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. 

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 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.

My thanks to my Clegg's Pest Control serving Chapel Hill, NC for sponsoring my blog and keeping me at my desk writing and OutaboutNC. 

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. 

HinesSight 20/20: Curated Travel and Hotel News for People who like to Travel (Volume 1)

I've said I've wanted to do these types of travel news posts for a long time, but with kids and life's craziness, the timing was never right or so I said.  I have a new working schedule this year, and I'm committed to being the best travel journalist I can be from my desktop. My personal travels are very curated due to my kid's schedules so I'm in Raleigh a lot. Despite my not traveling, I still get a lot of travel news.

I get about 100 press releases a day promoting travel-related topics. I glance at every single one, but I read the ones that interest me.  I usually save them then I forget about them and the post never develops.

Y'all, I had three thousand emails in my inbox until two days ago.  For these monthly posts,  I'll pick out up to 20 travel stories or news that peaked my interest in the month. You'll start seeing travel news that will help you plan future travels. Like in this post, we talk about Christmas and 2018.  This is a very curated segment of news from my perspective so it is unique to my own blog because it appealed to me. Who knows. I may have weird taste. Some may think what I pick to feature is just plain odd because you will find a lot of hotel news here.  I am choosing up 20 news snippets to highlight because isn't hindsight, twenty-twenty? Eventually, I needed to do something to play on those words and my last name.

Travel News for Volume One: September 22, 2017 

1. JW Marriott partnered with The Joffrey Ballet to produce "Behind the Barre" a series of workout videos available on demand for travelers staying in the brand's guestrooms around the world.  It's now available at the JW Marriott Essex House and will roll out across select JW Marriott hotels this fall. The series features customized barre class videos that can be tailored to any fitness level, inspired by three key wellness states – calm, balance and invigorate.  I don't have a list of the hotels that will have this perk, but it's good news for people who like barre exercise. 

The new Norwegian Bliss will sail to Alaska
Photo from Norwegian. The new Norwegian Bliss will sail to Alaska

2.  Norwegian Cruise Line will have a new ship to set sail in June 2018. This will be its sixteenth ship and will travel to Alaska and the Caribbean with select voyages to the Mexican Riviera beginning in June 2018. The ship, which will be christened as the Norwegian Bliss will boast many firsts at sea for the global market including a two-level electric-car race track and an open-air laser tag course. The ship's exciting new features will join the brand's signature elements of freedom and flexibility that Norwegian is known for across the globe including a myriad of dining options and a vibrant onboard atmosphere fueled by dynamic intimate spaces and a multitude of bars and lounges, award-winning youth programs and more. In its inaugural summer season, it will depart from Seattle for a seven-day cruise to Alaska.  Go to the Norweigan Bliss site for more information.  Inside prices start at around $1,400 per person and ranges up  to $6,000 for the Haven, which is a 1300 square-feet butler suite. 

3.. Put this excursion on your calendar for the Williamsburg area for summer 2018. A  jet ski excursion in Williamsburg, Virginia, takes you on a thrilling 28-mile tour of the James River to Jamestown Island, James Fort and one of the only ghost fleets left in the U.S.  Kingsmill Resort, the only AAA Four Diamond Condominium Resort in Williamsburg,  offers a 90-minute jet ski excursions that will take you back in time. While cruising along the James River at 35mph, go back 410 years to see Jamestown Island the way one of the earliest English settlers saw it in the early 1600s. Discover the recently found James Fort, the first permanent English settlement in the Americas, from an angle only you can get to from the water and see the historic ships at Jamestown – the Susan Constant, Discovery and, when it’s there, The Godspeed. Excursions run Memorial to Labor Day, dependent on weather, and cost $199 per jet ski for 1-2 people. You must have a valid driver’s license to drive. 

