Best New Foods at the 2018 N.C. State Fair: What Not to Miss

Unique foods. Fried foods. Gourmet dishes with a twist.  All of these culinary sweet and savory fall fair food can be found as soon as you walk through the gates of the N.C State Fair in Raleigh.  This year's vendors will serve up some of the best fair food I've ever tasted to over a million people during this year's fair season of October 12-October 21, 2018. (Hurricane Michael pushed the opening by one day this year.)

What are the best foods to eat at the N.C State Fair? There is a Best New Fair Food of 2018 Winner, of course. The Cool Runnings Jamaican Jerk pork wrap with mango salsa got the most media votes at the 2018 Media Preview. This yummy dish balanced with the heat of the jerk and the sweetness of the mango will certainly be a crowd favorite.

But honestly, there were several dishes that were so good that it was hard to name just one for the media vote. In fact, I didn't. They counted votes before I even got mine in the vendor box. I was too slow to make a final choice because I liked way too many N.C. State Fair Foods this year.

2018 New Fair Food You Must Not Miss at the NC State Fair

Jerk Pork Wrap with Mango Salsa by Cool Runnings Jamaican.

Jerk Pork Wrap with Mango Salsa by Cool Runnings Jamaican.

It's spicy, sweet and perhaps a little messy, too. The heat of the jerk chicken balances very well with the sweetness of the mango. So grab some napkins and enjoy.  This booth will be located near Dorton Arena.

Arepa Burger by Arepa Loca

Arepa Burger by Arepa Loca

I had to learn to pronounce it (ah-reh-pah), but once the name rolled off my tongue and the taste of the new Arepa burger lingered, this dish became a favorite of mine. And if I had not missed the Media "best fair food" vote due to my slowness, I think my card would have been in this vendor's jar. An arepa is a handcrafted gluten-free white cornmeal bread. This burger is served tomato and onion then topped with matchstick potatoes and traditional pink and cilantro guacamole. You will find these burgers near Kiddie Land. Parents may need the burger to keep their sanity.

Fried Shrimp Tacos with Pineapple Salsa by Captain Neill's Seafood

Fried Shrimp Tacos with Pineapple Salsa by Captain Neill's Seafood

What's better than fresh North Carolina fried shrimp? Not much. But, put some cabbage slaw and the most delicious pineapple salsa then you've hit culinary fair cuisine. You will be able to find this booth near Dorton Arena.

SoJo Melt with Lamb by Neomonde Meditteranean

SoJo Melt with Lamb by Neomonde Meditteranean

This incredible dish reminded me of the look of a warm Philly cheesesteak. It's the Mediterranean take on a Philly hoagie classic. This dish is sauteed lamb with onions, soujouk spices, hummus, Lebanese pickles, melted provolone and mozzarella cheeses, Roma tomatoes plus spicy jalapeno/cilantro sauce on hoagie bread. You can find this food near Kiddie Land.

Crack and Cheese Waffle Cone by Hickory Tree Turkey BBQ

Crack and Cheese Waffle Cone by Hickory Tree Turkey BBQ

For those who like to keep on walking, this savory dish is for you. In one cone, you'll find macaroni and cheese, turkey bbq, deep friend turkey cracklings, creamy southern slaw, and special bbq sauce all in one waffle cone. It's a gourmet, southern delight with flavors that impress. You will find this food near the Education building.

Shrimp and Cheddar Cheese Grits Eggroll by Woody's Tavern

Shrimp and Cheddar Cheese Grits Eggroll by Woody's Tavern

Deep fried food lovers will rejoice over this new state fair food. It's a southern take on a fried egg roll and it delivers big time in flavor. Everyone I talked to loved this dish. I did, too. In this eggroll, you fill N.C. farm-raised shrimp, N.C. ground cheese grits and tasso ham. It's then topped with a red pepper remoulade sauce. The inside of the eggroll is soft and not crunchy like a traditional eggroll so it surprises you at first bite. You can find this food near the Grandstand ticket area.

