1965   
James Brown, “Godfather” of the rhythm-based music called funk, recorded the genre’s landmark 1965 album, “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” in a Charlotte studio. It was named one of Rolling Stone’s top 100 records of all time.

Interstate banking, the 1980s 
In 1985, Charlotte mogul Hugh McColl helped craft the Interstate Banking Compact, which allowed banks in the Southeast to expand across state lines. By 1998, McColl sat at the helm of Bank of America, the nation’s first coast-to-coast bank. Today it’s the largest U.S. bank, and it’s still headquartered in Charlotte.

Orange traffic barrels, 1985
Once upon a time, awkward and dangerous 55-gallon metal drums marked highway construction zones. Tom Cory, an engineer at Radiator Specialty Company in Charlotte, had a better idea: to make lightweight, safe barrels out of plastic. His famous barrels are everywhere.

The Carolina Panthers, 1993
On December 15, 1987, Carolina Panthers Owner/Founder Jerry Richardson officially announced an NFL franchise bid for the Carolinas, and on October 26, 1993, NFL owners unanimously selected Carolina as the 29th NFL franchise. It became the first expansion team since 1976.

U.S. National Whitewater Center, 2006
The U.S. National Whitewater Center opened in Charlotte in 2006, becoming home to the largest man-made whitewater river in the world. The outdoor entertainment complex, featuring whitewater rafting, zip lining, rock climbing, challenge courses and more, now also serves as an official Olympic training site for canoe/kayak slalom. Charlotte will host the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for canoe/kayak slalom at the Whitewater Center April 7-9, 2016.

Read more at CharlottesGotAlot to help you plan a trip to the Panther's hometown or learn more about Carolina's team. 

Small Victories Sunday Linkup


Here at Small Victories Sunday Linkup, we like to feature the best ideas on the internet to celebrate the small victories in our lives and blogs. Our participants are hard at work providing our readers with the best books, recipes, DIY, home, health and blogging ideas to make your life simpler, happier and healthier!

Bloggers, share with us anything that will help our fast growing community live a happier and healthier life. Sunday is the perfect day to reflect and celebrate the week that passed and look forward to the week ahead. Our linkup is open all week long so feel free to stop by anytime, we're always ready to party!

Give some love to your extra special hosts who do their best to encourage and promote your posts!

Ways You Can Follow Your Hosts:

Your Small Victories Sunday Linkup Hosts: Echo from The Mad Mommy, Gail from Frugal & Coupon Crazy, Tanya from Mom's Small Victories, Kimberly from Keystrokes by Kimberly, Crystal from Tidbits of Experience, Leigh from Hines-Sight Blog, Heather from Simply Save, Meagan from Sunshine & Sippy Cups, Karren from Oh My Heartsie Girl, Danita from O Taste and See, Michelle from Divas with a Purpose, Suzanna from One Hoolie Mama

Echo from The Mad Mommy (family/parenting, humor)| Pinterest | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Google + Gail from Frugal & Coupon Crazy (saving money) | Pinterest | Facebook | Twitter | Google + Tanya from Mom's Small Victories (books, food, chronic illness)| Pinterest | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Google + Kimberly from Keystrokes by Kimberly (lifestyle, travel, entertainment) | Pinterest | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter Crystal from Tidbits of Experience (family, entertainment, books) | Pinterest | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Google + Leigh from Hines-Sight Blog (lifestyle, food, travel) | Pinterest | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Google + Heather from Simply Save (saving money, minimalism, life) | Pinterest | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Google + Meagan from Sunshine and Sippy Cups (lifestyle) | Pinterest | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Google + Karren from Oh My Heartsie Girl (food, crafts/DIY, blogging tips)| Pinterest | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter Danita from O Taste and See Blog (food) |Pinterest | Facebook | Twitter | Google + Michelle from Divas with a Purpose (inspiration, lifestyle and entrepreneurship) | Pinterest | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter Suzanna from One Hoolie Mama (family, recipes, fitness)| Pinterest | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Add your link here: 

Breakfast, Lunch, and Snack Ideas Using Avocados

Avocado Benedict: Avocado with Eggs and Salsa
I love to order the lower-carb Avocado Benedict for breakfast on Famous Toastery Menu 

I have a new love for avocados, especially since I've gone more lower-carb in my own diet. An extended family member told me that she loved to slice an avocado, put it on a rice cake, sprinkle salt, pepper, and fresh lemon on top. It's an alternative to avocado toast. Avocados are great with eggs.

