A Holiday Tale: A Beginner's Guide to Cooking a Boneless Ribeye Roast

By now your home is a mess. Toys, clothes and other presents are strewn about. You've got stacks of cookies on your counter and a Christmas tree that is dropping a needle every second.

Christmas Reality: The Aftermath of Christmas

As I sit at my computer in my robe typing away, my clock reminds that I have another Christmas celebration in less than two hours. For this one, I will prepare my French Warm Lentil and Kale Salad, but that is a story for another day.

My mom kept hinting around that she would like prime rib by sending me online recipes of prime rib. This marked our 12th Christmas without Dad. He used to make bone-in prime rib on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve. He would make a big one, weighing in about 10 to 12 pounds.

Beginner's Guide to Cooking a RibRoast

I read the recipes she sent and they frightened me a little. All of this math for per pound of cooking wanted me to run for the hills. I would never commit and two days before Christmas, I still did not know what I would prepare for Christmas dinner.  I pulled countless of recipe books from my pantry and thought maybe I would attempt some type of tenderloin, either beef or pork. When I went grocery shopping, I took two cookbooks to Lowes Food and they sat in the cart while I looked at meat. There was not a beef tenderloin in sight for less than $80.

My wallet spoke. Boneless ribeye roasts were on a major sale. A four-pound boneless ribeye roast was marked down from $52 to $32.  I flipped through my cookbooks and I surfed the internet on Lowes free wi-fi and decided I would try it. It would be the meat entree along with sides of corn pudding, macaroni, and cheese, southern butterbeans, green beans and rolls.


3 Holiday Tips to Embrace Every Year for your Sanity

3 Holiday Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday; Every woman should embrace

We are officially in the busiest time of the year. I love December, but it is a whirlwind. As I was coming back from dropping the kids off at school this morning I wanted December to slow down so I could enjoy it. 

Next week alone, I have three school-related functions and a trip to the Nutcracker, as a chaperone. I have bathrooms to clean and laundry to fold. I have holiday presents to buy and doctor appointments to make. But, I'm just going to take Elsa's own advice, and "Let It Go!"

Frozen-Themed Birthday Party
This is one of my favorite photos of Liza as Elsa. She taught me how to "Let It Go" in pure Elsa style. 
I have three tips that I do every year that helps me during this time of year.  I've implemented them into my schedule and they work for me.  

It's OK to Say No, and Stay Home and Eat Chocolate. Tips for a  less-stressful holiday


The Holiday Gift Guide for Practical People

Now is the time that the holiday frenzy is in full swing.  It's as if people flip their calendars to December 1st and the inner crazy in all of us rears its ugly head. Traffic backs up. People honk. It takes you twenty minutes to go two miles and longer if you are near a shopping center. We really try our hardest to be festive but we have to so much stuff on our "to-do" list this month. 

Will's holiday party is tonight. I'm going to muster up the energy to put on my make-up and perhaps a little sparkle. It's Friday night!. I get up at 5:30 a.m. By 8 p.m, I just want to go to bed. I know you think because I'm a blogger that I'm on the go a lot. I'm a hermit. My happiest is when I'm on the computer doing exactly what I'm doing right now. I schedule my work events very sparingly, and in my private life, I'm as bland as Britain's food. 

But tonight, the party is at one of Raleigh's local breweries, Trophy Brewing, and it's one of my favorite breweries in North Carolina. Because of that tidbit and the fact that I will be away from the kids for awhile, I have a little more pep in my step and the energy to do a holiday gift guide that I will call The Guide for Practical People. 

Holiday Gift Guide for Practical People. From Experiences to items to keep your sponge clean at all times. Gifts that practical people want.

Cleaning Service Gift Certificate

#1, Do you remember the old ads where someone suggested a vacuum for a gift?  I don't know how you feel, but I better not see a vacuum with a bow under the tree.  Oddly enough, now that we have our dog. Will mentioned that we needed to own a carpet steamer again. Like most pet owners, we've had a few mishaps. However, my suggestion instead of a broom, mop, duster, or vacuum under the tree, put a cleaning service gift certificate under there. I will tell you right now as I finish this sentence, surrounded by dust on my desk, I would be happy to see it. And if your spouse really likes a clean house then it's a win for he/she, too. 

Magazine Subscription, Local Paper Online Media Subscription, or TV/Movie Watching apps

#2. How many of you go to a store like Barnes and Noble, and look at the magazines? As a blogger, it would be crazy not to tell you that I love to read things online, but there is nothing like turning the page of a glossy magazine. I pick them up at the supermarket, too. Every recipe always looks so good. But, I'm too practical to pay $6 an issue so when it's my turn at check-out so I put the magazine back and read magazines at the doctor's office or hair salon. Subscription services are a gift idea for practical people. My Mom likes English Garden. She won't order anything online so she asked me to renew for her because the price was good. Andy, our poodle is now giving it to MiMa for Christmas. LOL. Magazines don't work too well in my own home though. Will hates the clutter because I want to keep something for future reference. In my household, online media subscriptions are good bets. Here in Raleigh, the News and Observer's social media team does a great job of promoting articles and every time, I go to read one, my free limit is up. With so many things charging now just to watch TV, I think it is easy to find subscriptions to give as simple gifts or stocking stuffers. 