Candid Bacon S'more by LaFarm Bakery

Candid Bacon S'more by LaFarm Bakery

It's pretty and it tastes good, too. What more information do you need? This is sweet a dish that you may want to share with a few people. My favorite part was the homemade marshmallow filled with applewood smoked bacon ganache.  It's one of those dishes that you take a bite and say, "Oh, that's good!" Then you take another one and another one and it's half gone. With this dessert, it also depends on what side you start nibbling. The chocolate bacon ganache dipped side is definitely richer and I personally ate more of the non-dipped side. But overall, I loved the flavors. It will be much bigger than what I tasted so I think it's definitely one to share. You will find LaFarm Bakery near the North Carolina Pottery Exhibit. LaFarm is a Cary, North Carolina bakery that I've featured many times on this blog.

Durty Bull Brewing Co.

There are 22 new foods at the N.C State Fair this year plus a Public House with NC Wine and Beer. Durty Bull Brewing Company in Durham will be one of than thirty vendors on tap. I loved their samples and am a fan of its Oak-Aged Blonde Sour.  Tickets to the Our State Public House is $10 and that price allows two sample servings. Beer and cider samples are in 8 ounce pours. Wine is in 3 ounce pours.

Admit it. You love NC State Fair Food. We sampled some of the best new food at the fair for 2018. Deep-fried Fair Food. Savory. Sweet. You name it and we've compiled a list of the best food to eat at the NC State Fair in Raleigh, N.C.

You can learn more about the rides, exhibits, and attractions at the NC State Fair, where to park when visiting the fair, where to get a shuttle in Raleigh where you can park and ride to the NC State Fair, ticket prices, and lodging options near the NC State Fairgrounds by visiting the N.C. State Fair website. 

An important date to remember for the NC State Fair is Thursday, October 18 is Food Lion's Hunger Relief Day. Bring in five cans of food and get one free fair admission ticket per person. 


Vacations in North Carolina After Hurricane Florence: What You Need to Know

North Carolina has four distinct seasons and as a result, we have people wanting to visit North Carolina 365 days a year. Unfortunately, In September, my home state took a gut punch with the arrival of Hurricane Florence. Like many tourists, she loved the Carolinas so much that she stuck around for days leaving a path of widespread destruction in many places in North Carolina.

Interstate 40 After Hurricane Florence
Interstate 40 flooded. That's not a river. That's a highway!

Raleigh N.C and West Toward the Mountains of North Carolina and Charlotte

If you have a vacation planned in Raleigh, Greensboro, Charlotte, Asheville, or Boone then you should be able to arrive at your planned destination without any issues. Some flooding and downed trees did occur during the storm, but tourism in these areas are back to normal.

chihuly at Biltmore

Our Mountains are one of the best places to experience fall. The Chihuly Exhibit on the Biltmore Estate will wrap up in October and beginning November 3, Christmas at Biltmore opens.

North Carolina Beach Communities

Figure Eight Island

Southeastern North Carolina was hit hard by devastation and flooding. Recovery will take time. Clean up is ongoing. Many North Carolina roads, including Interstate 40, toward Wilmington are still flooded in parts. Several inland counties remain flooded with washed out roads. If you are traveling to North Carolina, bookmark Drive NC.gov to see what roads are open for travel.  It is also advised that you call your hotel or vacation rental manager before heading on your vacation.

Brunswick County Beaches

Sunset Beach, Ocean Isle Beach, Holden Beach, Caswell Beach Oak Island--OPEN to Visitors
SOUTHPORT, NC: State of Emergency 
BALD HEAD ISLAND-State of Emergency

North Carolina's Brunswick beaches except for Bald Head Island and the seaport town of Southport, weathered Hurricane Florence better than expected. These beaches are open to residents and visitors, however, Brunswick County is currently under a travel warning. Inland roads remain flooded or washed out which makes it more difficult to get to the Brunswick beaches.  Neighboring Inland county, Columbus County is also under a travel warning which many people use roads in this state to get to Brunswick County.

The town of Leland, in Brunswick County, is still under a State of Emergency as is the cute little seaport town of Southport and beautiful Bald Head Island, only accessible by ferry.  Photos from Bald Head Island after the storm looked as if the entire island was flooded. All guests who were scheduled to visit Bald Head Island will be contacted.

