The Top Outstanding Reason Why the Renaissance Asheville Hotel is Good for Families

Asheville's Renaissance Hotel has some history in the city. It was one of Asheville's first modern skyrise hotels, built decades ago. Even though it's not historic, it is located next to the historic Thomas Wolfe House and is within walking distance to all that downtown Asheville offers travelers. 

We all know that a hotel or its staff can't do anything about its location, but the good news for the Renaissance is that this property is prime when it comes to downtown real estate. It's a great location for travelers to get to restaurants and shops on foot. Once you park for free in the hotel parking lot (another perk), you never have to move your car.  No doubt. This hotel has a great location, but this Marriott branded property has more than just its location that makes it shine.

Here are five other reasons that will make you, especially those traveling with children, want to stay at the Renaissance Hotel in Downtown Asheville.

5. The Perks of a Full-Service Property 

The Renaissance Asheville Hotel is a full-service property. What does that mean? It means someone will help you with your luggage if you want. If you're a traveling family, you typically have a lot of it with you. Families usually have multiple bags, electronic devices, pool toys, drinks, snacks, and lots of stuffed animals.

Families travel with a lot of luggage and things. The Renaissance Asheville is a full-service property

It also means room-service is available to you at full-service properties.  What? You mean your kid didn't eat his dinner at 5 pm and all the sudden he's famished at 9:30 pm.  Yeah, that! As parents, we've all been there. Room service can be a nice luxury perk. Full-service also means concierge services, outstanding housekeeping services, and a full-service restaurant.

4. Modern Updated Rooms

The rooms in this Marriott branded hotel are modern and fresh. Staff was quick to respond to any need. I'm a Mom. I always have many needs when I'm staying in a hotel such as band-aids, extra towels and extra coffee cream and sugar packets.

Double Queen Room in Renaissance Asheville Hotel

The bathrooms in this property are updated with marble and subway tile, but it is on the smaller side due to the age of the hotel. A family will manage just fine though.

Leigh Powell Hines is a travel writer that tells a hotel's story just right.

3. Top-Notch Food 

Delicious Black Bean Burger and Fries at the Renaissance Asheville Writer's Bistro Restaurant.

The food at Renaissance Asheville Hotel restaurant, The Writer's Bistro, is farm-to-table delicious with plenty of options for the pickiest child. My family originally ventured to the West Asheville neighborhood by car one day to get brunch/lunch during our stay, but after finding no parking, seeing tons of people standing outside restaurants in the area, and experiencing the biggest family feud of our lives, we drove our irritated behinds right back to the Renaissance Hotel and had lunch at the Writer's Bistro. It was very good. It was our saving grace for the day. We kicked ourselves for not just going downstairs to this restaurant in the first place.

But, I know. It's fun to try different local restaurants and soak up that atmosphere. I want you to do that, too, but when you stay at the Renaissance Asheville Hotel, it is nice to know that you do not settle for mediocre when you dine at this property. It's a good solid, first choice and you (not just guests) should come in and try the restaurant when in town.

2. You can bring your Family Dog

The Hines newly adopted dog, Andy. He's ready for the family vacay.

The Renaissance Asheville Hotel is also pet-friendly. I've not experienced that aspect as a guest because we had not yet adopted Andy when we there.  Asheville is supposed to be one of the most pet-friendly places in North Carolina so he's barking to go with us. I did see some happy dogs in the lobby until they had to go on the elevator. Yeah, I don't blame them. I don't really like elevators either. But, with 12 hotel floors, dogs and people need to take the elevator. If you want to take your family dog, the pet fee is $75. Dogs are allowed in the lobby, but not in the restaurant.

1. The Best Hotel Feature: The Indoor Pool 

The saltwater indoor pool is an outstanding feature for families to enjoy at the Renaissance Asheville Hotel in North Carolina.

It's time to reveal the top reason families will keep staying at the Renaissance Asheville year after year. The indoor pool is my number one reason why I think this hotel is perfect for families. The salt water, indoor pool is a huge drawing card for families. It's a good size. It has a resort feel and it does not smell like an indoor pool.

It is spectacular and perfect for all four seasons in the North Carolina mountains. Sometimes, summer can be cool so with an indoor facility then families can splash around year-round.

In 2018, the hotel conducted public spaces renovations so the pool and fitness area were closed, but it should have been back in operation by April 17, 2018. I've been waiting since December to do this post because I wanted the pool back open before publishing.  My best advice though if you are booking this property, be sure to call the hotel to make sure renovations are complete and all amenities I've mentioned are available.