Travel and Local Experiences
#3 I am an advocate of giving experiences as gifts. I ask for a spa gift certificate from a local spa every year for my birthday which is also this month. I don't use it right away either because life always gets too busy, but then I like to make time to go to the spa this month when life is just chaotic. Experiences for gift giving can be anything. From dinner, movie tickets, or an overnight hotel stay in your hometown or in another town.  The sky is the limit here. 

Hanky Panky Underwear make great practical gifts

Socks and Underwear
#4 These items are about as practical as it gets. But, I mean nice socks and good underwear. My favorite winter sock company is Smartwool and they are not cheap. They are comfy and keep your feet warm. My favorite pair of underwear is Hanky Panky, and it's not cheap either. With this underwear, there is no bulging or any cutting in. If you're really skinny, you may not have that problem, but at 48 and a mother of two, I like a soft, smooth side. I've bought imitation and they just don't last like a good pair of Hanky Panky.  

Kitchen Items
#5 Decades ago, I could not imagine someone giving me kitchen items as a gift. But now, I spend about as much time in the kitchen prepping meals as I do anywhere else in my home. When I was at University Place the other day, I saw some great kitchen gadgets. One being a zester.  I don't have an easy zester utensil that looks like a grater. A lot of recipes call for the zest of lemon. That's one recipe step where I fail.  I have never zested a thing properly in my life. I also saw the herb stripper. in person. and it seems useful. I cook a lot with Hello Fresh,(Use my code T54LKR and save $40 on your first box) and they send fresh herbs with their meal kits often. It is so hard to strip rosemary or thyme from their stems.  

The SpongeBath System kills 99.99 percent of bacteria on your sponge to keep it smelling fresh and clean. It also tidys up your kitchen.

Another item for the kitchen is the Spongebath system. I'm not certain how many people would think right away, "Oh, I need this right now!" at the price of $49, but it serves a great, practical function of cleaning your sponges without the use of harsh chemicals, which I like especially since I use so many chemical-free household items. I was gifted one last week and you can watch this live video on the day I set it up for use in my home. I really like it on my counter. It looks better than having a sponge sitting out, but the best part is knowing you are wiping your counters after a sitting in a solution that kills 99.99 percent of bacteria. Will seems to like it thus far and the sponge looks and smells fine after a week so far. The only upkeep after buying the system is to buy the cleanser approximately every two to three months. 

Do you have any other practical gifts to add? Good craft beer and wine are always good, too. 

FTC Disclosure: Referral links are in this gift guide post and this gift guide in which referral/commission income can be generated if any purchases are made from this website. The Spongebath System was given to me complimentary.  Thank you for supporting this blog's affiliates. 


#OutaboutNC: University Place in the NC College Town of Chapel Hill has More than the Famous Store Southern Season

Many people outside of North Carolina have heard about one of the state's best cooking schools and gourmet food store, Southern Season. It was founded in Chapel Hill in 1975. This unique store made shopping local cool before shopping local even knew it was cool. Southern Season is a North Carolina local goods tradition with specialty gift baskets, wine, beer and so much more.

Southern Season Gift Basket from Chapel Hill, N.C.

Southern Season is the anchor store for University Place, an upscale shopping and entertainment district within minutes of the UNC-Chapel Hill campus.

#OutaboutNC Guide to University Place in Chapel Hill, N.C. an upscale shopping and entertainment destination.

When you live outside of Chapel Hill like I do, you may be guilty of visiting Southern Season and never hitting the other stores while you are there. I learned last week via my Live OutaboutNC moments that I've been missing out on some great stores in the triangle.

I was so impressed with University Place as a local shopping destination. It's a jewel in the heart of the triangle that makes a great shopping experience. After visiting, I'm a firm believer that you could wrap up many of the gifts on your holiday list within two hours. You may need more time if you are slow to decide because there are a lot of great things to find at this Chapel Hill destination.

UNC College Related Gifts

When I was in college in the early 90s, William Travis Jewelry and other stores like Fine Feathers, Frank Gallery, and Peacock Alley were in front of my dorm, Granville Towers, on Franklin Street. I remember looking at the displays of William Travis designs and dreaming of "one day". The wedding rings were gorgeous.  All of these stores recently relocated to University Place after their home was torn down to make way for Target on Franklin and high dollar real estate for students and professionals. These unique local stores have found a new home at University Place.

Peacock Alley Gifts has beautiful curated gifts for anyone on your list. I met up with store owner, Betsy Hayes, and she told me that this wrap (Pictured below in Red) will be hot for the holiday season.

Beautiful  Gifts at Peacock Alley in University Place in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Peacock Alley is an elegant store with many price points.

Frank Gallery is hosting a pop-up shop at University Place during the holiday season and the art gallery will have its permanent home in University Place in February.

Frank Art Gallery will be in University Place full-time in February 2018.

Night Gallery/Branching Out is a store where you can find anything on your list. Owner Pam Williams can't narrow it down to one niche so she has a little something for everyone. She has antiques, clothing, lingerie, Christmas decor. Basically, you name it. She has it in the store.

Night Gallery/Branching Out is a store where you can find most anything from antiques to clothing to soaps and socks.

This year, soaps and socks seem to be selling like hot cakes for the holidays.