I buy a lot more avocados these days because they are becoming my breakfast, lunch, or snack go-to item.

Avocado Toast with Tomatoes and  Feta Cheese

Avocados are also great on cheese melts with tomato. The local Raleigh area restaurant, Famous Toastery has a signature sandwich called the Left Coast B.L.T with bacon, lettuce, tomato, brie, avocado, and pesto mayo on whole wheat toasted bread.  I love it and order it almost every time I dine there unless I get the Avocado Benedict which is the photo I shared above.  The Famous Toastery restaurant franchise is North Carolina born and bred and is now in over 40 locations in the Eastern United States.

Left Coast  B. L.T Sandwich
I love the Left Coast B.L.T with its avocado twist

Avocados are considered a super-food. The California Avocado Commission (CAC) has all the nutritional facts laid out for you. It's high in good fats, vitamins, minerals and is heart-friendly. It's also a great staple for a vegetarian diet.

My husband tells me that he does not like avocados, but yet likes guacamole. What? To me, that makes no sense. It's kind of like the same thing to me. Everyone eats guacamole for Cinco de Mayo or in a Mexican restaurant, but I found a great twist to regular avocado dips that you may enjoy.  I did.

 Dietitian and chef Michelle Dudash, author of “Clean Eating for Busy Families,”.created an Avocado Greek Yogurt and Spinach Dip that is really good. 

“As a registered dietitian, I’m always looking for ways to make delicious snacks made with wholesome ingredients. Starting with nutritious California-grown Avocados is an easy first step. The added bonus of pairing California Avocados with other foods is that they can act as a nutrient booster by enabling the body to absorb more fat-soluble nutrients, like vitamins A, D, E, and K”, stated Dudash.

California Avocado Spinach and Greek Yogurt Dip

California Avocado Greek Yogurt and Spinach Dip
Recipe created by Chef Michelle Dudash, RDN for the California Avocado Commission

 2 scallions, cut into 4 pieces each
 2 ripe, fresh California Avocados*, seeded, peeled and quartered
 1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
 2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese 
 1 Tbsp. and 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
 1 Tbsp. and 1 tsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
 1 (10-oz.) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, moisture squeezed out well

Instructions 1. Place scallions in a food processor and blend until finely chopped. 2. Add the avocados, yogurt, Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, soy sauce, garlic powder, and pepper, and puree until smooth. 3. Add spinach and pulse just until incorporated. 4. For optimal taste, refrigerate for a few hours before serving.

Let avocados be a canvas for any meal you have. Some days I just have a little fun and make my toast have a face.

Let Toast or Bread be a Canvas for Avocados

Breakfast, Lunch and Snack Ideas Using Avocados. Avocados are a heart-healthy, superfood.

Travel Deal: Dinosaur Fun at Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort and Spa

My body is cold today and I'm thinking about warm spots. I told you this year that I'm going to try to do a better  job of sharing you the hotel deals that come across my desk on a daily basis. This particular deal at the Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort and Spa caught my eye because I think it would be fun for kids and with surroundings this lovely, it would be great for Mom and Dad, too.

Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort and Spa

In conjunction with the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium exhibit: Dinosaurs Around the World, the Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort and Spa is offering  a special package through April 16 with a special Dino-Mite welcome amenity—an “excavation” to brush away graham cracker dirt and uncover delicious chocolate dinosaur bones, designed by the resort’s Executive Pastry Chef Brittani Szczecina. 

Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort and Spa

The resort’s  Kids Club will offer dino-themed arts and crafts such as creating dinosaur sun catchers and painting ceramic dinosaurs. The package also includes a $2 ticket discount per person to the nearby South Florida Science Center and Aquarium for its “Dinosaurs Around the World: The Exhibition.” Visitors can spend hours exploring the prehistoric planet alongside 13 life-sized roaring, breathing dinosaurs. 