There are many great features about the Renaissance Asheville Hotel in the North Carolina mountains, but the saltwater indoor pool is the top reason that families will enjoying staying at this mountain hotel in the heart of downtown Asheville. #OutaboutNC #Travel #Hotels

FTC Required Disclosure: I was hosted by the Renaissance and also stayed on special rates not available to the public during my stay in prime travel season for the hotel. I spent a total of six nights at the property which is the longest I've stayed at a hotel since starting this blog. I really felt that by staying at the same property twice on my Asheville visits really enabled to get a true feel for the property. My thanks to the Renaissance for working with me during one of their peak occupancy rate times. This blog is also an affiliate with Marriott and income could be generated. 


Bald Head Island is the Perfect NC Island for Vacation

It's time to start thinking about summer vacations. North Carolina is a beautiful place. We are fortunate because we have the mountains and coastal islands. For a special travel series, I'll be updating a lot of North Carolina Travel posts to help you plan your NC vacation. 

Beautiful Bald Head Island at Sunset
Photo by Leigh Powell Hines 
In any spare moment of time lately, I’ve been dreaming of vacations.  Maybe it’s the start of spring, and even though I don’t really want to try to find a swimsuit,  I’m ready for some warm weather, relaxation, and some fun in the sun.  And when I get in these moods, I tend to think of one place.  It is tranquil, beautiful, and in my opinion, one of North Carolina’s most precious gems.

Bald Head Island is accessible on by boat. No cars here.
Photo by Leigh Powell Hines

This picturesque island sits two nautical miles off the coast of Brunswick County, NC and is only accessible by passenger ferry or private boat. Golf carts and bicycles are the main forms of transportation on this island.


Oaklee Distilling Helps Wendell Revitalization Efforts One Boots Vodka Bottle at a Time

Wendell, North Carolina, historically a small tobacco-farming town, is located 20 miles outside of downtown Raleigh. Like most small southern towns, it has a little main street and beautiful homes with southern porches that once belonged to the town's elite. There is not much hustle and bustle in Wendell any more. Things move at a slower pace here. At 10 a.m, most things were closed except for a local grill and a cute little coffee shop.

Main Street of Wendell, NC

Wendell has a bank or two, a wine shop, a general store and hip and cool distillery, called Oaklee Distilling Co.


Toffee Coffee Recipe from Asheville's Biltmore Estate

Have I told you that I love Bailey's Irish Cream? I really love it in coffee as an after-dinner drink. I love Bailey's Irish Cream so much that one could really accuse me of naming my cat after the liquor. I did put a shot of Bailey's in my coffee about the exact time I threw-out Bailey as a name for our 20-pound, green-eyed, black cat. 

We no longer have Bailey the cat, but I do have Bailey's Irish Cream in my kitchen along with 12 glass coffee mugs.


5 Awesome Reasons Why the AC Hotel by Marriott in Raleigh's North Hills Area Impresses

I've not traveled much since we bought our new house in Raleigh, adopted a dog, and become a slave to the traditional school schedule where we only have our summer off to explore.

Last weekend, I was finally back on assignment in the off-season.

Top 5 awesome reasons to stay at the AC Hotel Raleigh in North Hills #travel #familytravel #northcarolina

After seven years of owning this blog, Will and I have an unspoken blog agreement. Paid gigs get my priority when it comes to my time. Additional writing perks such as media visits come second to my first job of managing the household and being a parent. Media writing assignments are for when I burn the midnight oil, if and when I have extra time. And let's face it! As an almost 50-year-old menopausal woman with an 8-year-old and a 12-year-old, I'm exhausted most of the time and there is no "burning the midnight oil" in this house these days. The invitation to visit the AC Hotel in Raleigh North Hills came at the perfect time in my life because I needed a hotel stay to renew me and awaken my senses to escape the ordinary in my life. The best part of all is that I only had to drive 15-minutes to experience all of this in my hometown.

The AC Hotel Raleigh is located in bustling North Hills, an area called midtown in Raleigh, N.C.

The AC Hotel by Marriott is hotel brand that I've been curious about but had no personal experience. Last year, Raleigh's North Hills area was the first site in North Carolina to open the AC Raleigh Hotel. Asheville and Chapel Hill followed suit later in the year with two more properties. Charlotte, NC will open the fourth AC Hotel in North Carolina this spring.


The Spa at Ballantyne Reveals the One Thing You Should Do Weekly?