Socks are a popular gift item

I bought Bloody Mary mix and my favorite underwear, Hanky Panky.  That's about as eclectic as it gets.

Kitchenworks in University Place in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Kitchenworks is a local store that has been in business at University Place for decades. It's a small shop that is filled to the brim with anything you may need in your kitchen. I spoke to Liz Keller to see what is popular for the holidays in the kitchen this year. I loved all that she picked, and on the store's website, they list even more favorites.

Gerrie & Co is a curated gift and jewelry shop which has been in business at University Place for nine years. During a Facebook live, I interviewed Katherine Nunn and picked out a few items from her store to highlight. The jewelry sold here is wearable art.  The glass bracelets from Michael Vincent Michaud are simply stunning.

Bath balms are on many girl's holiday wish list. I have one little girl in my home that tells me she will bathe more frequently if her bath includes a bath balm. My biggest complaint about the beauty industry is all the hidden fragrances and toxic ingredients in many products.

Bath Balms from Be Pure Beauty in University Place

Be Pure Beauty prides itself on natural, pure and safe ingredients for your skin. I interviewed shop owner, April Manring in a Facebook Live Video,  who gave me an inside peek at what you can find in her store, and the best part of all is that all products are safe and that is not the case with most cosmetics on the market as I've learned with my blog partnership with Beautycounter, but not everyone likes to shop online for cosmetics. It's important to have stores that you can walk into and know you are purchasing non-toxic cosmetics.  Manring has even created her own beauty line. This a store in Chapel Hill that you really need to visit.

For all items for kids, Glee Kids, and The Red Hen offer upscale clothing, toys, shoes, and gifts.  Glee Kids carries the comfy Tea Collection and fabulous pajamas by Hatley.

Glee Kids in University Place

And if you stayed with me in this post long enough, I mentioned a gift for the unmarried uncle with no children. Surprise him with a gift certificate to  Silverspot Cinema and dinner at Trilogy. This theatre is about as lux as it gets. It's posh, intimate and the variety of movies on the big screen are Blockbusters to Independents to classic oldies. It even broadcasts live theatre. This place is impressive. And would be a special night for anyone.

Trilogy Restaurant at Silverspot Cinema in Chapel Hill, N.C.

I was at University Place for two hours for my live #OutaboutNC moment and there were many stores that I did not have time to visit on this trip. No doubt, University Place definitely has a lot more shopping destinations than just Southern Season, its anchor store.  My advice is to budget more than two hours here because you will want to soak up all the destination has to offer. And just so you know, University Place has the only Chic-Fil-A in Chapel Hill. There are no self-standing chic-fil-a's in this college town.

Want to Go:
University Place
201 S. Estes Street
Chapel Hill, N.C.

FTC Disclosure: The #OutaboutNC Facebook Live moment was sponsored by University Place. Opinions in the piece are by HinesSightBlog and OutaboutNC founder, Leigh Powell Hines, and are her own and not influenced by University Place.  Leigh is based in Raleigh, N.C.  


A Classic Southern Sweet Potato Souffle Recipe from Historic Beaufort, N.C.

If you are looking for an easy, southern holiday side then I have the perfect recipe for you. Jack's Karate graduation was a "Thanksgiving Potluck" last week. I was going to buy a dish due to time restraints,  but then I searched my pantry and realized I had everything I needed to make this classic, southern sweet potato souffle recipe. Honestly, it is no different than a casserole, but the recipe calls it a "souffle".  It will work great for any time of the year, but it screams the holidays. 

Sweet Potato Souffle dish that is perfect for the holidays. #Holidays #SideDishes #SweetPotatoes

I went through my cookbooks and searched online for a sweet potato dish that was not only easy but one that included brown sugar and pecans. Will's mom makes a great sweet potato side dish, but it has orange juice as an ingredient, which I did not have on hand. I needed an alternative. 

After going through about fifteen different recipes, I settled on this classic southern sweet potato souffle recipe from Beaufort, North Carolina. It's listed in the St. Paul's Episcopal Church Cookbook that has had three printings through the years with the last one being in 2004. I think I bought it that year. I used to go down to the historic house tour every year before kids and strollers entered our lives. I could probably start the tradition again and the kids stay with their granddad. They are old enough now. Beaufort is a great town to tour in North Carolina and is here a travel guide I wrote a few years ago for the area. 

Beautiful, historic Beaufort, N.C.

Beaufort, N.C is North Carolina's third oldest town. Its' historic district is charming and the St. Paul's Episcopal Church sits on Ann Street. It's a picturesque church and just what you would expect from a building constructed in 1857. 

This is a classic, traditional recipe that can be used for years.  I have just one warning. It has lots of sugar, but it's good. 

North Carolina is a top producing Sweet Potato state

Sweet Potato Souffle Recipe from Historic Beaufort, N.C. 


3 cups of cooked, mashed sweet potatoes ( I baked mine in the oven for a few hours. Peeled them then mashed them easily for this recipe)
1 cup sugar ( I used Sugar in the Raw)
1/4 cup butter, melted 
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup milk

Mix these ingredients until well blended and pour into baking dish.

Sweet Potato Souffle Topping:

1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup flour
1 cup chopped pecans

Mix brown sugar, butter, flour, and nuts. Sprinkle on sweet potato mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Sweet Potato Souffle with Pecan Topping

A Travel Guide to Historic Beaufort, N.C.