New Hanover County Beaches and Wilmington, N.C.
Figure Eight Island, Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wilmington, N.C. 

Hurricane Florence made landfall over this area. Clean-up and disaster recovery work is ongoing. If you have plans for this area, it is best to stay in contact with the New Hanover County tourism site. They are updating a lodging list daily.

The Wilmington International Airport is operational.

Figure Eight Island is a private island in Wilmington available to homeowners and renters only. If you have a vacation scheduled there then contact your homeowner or Figure Eight Realty about your rental. 

Topsail Island Beaches in Pender County
Surf City and South Topsail Island

Interstate 40 has lanes closed in Pender County and many inland cities remain flooded in this county. The beaches of Surf City and  Topsail Beach are closed to visitors until further notice. Only residents and contractors are allowed on the island. There is a curfew for the Pender County side of Topsail from 7 pm to 7 am.

North Topsail Beach in Onslow County

North Topsail Beach is under a 9 pm to 7 am curfew. The island is open to the general public, but use caution when traveling. All town parks including beach access are closed until further notice.

The Crystal Coast, North Carolina's Southern Outer Banks
Emerald Isle, Indian Beach, Pine Knoll Shores, Atlantic Beach, Morehead City, Beaufort, N.C., Harker's Island and Cape Lookout

The storm surge was extremely high in this area during the duration of Florence. Clean-up and storm debris removal are underway. Each beach is working hard and making progress daily. Curfews are lifted.

Cape Lookout is closed until further notice. To stay updated on this area, continue to visit the Carteret County Official Tourism website. 

New Bern, North Carolina 

The historic town of New Bern, N.C. experienced epic flooding in Craven County during Hurricane Florence and the historic downtown part of New Bern was hit very hard. Tryon Palace is currently closed as is many businesses, especially downtown. The tourism site is not operating with current information at this time so be sure to check the New Bern town website regarding updates.

North Carolina's Outer Banks

The coast is clear in North Carolina's Outer Banks. Businesses and hotels are ready to welcome you. The islands received very minor damage from Hurricane Florence. For more information on vacationing in this area, visit https://www.outerbanks.org/

Recovery will take time.

Donations The North Carolina Disaster Relief Fund is available for donations to support North Carolina’s response to Hurricane Florence. To donate, visit governor.nc.gov or text FLORENCE to 20222.


Raleigh's Morgan Street Food Hall Offers Diners 19 Restaurant Options Plus Retail in One Big Space

I was first introduced to the American version of a food hall in a historic City Market Building in Roanoke, Virginia in 2012. It was my first time in one despite the fact that food halls have been in larger, metropolitan cities for years.

When someone from Hotel Roanoke suggested the food hall to my family, my mind wandered to an original mall food court for the concept and I was a little puzzled as to why they would suggest a food court as a place to dine in their city.  But, as soon as I walked through the doors of this historic building, I knew this was different. This Virginia food hall felt hippier, trendier, more expensive than a  mall food court, and of course, there was not one Chic-Fil-A sign in sight.  

Raleigh, North Carolina now has its first food hall and it rivals some of the best European and U.S. Food Halls in the country. North Carolina has reached the big time when it comes to good, local food in one place. The Research Triangle Area is quickly becoming a foodie mecca, and it's an accolade I think residents are glad to embrace.

Morgan Street Food Hall has 19 restaurants in one building

My Facebook is constantly buzzing with excitement about Morgan Street Food Hall, located in a long-abandoned industrial space that used to be a pool hall when I moved to Raleigh in 1999.  A second food hall called Transfer Co. Food Hall will also open later in the year in a different part of downtown.

Blogger Tatiana Amador covered the media opening of the Morgan Street Food Hall for my OutaboutNC Instagram, She's sampled lots of local goodies and has the scoop on what you can find to eat and some important things to know before you go. 

MORGAN  STREET FOOD HALL LOCATION and PARKING: Morgan Street Food Hall is located at 411 West Morgan Street.  It is adjacent to the new Raleigh Union Station. You can find street parking or you can park in the Dillon Parking Deck.