Charlotte, N.C has a jewel in the heart of the city. It's close to every major tourist attraction. Think Carowinds, the Discovery Place, the Whitewater Rafting Center, and the Panthers stadium, but yet when you check into this luxury resort, you escape the hustle and bustle of tourism. It's peaceful at this resort. There is a resort pool, a championship golf course, and a luxury spa. It has everything you could ask for and more. 

The Ballantyne Hotel and Spa in Charlotte, N.C.

Starwood's Luxury Collection, The Ballantyne Hotel and Spa, is a destination in Charlotte all of its own and it's ok to come here and never leave the property if you want. That's a play from my own playbook.  I did that this Spring with a girlfriend and guess what folks....we never left the grounds. Not once. And we loved every minute of it. 

Ballantyne Selfie with Kim Prejs, editor of Living Young and Healthy


Why You Should Have Afternoon Tea at the Ballantyne Hotel in Charlotte, NC

Charlotte, North Carolina is known as the Queen City so it is only fitting that The Ballantyne Hotel and Lodge, a member of Starwood's Luxury Hotel Collection, serves afternoon tea fit for a queen. The Ballantyne, a resort hotel with a top-rate spa and championship golf course, offers a different type of tee-time for the public on Wednesday through Saturday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. It's traditional afternoon tea delights with a local culinary twist. 

Here are some of my reasons as to why you should have afternoon tea at the Ballantyne Hotel

1. It's fun to take a break in the afternoon and catch up with a friend

#OutaboutNC: Afternoon Tea at the Ballantyne Hotel

2.  Tea is an antioxidant that is good for you

Served in the hotel's cozy lobby, this special reserved tea time at the Ballantyne is in a picturesque setting and was a highlight of my time spent at the hotel. The hotel features a variety of loose leaf teas from Harney & Sons.

Afternoon Tea is served in the cozy lobby


Men's Spa Treatments: It is on the Rise, but are Men Taking Advantage?

As I sip on my perfectly chilled cucumber water in a lounge chair at the Spa at Pinehurst,  I take notice of who is around me in this beautiful co-ed luxury lounge space.

The Spa at Pinehurst. Men Spa Treatments are on the Rise
The Spa at Pinehurst Co-Ed Relaxation Lounge/Lap Pool

Eight women are together celebrating a birthday milestone. I happily take a group photo of them before embarking on my signature Pinehurst facial that came with my overnight package.

I wave to another woman who I had met the night before with her fiance in the hotel. Her fiance was playing golf in a tournament. She, like me, was having a spa day.  My friend sat beside me relaxing like one should in a spa and she was probably doing her best to ignore the annoying journalistic curiosity questions I posed to her.

Across from me, I notice a married gentleman sitting in a  monogrammed spa robe and browsing through the latest Robb Report magazine.

On this particular occasion, he was the lone man in the spa common areas. There may have been ten other men in the gentleman's private lounge areas talking about their putter, but from what I could see, this well-coiffed man was the lone spa ranger without his mask.

The Spa at Pinehurst, surrounded by PGA-played golf courses in the Sandhills region of North Carolina, offers a wide variety of male spa treatments. If a man enjoys going to the spa then this spa ranks number one for men in North Carolina.

This male spa guest intrigued me. To me, he is the polar opposite of my husband who has never set foot in a spa. I have told Will that he should go to the spa sometime because it would be good for his skin.  When I give this speech, he gives me a look as if that will not be an expense that he will actively seek out on his own.

Will is 51. I believe many men born around my husband's generation are not used to going to the spa. The idea is foreign to him. I think many men, born before 1975 especially in the South, characterize going to the spa as "something women do." I know Will never thinks about the spa in terms of therapeutic wellness.  He would almost need a doctor's note to go to a spa in my mind.

The Poll: Are Men Taking Advantage?

After my spa visit,  I took a quick poll among a Facebook group in the Apex/Cary area near my hometown of Raleigh. Both of these towns have an average household income of around $90k, which is well above the North Carolina average of $47,830. If men in these zip codes want to go to the spa then most could afford the expense. My research proves that my well-bred college husband is not alone as a man who has never been to the spa.

Does your Man go to the Spa? Men going to the Spa is slowly on the Rise according this NC-based spa insight trend. Luxury Hotels share what they are seeing when it comes to male spa treatments.

The results of this poll are not surprising. Out of 381 Cary and Apex residents who took the time to answer my poll, only 12 percent of men go to the spa. The gentlemen who regularly book appointments at a spa compared to the men who have never stepped foot in a spa is low. However, the bigger picture now is that the trend of men going to a spa is certainly on the rise from previous generations.