Confessions of a Foster Failure: Meet my New Baby, Andy Hines

I had heard that a dog was man's best friend, but I did not truly understand how true that statement was until October 22 of this year.  I am now a believer. Dogs are truly man's best friends. Cats are only your friend when they want to be your friend.

Confessions of a Foster Failure: A FUREVER Love Story by Leigh Powell Hines

Throughout my life, my friends had dogs. They seemed happy with their dogs, but I never really wanted a dog. In fact, I was not sure that I even liked dogs. This was especially true in my single days. I thought some dogs were cute, but others....well, they didn't impress me much.

You see. I was one of those aloof cat people. Cats just seemed easier and I thought they were my spirit animal. I have had cats all my life. Big. Fat. Cats. Sonny, a yellow tabby weighed in at 18 pounds and lived 18 years.

His remarkable story could be a children's book. He was a frisky cat and bit people who tried to feed him when we were out of town. It was a pain. At this time in my life, my family had two houses, our main house in the mountains and a beach house in South Carolina.  My Dad thought it would be a good idea for Sonny to live with one of his employees who had a  house across the mountain from us.  By car, it was about an 8-mile journey.  Unfortunately, Sonny did not stay with this family. He left after a day. He never came back, We thought that was the end of Sonny, but as luck would have it, I was watching TV about eight months later and Sonny appeared in front of the sliding glass doors. Sonny was home again, and he ended up staying with us several more years until his death while I was in college.

After college, I got Rover, a grey tabby kitten while doing a TV story on adopting animals for the holidays. He lived ten short years and was a fabulous cat. I mean with a name like Rover...how could you not. His talent was fetching beer bottle caps.

Bailey the cat. He was a 24 pound cat who loved cheese

My last cat was Bailey, a whopper at 24 pounds.  He was the cat we had when Jack was born and the last pet that was part of our family.  Even though I was dating Will when I adopted him, he thought Will was his owner.  When we got married,  I became a second class citizen that he would chase down the halls and bite my ankles. Will was the man he worshipped. Not me. He was our last cat.

This cat worshipped my husband. He would chase me down the halls and bite my ankles, according to Hines.

We have been a pet-free family since 2009.

Jack is allergic to cats so I knew cats were no longer a possibility for us.  We helped my Mom adopt two Russian Blue cats this Spring and Jack loves them, but his allergies flare up each time he is in their company. We knew we would never own another cat.

Will had no interest in getting a dog. I really didn't either.

However, curly-haired dogs started getting my attention. It first started with the Goldendoodle.I would want to pet one every time I saw one. I would go to a brewery and see a Goldendoodle and the kids and I would run up to them like they were "Hollywood Stars".

After we moved into our new home, my obsession grew with my new neighbors, a Westiepoo and a Cockapoo. I saw how much Liza loved our neighbor's dogs. She walked them. She also visited them almost daily.

I also knew that Jack liked animals, too. I also read that kids benefit from having a dog in many ways.

The Hines Fostered this poodle for two weeks before adopting him.

Will was not on board though.  He liked being pet-free. Our kids are already a huge pain in our butts for our middle-aged lifestyle. Why would we want to add a dog to our craziness?

I started obsessing about small curly-haired dogs and would look at them on Petfinder. One popped up for adoption in Durham. When Will was out of town at a Boy Scout function, I started sharing this particular dog's photo on Facebook saying it needed a home. My friends replied that it needed to live with us.

I knew Will was against us getting a dog. But, I called about the dog anyway. I listened to my Facebook friends. I was too late on this one. The little white, curly-mixed breed was already under pending adoption by the time I got in touch with someone at the shelter.

Andy Hines, the Car Pool Poodle

However, they told me I could call back to see if the dog got picked up because they said that many times, the adoptions don't go through for many reasons. The rescue worker told me that this dog would need to be picked up by 5 pm two days later.

I waited. Should I call? Should I not call? It was on my mind.  I called and they told me that the little dog had just left the building with his family five minutes before I placed that call.

I was a little disappointed. I knew that I would need to act quickly if I wanted our family to have a -curly-haired small poodle-mix dog. I decided that I was all of the sudden hit with the "I want a dog" bug.  The kids wanted a dog.

Will texted me from Southern Pines when he saw Facebook posts about dogs and said, "Are you doing something behind my back?"

"No, I was just trying to find the dog a home, " I replied.

When the HurricaneMaria hit Puerto Rico in September, many shelters here were trying to get the dogs they had in their care fostered so they could take more dogs from devastated Puerto Rico. They were in desperate need of people to foster dogs. When people step up to be a foster, they need to be committed to getting the dog adopted. I was thinking that this may be something good for our family to do to see if we could handle a dog and also see if Jack's allergies were OK for us to have a dog one day.

To make a long story short, I discovered Dog Warriors via Facebook. A 10-year-old poodle had been surrendered to an animal shelter in Louisburg. This dog needed a foster family or else the rescue could not save him because the shelter thought he was too old to be adopted.

Andy is a ten-year-old poodle saved by Dog Warriors, a non-profit organization in Apex, NC.

I called Will and said, "Can we do this?"

Will has a heart of gold and said yes to my request.