MORGAN STREET  FOOD HALL HOURS: The food hall is open Sunday to Wednesday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m, and from 7 a.m. to  2 a.m from Thursday to Saturday.  Keep in mind that not all food vendors open right at 7 a.m. though. The majority of the food vendors in the building keep 11 a.m to 10 p.m as its set operating hours daily. Cocktails and Drinks are available until closing hours.

There is an assortment of seating at Morgan Street Food Hall in Raleigh, NC


By Tatiana Amador for OutaboutNC and HinesSightBlog

There are currently 19 food vendors and 15 specialty vendors, including a florist, barbecue sauces, and teas!

When you walk into Morgan Street Food Hall you won’t know where to go first. There are so many options to pick from, that makes it the perfect spot for that special person in your life that can never decide where to eat, or that picky eater, or for someone that just wants to try multiple styles of food! Here’s what you can expect:

What you Should Expect at Morgan Street Food Hall in Raleigh, NC
Bella’s Wood Fired Pizza & Tapas: Small plate tapas and wood-fired pizzas made with fresh ingredients.

Boba Brew: Authentic Bubble Teas, non-GMO added smoothies, and monthly menu changes keep Boba Brew refreshing and unique.

Carroll’s Kitchen: A non-profit restaurant trying to end homelessness for women, Carroll’s offers up freshly baked sweets and comfort classics like chicken noodle soup.

Cocoa Forte: A two-year-old chocolate business with desserts from waffles on a stick to chocolate dipped cheesecake bars.

Cousins Maine Lobster: As seen on “Shark Tank,” this nationally known truck brings fresh Maine seafood to a brick and mortar location in the Triangle.

Cow Bar: Handcrafted patties with a unique spin on the “traditional” burger. *Kimchi burger is part of their secret menu (shhh)

Curry in a Hurry is inside the Morgan Street Food Hall

Curry in a Hurry: (Tatiana's personal favorite) Alaksha, the owner, brings love and passion into her dishes. Explore the tastes of India at the Curry in a Hurry booth.

Iyla’s Southern Kitchen: Iyla’s is one of the only residents bringing Southern cuisine to the food hall and rises to the challenge with a unique twist on Southern classics like their barbeque sundae.

Makus Empanadas: Two brothers have been sharing their Argentinian roots with NC for the past couple of years. Now at the food hall with the same menu as their truck, its a must try!

Mama Bird’s Cookies + Cream: One of two ice cream shops in the food hall, Mama Bird’s stands out because of their distinct, frozen spin on classic desserts like tiramisu and cheesecake.

MKG Kitchen: Selecting fresh ingredients daily, MKG is looking to bring the highest quality to a menu featuring homemade Vietnamese recipes that focus on the less commonly known elements of the Southeast Asian country’s cuisine.

MKG Kitchen has a Vietnamese influence for the Morgan Street Food Hall

Morgan Street Java & Creperie: Rotating seasonal offerings will take advantage of local ingredients to provide a variety of made to order crepes and a diverse coffee menu.    

Oak City Fish & Chips: Oak City Fish & Chips uses their two proprietary spice blends to give a unique spin on a classic dish and help their fish and chips, and other seafood dishes, stand out among the other fish in the sea.

Oak City Fish and Chips serves up Seafood in Morgan Street Food Hall

Raleigh Raw: After enjoying a few of Morgan Street Food Hall’s less than healthy options, a trip to Raleigh Raw may be just what the doctor ordered with their focus on providing healthy, organic, bottled juices.

RAleigh Rolls will satisfy your sweet tooth in Morgan Street Food Hall

Raleigh Rolls: The employees of this Thai inspired ice cream joint make a show of preparing your order by pouring cream directly on to an ice grill before adding in a wide variety of toppings and rolling the flash frozen cream up like a tiny, edible sleeping bag.

Sassool is in Morgan Street Food Hall
Sassool: With locations already in Raleigh and Cary, Sassool offers Mediterranean and Lebanese favorites such as chicken and beef shawarma, and falafel.  