Pinehurst Spa Director Brandon Fein confirms this rise.

"We have indeed seen an uptick in recent months in Spa services used by men. Pinehurst continues to evolve in many areas, including in its golf offerings. An example would be our new short course, The Cradle, which has been praised by mainstream media nationwide, and been a very busy place since it opened in October. We’re seeing a lot of usage there, too, by our Pinehurst Country Club membership, which could help explain more men coming more regularly to the Spa, especially for innovative and timely services like full-body Cyrotherapy," said Fein. 

Another interesting piece of information in this equation is those who commented in my Facebook survey responded their significant other who went to the spa without them were under the age of 45. The man who was in the lounge with me on my Pinehurst spa outing fits that age description.

The Rise of Male Spa Treatments in Luxury Hotels 

Luxury hotel spas are embracing this rise in male clientele.  The Ritz-Carlton in Toronto told me that its' spa saw a 25 percent increase in male clients in 2017. The spa even dubbed the month of January of this year as "Manuary" and offered special services tailored for me at the hotel's well-ranked Spa My Blend by Clarins.    

The Ritz-Carlton Toronto dubbed January as "Manuary" and specially promoted spa treatments for men.
Ritz-Carlton Sp My Blend by Clarins Male Treatments in Toronto 

At this Ritz-Carlton spa,  men can choose spa treatments such as the Gentlemen's Power Hour or the Blokes & Beer treatment, a 2.5-hour service with a Man-E-Cure hand treatment, personalized facial, and full body massage.  There is also a huge large screen television in the Gentleman's Relaxation Lounge for men to enjoy. 

Kingsmill Resort Spa in Virgnia
Kingsmill Resort  Spa in Williamsburg, Virginia 

The Kingsmill Resort, a four-diamond condo resort in Williamsburg, Virginia which overlooks the James River is a haven for both family-fun and relaxation.  With a million-dollar spa on property and separate relaxation rooms for men and women, Spa Director, Jessica Nichols believes wellness education can take credit for new generations embracing the spa.

"We have seen an increase in appointments for men.  I think wellness, fitness, and overall better care of your body is a priority now," remarked Nichols. "It is also no longer frowned upon for men to have spa services of any kind.  Research shows the benefits of massage are great and have been known to relieve stress, neurological issues, digestive disorders, soft tissue and sports injuries, and more.  Spa treatments are no longer just for special occasions but considered therapy."

Despite an increase in luxury hotel spas offering spa treatments for males, men are still the minority client as we expected. The luxury resort, Four Seasons Orlando, located within the gates of Walt Disney World, says that men make up about 30 percent of its' overall spa business. 

The luxury hotel on property at Walt Disney World.
The  Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World 

That figure has remained steady since the hotel's opening almost four years ago. Four Seasons Orlando's luxury spa offers four couple treatment rooms on site.  Based on my survey results, the "couples spa appointment" route is the first point of entry into a spa for most men. Like Pinehurst, the hotel does confirm that it does see an increase in male treatments when there is a big male-oriented event on the property such as a golf tournament. 

Our Male Youth: What will the Future Hold? 

Awareness, education and personal experiences certainly can create change. As for today's male youth, will they be more open to seeking spa treatments as they grow into adulthood?

Exposure to the spa at a younger age may have an impact on that. The Kingsmill Resort spa offers a teen program for spa services for 12 to 16-year-olds.  My own daughter, who is now 8, was exposed to a luxury spa for a toe and nail polish at the age of 5. My son has never been exposed.

Children's Manicure at the Primland Resort Spa
Photo by Leigh Powell Hines

Liza now jumps at the chance any time she is given a spa opportunity now.  As they say, the apple doe does not fall too far from the tree. The Primland Resort, also in Virginia, like the Kingsmill Resort offers both children and teen services.  The Primland is where Liza was first introduced to the spa world. When I visited the property, highlighting children's spa treatment for a magazine, my son was still too young for any service other than nail services. At that time, he had no interest in doing that service.

How would my son feel now about the spa?  I think he would go for it and not think twice about it being something that girls normally do.

His Dad? Well, I would need to make that appointment for him. But, I know once he had the service, he would see the benefit in spa treatments. Education and awareness have the power to cause change for the better.  Like the other day, Will told me that he read that lentils help reduce belly fat. Y'all, I've had lentils on the menu for years. I guess now, he'll take another serving.