Andy arrived at our home on October 22 and it was love at first sight. We fostered him for about two weeks and decided to make him part of our family on November 3, 2017. He is such a sweet and patient dog. He also knew he had one guy to win over and he certainly did. Will loves him as much as we all do.

Andy, the first day he was brought to our home as a foster.

He weighs almost six pounds. I adore him. He's really my dog.  I take him with me to pick up the kids. He sits with me in my office. He's my new baby. And honestly, after having kids, he's so much easier than they are.

The rumor is true. We are official foster failures. We were not a family that could foster several dogs for this agency. Non-profits like Dog Warriors do need fosters for the animals they save until permanent homes can be found for these animals.

I'm now navigating the world as a dog owner. There is so much on the market and I'm excited to explore the hotel industry even more with dogs. I do not see us taking Andy out of North Carolina though, but I never say never.

Leigh Powell Hines and her new love, "Andy the Poodle."


HinesSight Insight Travel Trends: What will be Hot in Luxe Family Travel in 2018?

Luxury. Sometimes that word scares people when it comes to travel and they immediately think "that's for people who are ultra wealthy." Travel is about experiences and yes, some luxury vacations may be out of the price range for a lot of people including myself, but on the other hand, I like to think you may be more like me. I travel less often in a year and splurge when I do because it's about the experience. I want a quality and memorable experience for my family.

Jekyll Island Resort in Jekyll Island, Georgia, a lux property
Experiencing Southern Hospitality at the Jekyll Island Resort a few summers ago. 
You may want to think of it like shoes.  Do you buy a few type of classic shoes you can wear with most anything for the quality or do you have 25 cheaper shoes in your closet?  It's basically a style and budget choice.  A family's choice of travel is no different. Yes, it would be nice to never have to worry about the cost and just go as you desire, but that is just not reality for most people. For most families who earn less than 200K a year, travel becomes a lifestyle choice on how they want to travel.

Do I go to Disney every year or do I go less often and spend more money on my vacation when I go?  I fall into the less often camp. We only take the kids to Disney every four years. Our last trip was the WDW Yacht Club Resort. 2018 is supposed to be our year to go again and I have one child who wants to go to Universal Resort now.

Disney the Luxe Way
Our last Disney trip was almost four years ago. Liza was four. Jack was eight. It is time for another Orlando vacation, but I want to curate it differently this year. Less about the parks and more about the resort and experiences. 
Sure, if I had more income then I probably would travel more often because I would have more disposable income.  Who wouldn't? I also think it boils down to your partner's likes, too. Will doesn't like to spend money often so he has no problem traveling less often. He also has the philosophy that traveling with older kids is more enjoyable as a family or at least that is what he says right now.  He has not traveled with a teen so he really does not know, but he's finally ready to start talking about taking the European plunge in the near future with our children.  He thinks they are ready because they will remember it.

Because of his travel mindset, I can get away with my luxury travel ways and desire for nice experiences. I travel to experience culture, food and to feel pampered a little even on shorter excursions. We are also middle-aged and had our children later in life.  Some of our friends are even grandparents now. I think that our age dictates how I want to travel. However, my college friends will tell you that I have not changed in 25 years either.  Rest and relaxation always come first even with children in tow.  I've always joked that my blog should be the lazy traveler's guide.  Here is how I did  Asheville, N.C. this summer and I still have lots more to write about on this trip. We give our son the experience of a summer mountain camp each year near Asheville. His Dad went to the same camp and I've now embraced Asheville as an area I frequent often.

Virtuoso, a leading luxury travel company with curated travel experiences revealed this their annual Luxe Report which forecasts travel trends for 2018.

There were two trends on this list and you can read the entire press release here, but these two trends continue to resonate with me and are really how I like to travel. I think of more of my immediate family which is the four of us, but I want to create lifelong memories, strengthen our relationship as a family, and I want my children to learn and experience. To me, travel is the best classroom.

  1. Connecting with family through travel. After topping the list of trends since 2010, multigenerational travel has firmly established itself as a travel niche. Following close behind is travel with immediate family, also a consistent trend that will carry forward in 2018. Whether renting a European villa for a celebration with loved ones, cruising to the Galapagos Islands, or snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef, a family trip creates lifelong memories, strengthens bonds, and plays a pivotal role in childhood education.
  2. Be a traveler rather than a tourist. Immersive experiences not found in a guidebook or brochure, opportunities to meet locals, wandering neighborhoods and making spontaneous discoveries are the best ways to experience a destination, according to Virtuoso advisors. Whether it is wine tasting, or learning a traditional craft or a new language, travelers will be seeking out the true culture of that area they are visiting.
The Top Five Family Travel Destinations for 2018 

1. Italy
2. Mexico
3. Orlando, Florida
4. Hawaii
5. Costa Rica 

The Top Five Travel Trends for 2018  

1. Multigenerational Travel
2. Active or Adventure Trips
3. River Cruising
4. Food and Wine Travel 
5. Celebration Travel 

The Top Five Emerging Destinations for 2018

1. Iceland
2. Croatia
3. Japan
4. Cuba
5. Portugal 

The Top Five U.S Destinations for 2018

1. New York, N.Y
2. Maui
3. Miami, South Beach, FL
4. Las Vegas, NV
5. Napa Valley, Sonoma, CA

The Top Five Travel Motivations for 2018

1. Exploring New Destinations
2. Crossing off Bucket-List Destinations
3. Seeking authentic experiences
4. Rest and Relaxation
5. Personal Enrichment

I have given you the trends and insights so where will your travel take you in 2018? 