Also included in this package rate is valet parking, a luxurious suite with a stainless steel kitchen, and full access to resort amenities. 

Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort and Spa

The “Dinosaurs Around the World” package starts at $279 per night, but when it's cold, we all dream of a warm Palm Beach excursion so demand is high. At a quick check, I found the starting rate to be over $500 for a one-bedroom condominium on most nights through March. 

Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort and Spa

If this particular property is out of your budget then you should be able to find one at Marriott.com that fits your price range that is close to the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium in Palm Beach. You can book directly from my site now if you wish. 

*All photos from Marriott

Disclosure: I've not personally visited this hotel, but I have an affiliate partnership with Marriott because of my love for the Ritz-Carlton brand. I've stayed in enough Marriott hotels (From Courtyard, Fairfield, Renaissance )that I feel comfortable recommending the package and brand. 

Great Dude Ranch Getaways for Families :An Incredibly Easy List for you to Plan Your Fun

I like a robust coffee, and I found a local North Carolina blend that suits me just fine. It's called, Cowboy Blend by Larry's Beans.  When I sip a cup, it takes me back to my days on the Ponderosa with Little Jo, Hoss, Adam, and Ben. Wait, that was a TV show, but I felt like I was there with them.  Bonanza was one of my favorite shows during my childhood on rerun TV.  And because of my love for this family Western, I've been fascinated with the Old West for a long time. 

Others may be, too. Dude Ranches have gained popularity for family vacations.  There are three categories: Working Dude Ranch, Dude Ranch (a lot of horseback riding, but not much labor, if any), and Resort Dude Ranch.  I would be more in the Resort Dude Ranch category because I don't even know if I would want to get on a horse, but I know my kids would love it.

In addition to horsemanship, ranches offer activities satisfying the recreational and social needs of each generation. Tennis clinics, mountain biking, rock climbing, zip-lining, bird watching, crafts, hiking, whitewater rafting, and golf;  each can be enjoyed during a  Western ranch vacation. Some ranches also offer known stress reducers like yoga, meditation, massages and other soothing spa treatments.

If you want to go to a Dude Ranch. The Dude Ranchers Association has given me a list to help you get started on your cowboy adventure this winter. These ranches are also open in the summer, which are their busiest times so you need to start booking now. 

If you¹re looking for the ultimate winter escape right now, look no further than these all-inclusive dude ranches, each of which offers cold weather retreat in some of the most breathtakingly beautiful parts of the country.  This list is for all budgets. Prices can be expensive at first glance, but they typically include all meals. 

Latigo Ranch in Kremmling, Colorado
The outdoor activities are just as invigorating as the inside comforts are cozy at Latigo Ranch. Experienced skiers know Latigo has some of the best snow conditions and finest cross-country skiing in Colorado. Other winter activities include snowshoeing and tubing or enjoy the quiet and seclusion from the front porch of a historic log lodge with a panoramic view of 100 miles of the Continental Divide.

Bar W Guest Ranch in Whitefish, Montana
Things move a little slower at Bar W Guest Ranch in Montana, and that¹s just how it¹s meant to be. Treat yourself to horseback riding, sleigh ride dinners, square dances, snowshoeing, ice skating, dog sledding, and ice fishing. Cap off the day with a soak in the hot tub, a game of pool, or a relaxing book and some music. And don¹t forget to leave time to enjoy a magical sleigh ride accompanied by hot chocolate or even dinner.

The Home Ranch in Clark, Colorado
When the legendary snowfalls blanket the Elk River Valley in powder, The Home Ranch transforms into a sparkling white wonderland and becomes one of the most beautiful cross-country ski resorts in Colorado. Located just north of Steamboat Springs, the ranch offers some of the best Nordic skiing in the world, rustic accommodations, and a world-class chef that prepares what he calls, ³haute mountain cuisine² for every meal. A typical day during a winter vacation could even include helping feed the ranch¹s herd of 100+ horses with a sleigh.  ****A Leigh Pick. This would be a dreamy stay. You could not go wrong at any  Relais-Chateaux property.  Dude Ranch and me. This is it for me. No question.  I never really thought I would want to vacation on a Dude Ranch until I researched this site. I'm going to start saving right now. 