For more information on vacation options at the hotels listed in this post, visit the following:
Ritz-Carlton Toronto
The Kingsmill Resort
Four Seasons Orlando
The Primland
The Pinehurst Resort 

Luxury hotels are offering more spa treatments for men, but are men taking advantage. A look at the spa industry and attracting male spa guests. #spatravel


U.S Workers Who Plan Vacation Days Work Less than Non-Planners: The #PlanforVacation Movement

It's the end of January. Have you planned a vacation or a trip this year? Studies show that if you have already planned a trip for sometime this year then you are more likely to work less than those non-planners out there. And that's a good thing because that means you are more than likely taking all the vacation days earned to you. 

According to research from Project Time Off,  fewer than half of Americans (49%) take the time to plan their vacation days out each year.

Why you should plan for vacation each year

Yes. I know. We have a day for everything for these days, but Tuesday, January 30 is National Plan for Vacation Day. This national observance is dedicated to encouraging Americans to plan their vacation days for the rest of the year at the start of the year. By failing to block the calendar, Americans are creating a stockpile of 662 million unused vacation days and a $236 billion missed opportunity for the U.S. economy.

"At the beginning of the year the calendar is still full of possibility and there is no better time to start planning vacation days," said Katie Denis, chief of research and strategy at Project: Time Off. "Americans who want to use more of their vacation time can put themselves in a better position to do so by planning ahead—and their request is more likely to be approved by the boss."
The lack of planning has implications in the office. Managers are near universal (91%) in saying they want to approve vacation requests, but a significant 43 percent say they are sometimes unable to because their employees did not provide enough notice. Nearly half (48%) of employees give six weeks or less notice when taking at least a week off; just 19 percent give three months or more.
Employees may be intimidated to give more notice. About a quarter of employees fear that their boss would not approve of them asking about all their plans for the year up front (27%). But an overwhelming majority of managers say it would be helpful to know their direct reports' vacation plans for the year at the start of their company's fiscal year (78%) and think that employees who share their plans that far in advance are being responsible (88%).

#PlanforVacation is a U.S Movement to stimulate the economy and to have the workforce be less stressed.

Planners have a distinct advantage over non-planners. According to Project: Time Off's The State of American Vacation 2017, workers who set aside time each year to plan out their vacation days use more of their vacation time, take longer breaks, and report greater happiness than non-planners with their relationships, health, and well-being, company, and job.
To help Americans plan, Project: Time Off launched a vacation planning tool that lets employees enter in the number of days off they earn, plot out how they want to spend them, save to their calendars, and export to their friends and family—and even their bosses. Travel organizations are also offering discounts, giveaways and sweepstakes, and itineraries for vacations.
"It's time for Americans to reclaim their calendar and vacation time," said Cait DeBaun, director of communications for Project: Time Off. "Make 2018 the year you check an item off your travel bucket list…not just your to-do list."

50 percent of North Carolinians take the vacation days owed to them. That's better than the national average.

In the Triangle, it appears we have some planners who live here.  Some workers I spoke to said that they need to put in vacation days in October or November for the following calendar year. While a business owner said, they require at least a 30-day notice for planned days off. 
Most people I spoke with said that they try to plan a vacation when they know they may not be needed at work as much. But, aren't we always need at work. So....just plan!!

In preparation for National Plan for Vacation Day, North Carolina developed a five-question quiz to helps workers gauge their losses and offers a chance to win back the amount on a Visa gift card. Those who take the quiz also will receive inspiration from Visit NC to help them plan 2018 vacations instead of leaving time-off compensation on the table.
My home state fares slightly better than the national average, with 50 percent of the workforce leaving a total of 16.6 million vacation days unused in 2016. The loss in potential spending is $2.4 billion.

 “Putting plans in place on Jan. 30 gives us time to build a budget for the trip,” Wit Tuttell, Executive Director of Visit NC said. “By the time vacation rolls around, we’ll be past the point of thinking about the trip as a luxury of time and money. We’ll simply see it as priceless.”

Where would you like to go vacation in 2018? 

For NC inspiration, check out my North Carolina tab and also my hotel/travel section for national travel. 


Essential Winter Must-Have Wardrobe Items for Walking the Dog

We adopted Andy, our toy poodle, in November. After a week having him, I realized I needed to get together some dog walking clothes that were practical, yet comfy and stylish enough for me to be seen walking around my neighborhood.

Andy the Toy Poodle

In late November, it started to turn colder here in North Carolina. On this particular walking day, it was cold and maybe even a little wet.