The Bowls: Expect a tour of various East Asian cuisines at this vendor, which names each of the rice bowls on its menu after different East Asian cities.

The Broth: The Broth brings Japanese style comfort food and street food favorites to Raleigh with their carefully crafted bowls of ramen, steamed buns, and other dishes.

Wicked Taco: This well-known taco establishment brings its popular tacos and salsas to the patrons of Morgan Street Food Hall.

There are two full-service bars inside the building and one on the outside patio where Raleigh Raw is located. You can hang out inside in the shared space booths and tables or lounge in their sitting room with comfy couches. Morgan Street Food Hall is the place you can go into at any time of day and feel at ease. There is something for every foodie at Morgan Street Food Hall.
Morgan Street Food Hall puts 19 restaurants and 15 specialty vendors under one roof to serve up some of the best local food in Raleigh. The Food Hall is open Daily.
What vendor are you most wanting to try?

*Please note pictures show sample sizes received by media
*All pictures were taken by @timewithtati for @outaboutnc


Southern Hospitality Rules At Washington Duke Inn, a Resort in Durham, N.C.

Durham, N.C., the epicenter of the Research Triangle Park, is not known as a resort destination. But, nestled on the campus of Duke University, is a tranquil peace of resort heaven, known as the Washington Duke Inn and Golf Club. It transports guests away from the hustle and bustle of daily life and opens its door for you to enjoy a slower-pace oozed with Southern hospitality.

The stately inn, nestled on 300 acres on the edge of Duke Forest, is owned by Duke University. Some weekends, you will be hard-pressed to find a room available at the  Washington Duke Inn, which could easily be mistaken for a country English estate in Durham, England, not North Carolina.

But, the good news for you is that sometimes the hotel is less busy such as when Duke University students are not on campus or when the Duke BlueDevils are not playing a home game. Summer is one of the less busy times for the hotel and as a result, you will find incredible rates and packages that every local or seasoned traveler should experience.

Under the culinary leadership of Jason Cunningham, I've been a fan of the Washington Duke Inn tea service for several decades now. They have the best scones in the state and an elegant tea service. It is also a perfect experience for kids. My son had his first tea in the Fairview Dining Room when he was seven.

Every time I have dined at the Washington Duke Inn restaurant in the past, I have had an exceptional dining experience.  I am a huge fan of the Fairview Dining Room, which is the official name of the AAA four-diamond ranked restaurant.

One of the best local secrets is that the Washington Duke Inn menu features the special Dinner at Dusk Menu, offered from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at a special price of $35 for three courses. The value alone in that meal is crazy good.  The Washington Duke Inn is also known for its weekend brunch so it's a popular spot for Duke students, alumni, and their families.

As you know from my past travels, I do not shy away from dining in fine restaurants in hotels with my kids. In non-hotel restaurants, I'm a little more cautious. The reason why I am comfortable choosing hotel dining with kids in tow is that hotels are used to dealing with children

Chef Cunningham has younger children than my two so he understands the struggles parents have when traveling. Parents, like myself, want great food, but here is Liza, who lives off of buttered noodles, a cheeseburger, and an occasional nugget. Meanwhile, my soon to-be-13-year-old is a self-exclaimed foodie, and we have to limit him or else, we will have to get a bank loan on his choices.

The Washington Duke Inn also operates the Bull Durham Bar for more casual salads, burger and sandwich options which is a perfect choice for families who need a less quiet atmosphere. I've dined here for lunch with the kids when we visited the nearby Duke Lemur Center.  Despite the numerous times I've dined at the Washington Duke Inn through the years, I had never stayed overnight and experienced what it would be like as a resort guest until this year.

Staying as an Overnight Guest in the Family Suite at the Washington Duke Inn and Golf Club

Even though Durham is only 45-minutes away from Raleigh, just getting out of the house for one night with the kids felt like a vacation this summer. As you know, I'm fine with just enjoying resort amenities and never leaving a property if it is for a short amount of time.  One-night away was the perfect subscription for genuine family bonding.  Even though the Washington Duke Inn is pet-friendly, Andy and my husband stayed home. Will had to work the next day and I thought I would be brave enough to take the kids to a hotel alone.