Western Pleasure Ranch in Sandpoint, Idaho
A favorite activity of visitors to Western Pleasure Guest Ranch in North Idaho is a scenic horse-drawn sleigh ride powered by one of the ranch¹s draft teams. A two-mile loop trail takes passengers through a dense forest, treating them to fantastic views of the Selkirk Mountains. Sleighs are available in sizes ranging from two-passenger to 12-passenger. Western Pleasure also has ski trails for all levels.

Vista Verde Guest Ranch in Steamboat Springs, Colorado
An all-inclusive winter vacation to Vista Verde Guest Ranch combines the amenities of a luxury Colorado resort with the relaxed and intimate atmosphere of a ranch vacation. Hide out in a cozy log cabin with a private hot tub and enjoy delicious, freshly prepared meals in between snow-filled adventures. Winter activities include skiing, snowshoeing, fat biking, tubing, sleigh rides, culinary classes, yoga and photography classes.

Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, Montana
Lone Mountain Ranch offers the ultimate winter adventure. The ranch is perfectly situated just six miles from some of the best skiing in the country and was voted as the No. 1 Nordic Ski Resort in North America by Cross Country Skier magazine. Winter activities include skiing (Nordic, downhill and backcountry), snowshoeing and sleigh ride dinners. Guests can even take a short shuttle ride to explore Yellowstone National Park or the Gallatin National Forest by skis or snowshoes.

C Lazy U Ranch in Granby, Colorado
The winter weather is surprisingly mild at C Lazy U, thanks to the bright sunshine. Backcountry snowmobile and horseback riding tours, snowshoeing, private on-property snowcat skiing, ice skating, tubing and the C Lazy U Luge are favorite activities among winter guests. There¹s even ice hockey on the pond, as well as major ski resorts nearby.

Seven Devils Lodge Guest Ranch in Council, Idaho
Located in central Idaho, just south of the Seven Devils mountain range, Seven Devils Lodge Guest Ranch lies in a unique area, neighboring jutting canyons, high desert, and soaring mountains. It offers some of Idaho¹s finest backcountry boondocking, with terrain for all levels of riders. The ranch tailors the experience to match each guests¹ riding style and even offers Back Country Basics riding clinics for those looking to improve their skills.

Sundance Trail Guest Ranch in Red Feather Lakes, Colorado
Winter is Bed & Breakfast Mountain Lodge season at Sundance Trail Guest Ranch. Guests are welcome to come for one or two nights, or for a week, during which time they can enjoy lodging, meals and morning horseback rides. Even four-legged travelers are welcome during the off-season! Sundance Trail is popular during the winter for family reunions, romantic getaways, and even honeymoons and elopements.

If an escape from the cold and snow is more your speed, check out these two all-inclusive guest ranches this winter:

Hideout Ranch in San Simon, Arizona
See the West the way it was meant to be seen ­ from the back of a horse. Hideout Ranch's strategic location along the Arizona-New Mexico border provides easy access to thousands of miles of mountain and high desert riding trails ­ trails no other ranch in Southeastern Arizona rides. Prepare to let your stress melt away in the bright blue Arizona sunshine and crisp, clean mountain air.

Tombstone Monument Ranch in Tombstone, Arizona
Travel back in time to the era of the cowboy at this unique ranch, which is set up like an 1880s Western frontier town. Each of the ranch¹s 18 rooms has a special Western theme and is decorated in turn-of-the-century style. Explore miles of the open country by horseback, enjoy live music around the campfire, or take a walk to the monument of Ed Schieffelin, the founder of Tombstone, located right on ranch property. The ranch offers trails for all levels of horseback riding....*A Leigh Pick for a night or two just because it reminds me of that time that the Brady Bunch went Out West.  I would spend the rest of my time here in Tucson. 

There are more than 100 members of the Dude Ranchers’ Association in the Western US and Canada.  Each is a little different but each DRA dude ranch vacation. Check out the website at www.duderanch.org.  Today's post is editorial only, and I have not personally visited a Dude Ranch, but I now want to go to The Home Ranch. 

Pin now for future planning. 