I changed out of my pajamas and put on an old grey wide-legged Jockey brand pull-on pants that were about as old as my first child (He's now 12), a grey baggy Carolina sweatshirt (it's older than both of my children), a kid's NC State toboggan that was too small for my head, black Ugg boots which are comfy, warm, and great, but they looked absolutely ridiculous with the pants. I then found some gloves, but they had holes in them. I also was make-up free and I had bed-head.

Andy, in his new little Argyle sweater, looked better than his owner. My wild slept-on hair barely flattened under the too-small toboggan that would not cover my ears properly.

I put Andy's leash on, looked at Will and said, "I look like I've been living on the streets. Don't I?" He hesitated because I don't think he knew how I would react with the truth.

He smiled and said, "You kind of do!"


The Best Lip Balm for Winter ( I use it all year)

It's a harsh winter in North Carolina. I say that because my kids have been out of school more than they have been in school so far in January. We're not used to that in the South. When we get an inch, it cripples us. Our first big snow hit us this week, and it was gorgeous. I'm smitten because it was our first big snow in our house. In Raleigh, we've not had a snow like this one for several years.

A pop of color in Raleigh, NC in this winter scene.

The winter scene is stunning and it is one that we do not see too often in Raleigh.

Snow in Raleigh, N.C.

As much as I love these winter scenes, the extreme cold takes a toll on my skin. I'm still working on my skincare, but I have found the perfect solution for my chapped lips. I use Beautycounter's lip balm in Peppermint. It comes in two varieties: Peppermint and Calendula. The calendula balm is more healing and is a best seller for the company, but I just love the tingle of the peppermint one so it is my absolute favorite.


Seafood or See Food: Either Way it's Culinary Art for Holland America Cruise Line Master Chef

High-end chefs are certainly artists. Every plate that comes out of a restaurant kitchen is usually a work of art when it comes to the table. One chef is taking the phrase "playing with food" in a new direction. 

New Food Faces Book by Holland America Master Chef Rudi Sodamin

Holland America Line's Master Chef Rudi Sodamin has a new culinary masterpiece, an art table book called "Food Faces" that features more than 150 vibrant images of edible creations that display a cast of unforgettable characters expressing a whimsical spectrum of human emotion.


Quick and Easy Pantry Meal: Pasta and Bean Soup

During the winter, I like to eat soups. My children not so much, but I just give them pasta with butter and then make what I want for dinner. I have found that if you keep chicken stock in your pantry, pasta, beans, and canned tomatoes then you can pretty much make some type of soup.

I made this soup recently by rummaging through my pantry and old cookbooks.

Use your Pantry and serve this easy pasta and bean soup.

Pasta and Bean Soup


1/4 cup of olive oil plus a little more for drizzling
4 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons of fresh or dried rosemary
2 14 oz diced tomatoes
Salt and Pepper
7 cups of chicken stock
6 ounces of pasta (elbow or tiny shells)
2 19-ounce cans of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed. 


Heat oil in a large stock pot. Add garlic and rosemary and saute about two minutes. Add the tomatoes plus salt and pepper. Simmer for several minutes. 

Add the chicken stock and bring soup to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes. Add the pasta and cook 7 to 10 minutes. 

Add the canned beans to the pot and simmer for several minutes.  Add salt and pepper, if needed. Once soup is in serving bowls, drizzle with olive oil to taste. 

Serve with my cornbread

This soup is great later in the week. It also makes enough to freeze. 

Are you a soup lover in the winter, too?

#Soups for weeknight meals. Quick and Easy from your pantry with #pasta #beans and #tomatoes. Get dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes with this soup recipe. Budget-Friendly, too.


New Year. New Parenting Tale. What Do you Know About China?

I celebrated my 7th year blog anniversary this week. When I first started this blog in January 2011,  I wrote an online parenting column for the News and Observer. As a result, I wrote a lot about life as a parent and the challenges (good and bad) that I faced being an older mom with two small children. I have some of those stories archived in my parenting tab for my writing portfolio.

However, when both of my children entered elementary school, I no longer wrote about the kids as much here. There were many reasons I did that with one of them being the fact that they were old enough to find and read my blog.

Yesterday, I went through some of my old content and realized that a lot of these stories are priceless to me as a Mom and my collection makes me remember all the times that busy parents sometimes forget when children age. Liza just turned 8 and Jack turned 12 last week. Some stories need remembering. This morning, I thought of a tale I wanted to preserve and so this story begins.

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