HOlidays in Orlando Theme Parks

4.. Holidays at Orlando's Theme Parks
Orlando celebrates the most magical time of year with balmy weather, special events and spirited live entertainment, creating an unforgettable and festive setting for a winter getaway that trades snow for sunshine.
  • Walt Disney World Resort offers an array of holiday fun (Nov. 9 – Dec. 22), including the transformation of Cinderella Castle into a glistening ice palace at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party; the Candlelight Processional at Epcot features an exciting line-up of new celebrity narrators including Neil Patrick HarrisPat Sajak, CCH Pounder and Trace Adkins; and a free-entry holiday wonderland at Disney Springs showcases carolers, performances and a meet-and-greet with Santa.
  • Universal Orlando Resort invites guests (Nov. 18 – Jan. 6) to the Macy's Holiday Parade at Universal Studios, where the streets are filled every evening with the same larger-than-life balloons seen in Macy's famous Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. Meanwhile, at Universal's Islands of Adventure, families will light up with holiday cheer as Grinchmas comes to life throughout Seuss Landing. New to this year, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter will be transformed with wondrous, holiday spirit.  
  • Waves of holiday spirit splash over the park during SeaWorld Orlando's Christmas Celebration (Nov. 24 – Dec. 31). In a wintery, watery wonderland, guests of all ages will enjoy stunning live shows inspired by the natural world, a glittering sea of lit Christmas trees and beloved Christmas character Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and friends.
  • LEGOLAND Florida Resort offers families one-of-a-kind photo opportunities with a life-sized LEGO Model Santa Claus and 30-foot-tall LEGO Christmas tree during Christmas Bricktacular, taking place select dates in December.

Great kids programs for  kids at Rome Cavalieri, A Waldorf Astoria Resort
Neat Kids Program in Rome by Waldorf. Photo by Waldorf 

5.  Children can roam in Rome with Waldorf Hotels.  At Rome Cavalieri, A Waldorf Astoria Resort children can take private gladiator classes where combat instructors from Rome’s Gladiator School come to the hotel to train in the gardens. The training also includes a visit to the Coliseum, where kids can gain their first-tier qualification, ‘Tiro’. Additionally, the property houses its IT Club, the ideal place to lure kids away from parents to something far more fun. The IT Club team can arrange exclusive experiences for their young guests, both in the hotel or around Rome. With or without parents, the IT Club will take children on trips throughout Rome, such as the myths and heroes tour, pizza making and treasure hunts in Villa Borghese. With three pools and a park, Rome Cavalieri makes up the most family-friendly hotels in Rome. All essentials for children are available in the hotel including mini bathrobes, small hangers, kettles, cribs, night lights, high chairs, strollers, baby wipes and diapers. Get this. The hotel has a Nutella bar and Vespa rides in the kid's club.  Oh, to be a kid again with parents who like nice hotels. Must be nice. 

6..  What a sweet treat.  The  Museum of Ice Cream has opened a third location in San Francisco. It has locations in Los Angeles and New York City already, but NYC is closed for the season. Interactive elements include a magical candy garden, psychedelic rainbow unicorns, a push pop installation, a cherry on top sky, the renowned Sprinkle Pool and new tastings, including an original Museum of Ice Cream flavor. I have to admit this place sounds intriguing.  Tickets are $38 per person and the website is mysterious. 

7.  Slinky® Dog Dash will be among the toy-riffic experiences found in the all-new 11 acre Toy Story Land that opens next summer at Walt Disney World.  It's all part of a multi-year transformation of Disney's Hollywood Studios.  Toy Story Land will invite guests to step into the whimsical world of Pixar Animation Studios' blockbuster films where playtime stretches longer than a Slinky® Dog. Guests will feel like they've shrunk to the size of a toy as they play in Andy's backyard with their favorite Toy Story pals. Inspired by the playful dachshund spinoff of Slinky®, the classic American toy, Slinky® Dog Dash will send riders dipping, dodging and dashing around turns and drops that Andy has created to stretch Slinky® and his coils to the max. 

8. . Seabourn, the ultra-luxury cruise line, will mark 30 years of delivering unparalleled guest experiences in 2018 with a 30th Anniversary Celebration. Seabourn Ovation, will debut in Spring 2018. To kick-off the celebration, the line is offering a 30th Anniversary Event promotion, featuring a range of exceptional savings and value-added enticements. Savings will be available on select voyages departing through March 31, 2019 for bookings made by November 14, 2017.