Plan your Dude Ranch Vacation

All photos by DudeRanch.org 

Can't get to a Dude Ranch right now? Be sure to sign up to win a bottle of Peace and Calming Blend Essential Oil. It's almost like going on vacation. Almost. 

Party Foods: Farm-Fresh Hot Sausage Dip

Yes, I'm always on a mission to eat healthier, lose a few pounds, exercise more, and just be more active in general. Will I be perfect? No! Here's why.  We have to give ourselves permission to live and not deprive ourselves or we will never be successful. Moderation is our friend and key to success with healthy living.

We usually attend a SuperBowl party yearly, and I plan to take this hot farm-fresh sausage dip this year. No, it's not low-calorie, but it's extremely delicious and great for a party. I'm not taking it to a party and not having some of it. I give myself permission to enjoy myself, and I will be also having a beer or two at this party, and will then go back to my goals the next day.

Farm-Fresh Hot  Sausage Dip. Great for Parties and Entertaining

If you want, you can easily use fresh tomatoes and green chiles instead of a can version. Enjoy! 

Personal Parenting Tale: Why We all Need Some Peace and Calming Moments (Giveaway)

As a parent, do you need some Peace and Calming? 

It's the end of the week and if you could look inside your computer and see me right now, you would think I've hit rock bottom. I began the week wearing designer boots, a cashmere sweater and sporting a polished Beautycounter face in public for a magnet school fair. As the week ends, I have wet hair in a plastic clip. I'm wearing ten-year-old worn-out sneakers, an elementary school hoodie sweatshirt that actually matches what my son wore to school today, and have on no make-up at all.  One of our service companies just rang my doorbell  and I had to answer my front door right looking kind of haggard. I was slightly embarrassed.

But, I got over it. Quickly. The lawn guy was young. He probably doesn't have children, but if he ever does in the future then he'll one day understand why I look the way I do today.  It's because I have children. I'm 47 years-old and I'm slam worn out by the end of the week. It also didn't help that this was the first week back in our routine after two weeks of being lazy.

Today, I got up on time, but I was like a turtle walking in slow motion.

By the time, I got my act together, I had about 20 minutes to make breakfast, pack snacks, and run out the door. My kids, of course, can never eat the same thing because they have so many different likes and well, that would just be too easy for Mom.  I put frozen waffles in a toaster oven for one, and cereal in a bowl for the other. One of the reasons I was late was because I had glanced at Facebook while drinking coffee, and of course, five minutes on Facebook turns into 15 minutes or more on Facebook unless you set a timer.

One article I read was posted by one of my 20-something babysitters who is single. The Buzzfeed article was titled, "19 Pictures That Perfectly Sum Up Becoming an Adult."  Number 5 gave me a chuckle. It was based on this tweet. I'm not going to write it out here because they are not my words and I also don't want profanity on my site. Google may not like that and I'm a family-friendly travel writer.

As parents, we know having children was absolutely the best decision of our lives, planned or not planned.  We love our children so much. On the flipside, when we learn someone else is expecting a baby, we also know those new parents will be dealing with a lot of s$%*t, too.

Today is just par for the course in our world of parenting.  I know it was my fault, but I only had one chocolate Horizon milk container cold in the outdoor fridge this morning. I served it with my son's cereal because when I typically ask my daughter what she would like to drink each school morning she usually says, "nothing". And when I give her a container of milk, it is usually opened, but still very full when she leaves the table and is then left for me to throw out or put back in the fridge. When I put it back in the fridge, it usually goes untouched because she is not certain it was hers and therefore, she doesn't want it and my son won't touch it either because it was his sister's milk. I end up wasting that container of milk.

My six-year-old, who already complained earlier that she didn't want to leave her "life-like, breathing cat" at home crossed her arms when she saw her brother's milk  at his place setting, "I don't have any chocolate milk. How rude!"

My apparent rudeness turned into her not taking one bite of her waffles because she was mad, her stomach apparently hurt, and she was also sad that she would have to leave her fake cat alone today.

The clock moved at an extraordinarily fast pace as usual on this morning. Not one child had on shoes, and I knew that if we didn't get in the car soon then the tardy sign would come out in the carpool line, and the unthinkable would happen. I would have to go into the school looking like I look today.