3 Easy Tips to Help You Get Dinner on the Table Quickly on Weeknights

If you are like me then the late afternoon to early evening hours are the most hectic hours in a day, especially if you've not been home all day. We've now thrown in a foster dog so I am budgeting in his walks, too.  Let's face it.  Busy weeknights are tough and figuring out a quick dinner is a must to keep your sanity.

As kids age, extra-curricular activities start becoming during the dinner hour. What if you have more than one child and one activity is at 5 p.m and one is at 7 p.m. If you are not careful, you'll be eating out way too much during the week and blowing your family meal budget very quickly. When you are my age, too many restaurant meals cause extra pounds and bloating.

I thought I would share with you what I do in my home. I'm not perfect, and I make timing mistakes all the time, but I've been relying on the 3 tips that help me get dinner on the table more quickly for my family.


Tip OneSearch for Easy, Simple Recipes
I love a good recipe just like anybody else. But, honestly, if there are a lot of ingredients or a lot of preparatory work which translates into several pots or lots of chopping,  I toss that recipe aside.  I no longer have the luxury to plan my meals around recipes that require a lot of ingredients or steps. Times for different when I had younger kids who napped and watched TV late in the late.  I now save those types of meals for weekends.  Our family meals usually consist of a meat (protein), a vegetable, and either brown rice or orzo pasta with feta cheese. It's quite simple. The kids will eat most of it and there is very little waste.  Look on Pinterest for recipe ideas that you cook ahead, freeze and pull out on a weeknight, too.  Use your crockpot and some people use an Instant Pot for busy nights. It cooks crockpot meals very quickly. I've yet to see one in person, but I'm seeing a lot of recipes for them.

Tip Two:  Utilize Delivery Services
I use a produce delivery service, and I order my produce and/or meats on Monday, and it gets delivered on Wednesday. I find that having an abundance of different seasonal produce has really helped me go to more basic cooking like sauteing fresh vegetables or roasting them than serving the vegetable as a side.  I don't rely on recipes as much on weeknights. PapaSpuds, which is the produce delivery service that I use also offers fresh pasta and organic meats. I tend to order the chicken thighs and chicken legs the most often just because it is a better bang for your buck. My kids love my roasted chicken and kale recipeIt's simple and easy for a busy weeknight meal. 


I also rely on the meal kit delivery service of  HelloFresh. I like it because I have a ready to go meal kit waiting on me in my fridge. I place my meal selections by Thursday and the meals are delivered to my doorstep the following Tuesday.  It helps supplement two meals a week for my family.  The service is flexible so sometimes I skip a week, depending on what we have going on that week. HelloFresh meals are typically quick to prepare and really help working moms out a lot.  As part of the service, you keep all recipe cards so I can cook our family "HelloFresh" favorites anytime I want.

Another thing that I like about the service is that when you regularly for the type of meals that HelloFresh offers families, the grocery bills add up for the ingredients you need to prepare this type of food.  Your meal kit has everything you need in it to make the recipe except for salt, pepper, and olive oil. Those are three items that every cook needs to have in stock at all times. If you have those in stock then you can make any HelloFresh sent to you. I sometimes freeze my meats and wait on the meals. Obviously, you cannot do that on every recipe, but I've done it if I have things going on and I don't even have time to make a HelloFresh meal or we have school events where food is served. This one-pan hearty pork chili is a dish I made recently from my menu choices. We loved it, especially my kids.

Tip Three: Change your Grocery Shopping Mindset
Think like a European. In America, we tend to load up when we go to a grocery store.It's like we feel there is a food shortage or a snow storm coming any minute.  It's a mindset thing here, I think.  Maybe we do it because we think it helps us on time management, but when I do it I sometimes spend more monthly and end up wasting food. For example, I would buy another box of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish because I was at the store and did not know when I would go to the store again.  Later, I would open the pantry and those pesky kids of mine opened the new bag of goldfish instead of finishing the older one first.  and didn't finish the one that still had a half a bag. Now, I had two bags open and one would get stale.

Shop at local farmer's Markets. Buy what you need

Now that I do a lot Tip 2 consistently, it has cut back all that I need at a grocery store and I have more of a European mindset, I stop in little markets and pick up just a few things.  When you do not have to shop a long list, you will be surprised at how easy it is to pop into a market and pick up just a few items.

My kids love seafood so these little quick trips to a market the beginning of a week, it enables me to add it to your menu more often for a quick meal with a side. For working moms, if you have time to go home at lunch or stop by right after work then it will make it easier for you. You can get quality seafood then cook it that night or the next night and serve with starches and vegetables already in my kitchen. It's a very quick trip to the market.

Europeans do this all the time in their little neighborhood villages. People in larger cities are the same way. They may only have flowers, wine, chicken, bread, and asparagus in their carts. For years when I saw someone with only three items at checkout and my cart looked liked I shopped just once a year  I was like, "who are these people that only buy a few things at the store?"