Washington Duke Inn chose the family suite for us and it was a special treat for the kids. It was a king bed with an alcove area with two bunk beds plus an awesome child-sized chess table. You book this suite for the fun and not the view. It is more expensive, but larger in size than a regular double room. Don't fret though, you will have the same ambiance in a regular room if the cost per night is more than your travel budget allows. This type of suite runs about $50 more than a regular double. Room rates start at $200 at the Washington Duke Inn during non-peak times. 

Best Scallop Dish Ever Tasted in Washington Duke Inn Restaurant 

I've already mentioned how much I like the food at the Washington Duke Inn in the Fairview Dining and the Bull Durham Bar, but I cannot write this piece without mentioning the scallop dish that is currently on the seasonal summer menu. It was pan-seared diver scallops with grilled silver queen corn, piperade, Spanish bacon, local basil aioli, and organic carrot puree. Thank goodness for google because I did have to look up the definition of piperade.  Simply put, it's French Basque dish, a saute of peppers, onions, and tomatoes. This particular dish is not on the special, lower-cost Dinner at Dusk menu though.  My husband is so tired of hearing how good the scallop entree was at the Washington Duke Inn that's for sure.

Swimming at Night and Drinks on the Green 

The Washington Duke Inn has a gorgeous indoor pool which is fun for kids year-round. I personally love the grounds of the hotel because it overlooks the Washington Duke Golf Course. Guests at the hotel get a special discount for golfing and there is a great golf store on site. The club also offers lessons and week-long courses. Every time, I go to a golf course, I say I want to take up lessons. 

But, for now, I 'll settle for a sparkling rose overlooking the green. This terrace is a wonderful spot for a casual dinner or just drinks before a performance at DPAC in downtown Durham.

Luxury Hotel Perks You Will Enjoy at Washington Duke Inn in Durham, N.C. 

*Complimentary coffee is served in the Bull Durham Bar every morning, but there is a Keurig  Coffee Maker in each room
*Room Service from 6 a.m. to Midnight
*Bull Durham Bar open until Midnight
*Fitness Center and walking trail 
*Indoor Pool
*Luxury soaps and lotions (Gilchrist and Soames of London)
*Luxury bathrooms ( I wore mine down for early coffee, but I was the only one)
*Make-Up Mirror
*Good TV (Always a plus with children)
*Valet parking, but good old free parking, too
*Bellman to help with all those stuffed animals that your kids bring with them
*Chocolates on the nightstand, and turn-down service for those who request it. I was special. I got it without asking and I have to admit that I do think turn-down service is one of my favorite things about luxury properties
*Comfy high-end bedding. Mattresses are somewhat firm.
*Great water pressure and shower heads
*Pet-friendly, but pets are not allowed in all parts of the hotels and they have certain entrances. You will need to go over that with the front desk at check-in
*Drools in Southern hospitality, and if you ask me, that's a good thing!!!!

#NorthCarolina #FamilyTravel #Travel #LuxuryHotels

The Sister Hotel: The JB DUKE Hotel 

And just when you thought this story could not get any better, the Washington Duke Inn has a sister hotel less than a mile from the Inn called the JB Duke Hotel.

This contemporary property near Duke's Fuqua School of Business and Duke's baseball stadium is also a four-diamond rated, but has a completely different tone and feel that Washington Duke Inn.  Due to the hotel's relationship with the business school, guests typically stay longer (think meetings and conferences) at this property, but it does attract the leisure guest, too. I had breakfast at the JB Duke Hotel and toured the property with staff.  There is no pool, but it has an awesome fitness center and amazing suites. Package rates typically start below $200 at this property. This fall, I'll tell you more.

Disclosure: I was a hosted media guest of the Washington Duke Inn, but this is an editorial piece and opinions are my own. Only a few people knew I was media so my experience resembled any other family. 


Keeping the Tradition of Customized Paper Invitations for Baby and Wedding Showers Is a Must in this Digital Age

This opinion piece was curated and sparked by Basic Invite, home of the truly custom invite.