I looked at the plate of uneaten waffles left on the table.  I could not send my child to school with no food in her stomach. I grabbed the packet of saltines on the counter in hopes that she would eat some in the car during our 12-minute commute.

Meanwhile, the older one continued to call us idiots, which seems to be the only word in his vocabulary. If "idiot" is not coming out of his mouth then it is "I love you."  There's not much in between language these days.  And we're saying a lot of "Go to your room!"

As we rushed to the garage, we had a violin, which we remembered at school that we didn't need today, two backpacks, one lunchbox, one stuffed rainbow bunny, a mechanical breathing cat and two melancholy children in the backseat of my Audi. I left dirty dishes on the table for me to deal with later.

As we got half-way to school, and Liza ate her third saltine, the drama continued. Jack began to complain that the smell of saltines made him nauseous. Who knew saltines even had a smell? I sure didn't.

Luckily, we were almost at the finish line.  I yelled in a very calm voice.  Yeah, it was calm, "Put your window down and get some fresh air."

I'm sure I was also thinking that I would love to take a vacation and be by myself for 24 hours of peace and calming bliss.  I'm not even sure at this point if I wanted Will along. I longed for those single days where I was shut up in my little house, lonely and complaining that I wasn't married and didn't have kids.

Isn't that ironic?

We said our goodbyes. I waved. They ignored me.

I was alone in my car, finally. Peace and Calm, at last.

Once at home, I made another cup of coffee, and turned on my bamboo diffuser and diffused the Peace and Calming Essential Oil blend from Young Living.

Every parent needs a moment of Peace and Calming. I only have a few more hours before they are back.

Peace and Calming Giveaway

Unfortunately, I can't always take a vacation, and a trip to a relaxing spa is not always within reason either, but I've learned to seize some Peace and Calming moments at home. It's OK to take some time for yourself and read a magazine for twenty minutes. You deserve it.

To help you have some Peace and Calm at home, I'm giving away one bottle of Peace and Calming Essential Oil so you can see for yourself how it works.

Peace & Calming® essential oil is a gentle, sweet blend of Ylang Ylang, Orange, Tangerine, Patchouli, and Blue Tansy. This fragrant oil is a wonderful addition to your meditation, evening routine, or playtime with the kids. With a comforting, fresh aroma, Peace & Calming oil creates a relaxing environment that’s especially great for homes with children. You’ll love that you can use this oil for you children’s bedtime and then for yourself for a moment of quiet after the house has settled down.

Here are some ways to use Peace and Calming Essential Oil. 

Peace & Calming Essential Oil Uses

  • Diffuse this oil to freshen the air, especially in rooms where children play or study.
  • Combine with Citrus Fresh™ for a bright, invigorating scent that’s perfect for mornings before school or practice.
  • Add 4–5 drops to 1 cup Epsom salt for a calming bath at the start of the day or as part of an evening routine.
  • Add to Young Living Bath & Shower Gel Base for a cleanser your entire family will love.

Learn more about Young Living products through me and how you can get on the path of wellness and a holistic lifestyle. Sign up for my emails with ideas and wellness information.

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  • The official rules per google do not allow establishing multiple accounts in order to increase chances of winning.  The maximum number of chances per person is three entries. 

Personal:7 Things I'm Glad I Discovered in 2015

As we begin 2016 with a fresh new start, I wanted to share a few things with you that I'm glad I discovered last year.  Some of these items are products that I can no longer live without, and other things are experiences where I learned something I am glad I did.

1. Califia Farms Almond Milk Creamer:  This creamer has turned me into the crazy creamer lady. No, seriously. I drive all over Raleigh to get it. It's a relatively new product line and grocery stores are only given a certain allotment. I can only find it locally at Whole Foods. It used to be at Harris Teeter, but I can no longer find it at my nearest store. I do not do all of my grocery shopping at Whole Foods so I literally have to make extra trips there to pick up this creamer, and pray it is in stock.  It is the only non-dairy creamer that I've found that rivals a half and half product with the creaminess. I am a huge fan of this creamer, and I'm seriously thinking of ordering it by the case online.