Well, I'm now one of them.  I pop into The Fresh Market in Cameron Village in Raleigh because they have good specials on Tuesday. We all have a little go-to place near our neighborhood and that one is mine. The minute I step in that place I relax. It's small, and I always grab a little coffee sample. It used to be more high-end seventeen years ago when I first moved to Raleigh and at times, frustrating because I could not be able to get some staples that I may have needed. For example, if they even carried Heinz ketchup then it would be small and overpriced, but they revamped their selections and now, you really could shop there for most everything, including Heinz ketchup. My husband grew up on Heinz ketchup and he is not happy if I bring home another brand. We joke, "After all, our name is Hines." Utilize those small markets and even Farmer's Markets more often, it will cause you to buy just what you need at the time and nothing more.

Disclosure: Referral links for the services I use are in this post. 


Quick and Easy Appetizer: Dates Stuffed with Manchego Cheese

I had no idea I loved dates so much until I attended an event at Whisk gourmet cooking store in Cary's Waverly Place.

Whisk is a locally-owned store that makes foodies squeal with delight. Not only does it have items that every home chef needs, but it also offers cooking courses.  The courses offered are quite extensive.

#OutaboutNC Local Find: Cute Kitchen Store in Cary, North Carolina with cooking lessons and demostrations.

While Whisk chefs prepared a meal for us that showcased the art of entertaining, I kept popping dates stuffed with manchego cheese in my mouth as if it was candy corn.  Yeah, they were that good. Manchego Cheese is from the La Mancha Region of Spain. It's made from the Manchega breed of Sheep.  It's a semi-soft cheese with a mild, nutty, fruity, sweet and tangy flavor. For me, that just translates into delicious.  Medjool dates are soft dates that also known to have health benefits.  You normally find them in the produce section of your grocery store, and they are very easy to find in fall and the winter months.

I loved the recipe so much that I wanted to share it with you as well.  It's a little sticky, but so worth it.


Dates Stuffed with Manchego and Topped with Pistachios and Honey

Dates stuffed with Manchego Cheese and Topped with Pistachios and Honey.

1 pound of Medjool Dates (approximately 30 dates)
6 ounces of Manchego cheese, cut into  1" X  1/2" strips
3-4 ounces of pistachios, salted and roasted
Drizzle of honey


Toast pistachios for 10-15 minutes in the oven at 325 degrees. Pull them out when they smell "toasty".

Use a paring knife, and make a slit down the center of one date.

Tuck a cheese strip inside the date, and repeat the same process for all 30 dates. Increase temp to 350 degrees.

Place in a baking dish and warm in 350-degree oven.

Remove from oven after cheese melts. Approximately 10 minutes.

Let cool for 5 minutes, then drizzle with honey and pistachios.

Easy and Quick Appetizer that is perfect for fall with Dates and Manchego Cheesetopped with Pistachios and Honey. #Entertaining #Appetizers #ManchegoCheese

#OutaboutNC Local Find
Waverly Place Shopping Center
316 Colonades Way - Suite 214
Cary, NC 27518

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disclosure: press event with affiliate links.


Create an Elegant, but Easy Cheese and Meat Board in Minutes

My neighbor loves Halloween so the other day, she wanted to coordinate a progressive fall-inspired dinner party for our street. I volunteered to host appetizers. My entertaining goal was to keep it simple and look to Italy and Spain for inspiration on an elegant, but easy cheese and meat board that could be put together in minutes. 

Three years ago this month, I was on a press trip to a winery in the Marche region of Italy. The event set-up was simple, elegant and perfect for tapas before a meal. I decided to do something similar with my own spin for this neighborhood get-together. 

Italian appetizer spread at Marche Winery

Liza loves Disney's Descendants movies.  Last year, she knew she wanted to be the character, Mal, for Halloween. In my house, the song, "Ways to Be Wicked" is played constantly.  I decided to have a little fun with a "Ways to be Wicked" song. The lyrics say, 

"Apple, apple dip, dip
Wanna try it?

Tick, tick
Take a bite, c'mon, be bold
Change the way the story's told"

Descendants. Apples. Villians. Evil Queen. It all fell into place.

Evil Queen Costume with apples as the star of the party.

I used fresh apples for my centerpiece decorations, and the fall fruit is in season right now. An apple, from tart to sweet, goes wonderfully with an Italian-inspired meat and cheese board.

Put together meat and cheese boards within minutes

I ordered my apples from my Papa Spud's produce box delivery. They were in abundance and cost-effective. I purchased everything else from Trader Joe's in less than an hour. 

Here's what I bought at Trader Joe's for my "Ways to Be Wicked" Inspired Party
Sparkling Apple Cider (non-alcoholic)
Draft Apple Cider
White wine
Bread Sticks
Several types of crackers
Goat Cheese with Herbs
A Spanish Cheese sampler with Manchego, Iberico, and Cabra Al Vino
Sliced Aged Cheddar Cheese
Two varieties of pears (One sweet and one normal pear)
Several cartons of the store's seasonal Greek Yogurt called, "Trader Joe's Apple-Caramel Whole Milk Greek Yogurt." 
Dried Apricots
Organic Trek Mix with Cashews, Almonds and dried Cranberries
Italian Hard Salami 
Two appetizer snack packs with Genoa salami cut like apple shapes and provolone slices 
Red Grapes

I have two cheeseboards that are simple and look like cutting boards. I also used three small glass dishes to hold olives, nuts in trek mix, and dried apricots. 