Dale Chihuly's work to be at Biltmore in December 2018.
©Chihuly Studio

9.  Chihuly at Biltmore, a new exhibition opening in 2018, will feature multi-media artist Dale Chihuly's monumental glass sculptures set throughout areas of Biltmore House, gardens, and grounds. The exhibition runs May 17, 2018, through Oct. 7, 2018.  Chihuly's sculptures will reside in the Winter Garden of Biltmore House, and throughout the estate, including the Italian Garden and Walled Garden. As part of the exhibition, Biltmore will host an evening experience in the gardens that will offer views of the sculptures after dark. Chihuly Nights at Biltmore will take place each Thursday through Sunday night during the exhibition.  I have several travel posts on Asheville, the Biltmore, and my most recent stay at its family-friendly Village hotel 

10.. The Hulk in Fayetteville, N.C. The third annual Fayetteville Comic Con(FCC), will be October 21-22. Planners expect 15,000 people to attend the family-friendly con this year.  In addition to Lou Ferrigno, an actor famous for his role as the Original Hulk and Hercules, the FCC will host veteran comic book artist Pat Broderick. Pat has drawn an impressive list of titles, including Batman, Fury of Firestorm, Green Lantern, Micronauts and more. Learn more on Fayetteville's Visitor Site. 

11. Fall Leaves. Marriott International has mapped 14 locations across the U.S. and Canada which are home to some of nature's most riveting Autumn attractions.  It's neat to see how the states progress with color. You can book any Marriott hotel directly from Marriott with the lowest guaranteed rates right from my blog. 

Fall Foliage Tour Curated by Marriott

13. Calling all tea lovers. You can have your cup of tea and throw some tea into the Boston Harbor, too for the 244th Anniversary of the Boston Tea Party on Dec. 16. Taking place at Boston's Old South Meeting House and the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, the 244thBoston Tea Party Anniversary & Annual Reenactment offers the public to experience one of America's most iconic public protests at one of the largest moving historical reenactments in the U.S. More than 100 reenactors tell the story of The Boston Tea Party and theatrically recreate the evening of December 16, 1773 which sparked the American Revolution. It begins with a fiery tea tax debate at Old South Meeting House, the historic hall where the colonists gathered 244 years ago. Then, the public joins a procession led by fife & drummers to the waterfront and witnesses the Sons of Liberty destroy actual loose [expired] tea from London's East India Company!  And get this. you can send tea, too and if you do it by December 1 then you'll get a certificate of participation. 

Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum
Photo from Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum

Send dried loose leaf tea (NO used tea bags) to: Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, ATTN: 'Toss That Tea', 306 Congress St, Boston, MA 02210. Include name, address, e-mail & phone number. An official certificate of participation will be sent to each partaker sending tea. Deadline to send tea: December 1, 2017.

Throughout December, area hotels and restaurants will offer tea-inspired specials and cocktails. It looks like a fun time in Boston, especially when they are serving up one of my favorite beverages. Learn more at https://www.bostonteapartyship.com/

14. Sesame Place®, the nation's only theme park based entirely on the award-winning show Sesame Street®, announced that its first wooden-steel hybrid coaster - Oscar's Wacky Taxi™ - will debut in  Spring 2018. The new coaster is one of the largest new attractions in the park's 37-year history and will feature a bright yellow, taxi cab-inspired train with everyone's favorite grouch at the helm.

The new coaster, combining both wood and steel elements to create a smooth ride, will give pint-sized thrill-seekers and their families the opportunity to experience another exciting first at Sesame Place. Oscar's Wacky Taxi™ will send riders soaring down an exhilarating first drop of 40 feet, traveling over 1,200 feet of track with exciting twists, turns, and plenty of airtime hills -- sure to delight even the grouchiest of riders. A 40" rider height requirement (with a supervising companion) or 46" height requirement for single riders will make this the perfect first coaster for many park guests.  I think my kids have aged out of Sesame Place, but I know many of you have new generations with your grandchildren. Find hotels in Philadelphia near Sesame Place on my Book your Hotel Tab. 

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