Twenty years ago, I had a reputation for being the fastest thank you note writer, possibly in the entire state of North Carolina. Some guests at my wedding had their thank you notes arrive at their home the Monday after my Saturday wedding. Fast forward to my life today and I'm now the worse thank you, writer, on the planet. 

What happened? Kids happened and the quick ease of sending an email happened. I am to blame, but I also blame the digital age. I feel as if my Southern manners have gone to pot, which is not a good thing. I still love customized stationary though and I like to have a stash in my antique secretary desk for when the need arises. I buy personalized stationery for myself and even for my children, who would rather get their fingernails peeled off than write a thank you note these days.

Despite the complaining, it's my job to teach them to do the right thing expected of a recipient of a gift. I want them to grow up and know that handwritten thank you noteson proper stationery are a part of life. I'm also instilling in their little brains that if they are to ever host a wedding or baby shower then they better order paper invitations for the event. 

I certainly get why online invites for kid's birthdays or quick potlucks or neighborhood parties are popular. It's easy, and sometimes, things are done impromptu. Trust me, I live an impromptu life now. It keeps the cost down for an event and it works for those occasions. But, I beg you to please keep the tradition of paper invitations alive for wedding and baby showers.  These are such wonderful milestone events in someone's life and embracing some of the past in this technology-ran world is nice. 

You can order customized printed invitations online instead of making the trip to a local store these days, but whatever route you decide to do it's so considerate to celebrate milestone events with paper invitations. 

I went through a dry spell where I was not invited to a wedding shower or a baby shower in many years. But, I have moved into a neighborhood with friends younger than me and I have a baby shower to attend for my neighbor next weekend. I received a paper invitation in the mail and I loved it. I love paper invitations because I can hold it and put it on a bulletin board as a reminder. This invite didn't get buried in my email where it typically takes me a long time to find it again. I also promptly RSVP'd for the event. I've been known to forget to RSVP online invites because I don't do it right away then I forget about the invite in an email. 

The hosts for this baby shower chose an animals baby shower invitation design and apparently that is the biggest trend right now for baby shower invitations. Of course, I spent an hour or so looking at the designs and one of my favorite designs is in the baby showers for girls templates. It's for twins and it's two smiling peas. It's adorable. I also like this template below for craft brew loving parents-to-be. 

When I was pregnant with Jack, some friends of ours hosted a couple's shower. I think in today's world, it's nice to keep the tradition of paper, but think outside the box when hosting an event. The invitation pictured would be perfect to host at a local brewery, just make sure you have some sparking punch on hand for the mom-to-be. 

I'm entering a new stage of life, and some of my college friends now have children getting married or are having babies. Will's aunt, who is at never at a lost for words, said this past weekend that fifty plus is truly the golden years. I believe it. It's fun to have milestone events on the calendar again instead of birthday parties at the local jump place. Of course, when she turned 50, her children were out of the house and grown. We've got a ways to go on that empty nest front. 

I'm not hosting an event anytime soon, but I did order some new business cards from Basic Invite and I love them. Ordering and customizing them was a breeze. They are two-sided cards. The ordering process would be the same for online invitations or stationery.  I recommend the company for your needs. Here are a few things that set this company apart from other online stores. 

Almost Unlimited Colors - Basic Invite is one of the few websites that allows customers almost unlimited color options with instant previews online. Once you select a design you can change the color of each element on the card to over 180 different color options so you can make sure the card is exactly how you want it down to the littlest detail. 

Custom Samples - Basic Invite is one of the few websites that allows customers the ability to order a printed sample of their actual invitation so you can see exactly how it will print as well as the paper quality before you have to place your final order.

Over 40 Different Colors of Envelopes - Basic Invite is just as colorful with envelopes as it is with its invitations. Customers can choose from over 40 different colors when it comes to their envelopes so that you can make your invitation stand out even before it is opened. All of Basic Invites envelopes are peel and seal so the envelopes can be quickly and securely closed.

Address Capturing Service - Basic Invite offers an address capturing service that allows customers to simply share a link on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other form of social media to request their friends and family’s addresses which will be stored in the customer’s account and can then be selected during the design process. Basic Invite offers recipient address printing at no cost on all Christmas card orders.