2. Cooking an Egg in a Silicone Cup: This sounds silly now that I"m saying it out loud, but I had no idea that you could cook an egg in a microwave in a silicone cup. Liza received a gift for her birthday called Cook it in a Cup, by Julia Myall, a former chef in many premier San Francisco restaurants and a cooking teacher at the American Embassy in Paris.  Liza loathes the smell of  eggs so she is not fond of this new found knowledge that I have inquired, but Jack and I are adding eggs in our diet with ease and within 35 seconds. It is AWESOME. I love it.  It has changed our breakfast routine during the school week. There are a lot of other really good recipes in the book that I've yet to try.

3. BeautyCounter TouchUp Skin Concealer: This is my absolute favorite beauty product now. I am in the process of switching all of my main cosmetics (foundation, eye shadow, blush, bronzer) to BeautyCounter.. Since I don't have the budget to order everything at once, I've been switching things out as soon as my old cosmetics runs out. I like everything that I have bought thus far, but this TouchUp Skin Concealer is my new best friend. I'm also very excited that I'm using safe products for my skin. I'm seeing a difference.

4. Frankincense Essential Oil: And while I am on the topic of non-toxic chemical and safe skincare, I have fallen in love with Young Living's Frankincense Essential Oil. First off, I love the smell of it. I was first introduced to it when I purchased the Young Living Essential Oil Starter Kit and a Bamboo Diffuser. Frankincense is one of eleven oils in the starter kit. I had read that Frankincense had many benefits, but was known to combat anti-aging. I put it to the test. I used a little bit of Frankincense Oil with Pure Jojoba Oil that I purchased for less than $10 at Trader Joes. It's that simple.

5. I Clean my Own Toilets Well: For years, I've had house cleaners. But, in the fall of 2015, I said goodbye and began cleaning my own home. This is a savings of about $2,340 dollars a year. And yes, it is a chore to clean my home, but I think I do it better than anyone else.  We were always complaining that things were not put back in the right place. I've also said goodbye to harsh chemicals and starting using Young Living Thieves Products, Pine Essential Oil, Lemon Essential Oil, A Trader Joes Natural Cleaning Product, Baking Soda, and Vinegar. I buy Vinegar and Baking Soda in Bulk at BJs Membership. The Young Living Thieves Household Cleaner is very concentrated. I started out buying the small bottle of 14 fluid ounces and I still have half a bottle left. I began cleaning my own home when both kids started school. The cleaner lasts a very long time. For my toilets, I use baking soda, vinegar, and the Thieves cleaning spray that I made with water. If I feel as if it needs an extra boost then I will use a tiny bit of the concentrated in the toilet bowl itself. We have hard well water, but I've only done that a couple of times for extra boosting.  However, I do need to find a new mop. Any recommendations?

6. I like the Grand Hyatt Hotel Brand and Club Level is Worth the Expense:  I had never stayed in a Grand Hyatt before my trip to Washington, D.C. this summer. My stay there would make me seek out the brand again in other cities. I also think that the extra expense for the club level rooms is worth it. Even though alcoholic beverages are not complimentary like they are in a Ritz-Carlton brand, the beverages are priced well below market-value. Not everyone can afford a Ritz-Carlton experience, and I think the Grand Hyatt gives families some luxury and bang for their dollars. Bottom line: I certainly recommend the Grand Hyatt Washington D.C. In that city, the location of that hotel cannot be beaten.

7. I really like Asheville, N.C. and Love Asheville Craft Beer even More: As founder of #OutaboutNC, there are a lot of places that I like in North Carolina. I think it's a wonderful place to vacation, but I am really drawn to Asheville, N.C. My son will be attending summer camp in this area in 2016 which gives me two weekends to go to this area in July and August. I'm excited to spend more time here. My absolute favorite discovery in 2015 was learning about Green Man Brewing and touring Highland Brewing Company when I was in town to do a piece on the DoubleTree Biltmore. I also love Biltmore Village because I adore the architecture. I also cannot wait to visit the new Antler Village Hotel.  Beginning in February, the Biltmore will showcase a new exhibit featuring wedding gowns from films. 

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