Add sweet and salty to your cheese boards

I placed the four kinds of cheese on the cheese first. I used the goat cheese on another platter separately with crackers, pears, and apples. For my hard cheese platter, I placed my nut bowl and my dried apricot bowl on the board. I put a few sliced apples on the tray, crackers, and red grapes for garnish. Presto. The cheese board was filled in no-time. 

On a round cheese board, I placed olives in a bowl in the middle. I then surrounded the olives with crackers, cheese, genoa salami, and hard salami slices. 

For my third platter, I took the olive oil appetizer breadsticks and wrapped Prosciutto around each one. I used apples and grapes for garnish. 

Italian prosciutto wrapped around breadsticks can be put together within minutes for party

I was amazed at how quickly I was able to create these elegant, but easy cheese and meat trays for this party in minutes. I think the total time may have been 15 minutes for all the three trays. 

I used the Apple-Caramel Grek yogurt dip with and apple slices. 

I really thought this was a no-fuss party idea and I will do it again. It did not take a lot of work, but yet, it looked like it did.  The hit of the night was the yogurt dip and the soft goat cheese. It all worked well because I had meat-eaters and vegetarians in attendance. 

Another neighbor served lasagna after my get-together and my other neighbor served a homemade limoncello cake. It was a great night.

Quick and Easy Meat and Cheese appetizer trays that can be put together within minutes. #Appetizers #Easy #Cheese #Antipasti

Pin for a future Halloween Party Idea 

Ways to be Wicked Inspired Halloween Party with apples as the star. Evil Queen is the host. #Halloween #apples #Easy #Appetizers


For Dinner or a Football Tailgate: BBQ Pulled Chicken with Peach Salsa Recipe

I like recipes that are easy. I want an ingredient list in a recipe so short that I can remember what goes in it when I forget to take a list to the grocery store. And yes, that happens a lot. If I can throw things into a crockpot, forget about it for a good portion of the day, and the results are still good then I might just do a happy dance. These are all wins for me when it comes to testing recipes. Crockpot recipes are hit or miss for me. When I find a good one, I need to add it to my recipe section.

For this post, I'm sharing a recipe that I made from my Papa Spud's produce delivery when fresh peaches were in abundance. Of course, I finally sit down to write about this and farmer's market peaches are out of season for most of us.

fresh  north carolina peaches, perfect for salsa

Here in North Carolina, that farm fresh window is about six weeks in late summer. Luckily for us, we have canned peaches to help us year-round. I recommend Trader Joe's brand to use for the peach salsa. I would also rinse the canned peaches so they are no so sugary if in light syrup.

This easy recipe for pulled chicken and peach salsa recipe is great for a busy weeknight or to take to a tailgate this fall. My kids eat BBQ chicken, and they like hamburger buns so even if they don't eat the peach salsa, they have something to eat.

Peach Salsa with chips

The salsa also works well to serve with chips if you want to skip the chicken altogether for a football tailgate.  Also, this dish heats up great for leftovers for another busy school night or hot lunch.

Pulled BBQ Chicken and Peach Salsa: The Perfect Tailgate Meal

Pulled BBQ Chicken

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts (or combo)
1/2 onion, minced
1 cup plus 1/4 Brown Sugar Based BBQ sauce ( I use one from Trader Joes)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

**If you do not have a brown sugar based sauce then add 2 Tbsp brown sugar to the crock pot.

Add onion, BBQ, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and brown sugar (if needed) to crock pot. Make sure salt and sugar are dissolved. Add chicken, and mix to coat well. Cook on high 3 to 4 hours until you can tear chicken apart with a fork. When the chicken is tender enough to take apart with a fork, transfer chicken to bowl, add some cooking juices. Continue to pull chicken apart, and mix 1/4 cup of BBQ sauce. Stir until chicken is coated. Add salt or additional seasoning to taste. If you like heat, add a hint of red pepper.

Peach Salsa

2 peaches, chopped ( I used fresh when in season, but Trader Joe's makes great canned peaches)
1 roma tomato, chopped
1 Tbsp, lime juice
1 jalapeno, seeded, minced
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped
1/4 tsp salt.

Combine chopped peaches, roma tomato, lime juice, jalapeno, red onion, cilantro, and 1/4 tsp of salt in a bowl. Mix well. Add additional salt or lime juice as needed or to your taste.

Serve pulled chicken on hamburger buns with peach salsa.

Easy Recipe: Pulled BBQ Chicken  Sandwiches with Peach Salsa

Other sides or main dishes that are easy for Tailgating that have been featured by me
     Easy No-Mayo Pasta Salad
     Southern Baked Beans with a Twist
     Potatoes for a Crowd
     Deviled  Eggs from Bill Smith 
     Southern cornbread
     Cackalacky Game Day Dip
     Marinated Asparagus
     Shoe-Peg Corn Salad
     Hines Mac and Cheese 
     Caribbean Bean Salad 
     Creamy Pasta Salad 

Disclosure: I'm a paying customer of Papa Spud's, but I do have a referral link which I put in this post. If anyone signs up for the service, I get a referral credit. If you are in the Raleigh area, I really like the service. 

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