Foil - Foil cards are available in gold, silver, and rose gold. Customers can choose flat or raised foil on all of Basic Invite’s foil designs.

I will definitely use Basic Invite again for stationery or any future events I may host.  If you re hosting an event in the future, this coupon code of 15FF51 is valid for 15% off for a limited time. 

How do you feel about printed invitations and customized stationery? Are you a fan like me? 

FTC Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Basic Invite. The conversation was sparked by their sponsorship of my writing, but opinions of this company are my own. 


8 Great Lunch Spots Near NC State University

UPDATED: October 2018

If you're a food lover and are visiting Raleigh, N.C. you will be glad to hear that you are coming to a fantastic part of North Carolina.  Restaurants in the Triangle area are expansive. We're quickly becoming a top culinary destination.The City of Raleigh has its share of good places to eat almost on every street corner and that's great news for a first-time visitor to Raleigh.

For this post though,we are going to concentrate on lunch spots near NCSU (NC State University). For those of you who may be visiting Raleigh for the first time, the good news is that you can get to a lot of local great restaurants (think downtown, North Hills and even Cary, NC) quickly, but I wanted to pinpoint where to eat near NCSU. We are concentrating on restaurants near Hillsborough Street, Western Boulevard, and NC State's Centennial Campus for these great lunch breaks. We could add more to this list about dining near NCSU, but I had to stop somewhere. There are so many choices for dining on Hillsborough Street and the vicinity of campus.

Where to Eat Near NCSU

When visiting Raleigh, the NC Farmer's Market is a must-experience when in town. It's adjacent to Centennial Campus and the wide-open area houses a hot dog stand, the NC Seafood restaurant, and the biggest draw of all, the State Farmer's Market Restaurant.  It's only open for breakfast and lunch, serving until 3 pm. It's one of the few places in Raleigh where you can get breakfast all day.  No matter when you go, it's always packed so be prepared for a short wait. It's first-come, first-serve. 

This Japanese restaurant in Cameron Village has a great lunch special. Ajisai, a Japanese-fusion-sushi restaurant, offers indoor and outdoor patio seating and attracts visitors with its specially-priced lunch menu for under $10. You can get two sushi-rolls, miso soup and a green salad for $8.95. For sushi fans, you know that is incredibly reasonable, but the best part of all, the sushi is delicious.  HireScene employees gave me this lunch recommendation and I tried it for the first time this month. I'll certainly be back. I adored the crunchy salmon roll. Lunch is served from 11 am to 4 pm.

sushi in Raleigh

This family-owned Mediterranean restaurant, located on Beryl Road (Near the NC State Fairgrounds) has been a Raleigh staple since 1989. Using family recipes, the deli offers daily lunch specials along with fresh sides, vegetables, kabobs, and shawarma.

When the Saleh family immigrated to the United States in the 1970s, they brought with them their passion for bread along with their mother's recipes. The brothers opened Neomonde Baking Company in 1977, a wholesale bakery and later moved that operation to the Beryl Road location. Neomonde has another restaurant location in Morrisville. Neomonde is some of the best Lebanese influenced restaurants in the Triangle. They are also a vendor staple at the NC Fair every October.

lebanese food in Raleigh, NC

The Player's Retreat, known as PRs, to the locals has been a popular spot since 1951. With lots of gourmet burgers on the menu, it's a hotspot from daytime to late-night. Burgers are a $1 off at lunch, ground from Angus beef on site, and its home to the NCSU Wolfpack Burger, either 4-ounces or 6-ounces, served with mustard, chili, and slaw. The menu has a variety of cuisine and all lunch specials are under $10.

This quick-service restaurant off of Western Boulevard that sources local offers free chips and queso with a meal every Tuesday. With a cool salsa bar with condiments and tacos in two sizes, it's easy on the wallet for a lunch-time break. My favorite taco is "Fish Called Wanda" Taco. It's crunchy breaded Alaskan pollock, Mexican slaw, ancho-honey, pico-de-gallo, and jack cheese. Wicked Taco will open a second location at Morgan Street Food Hall in downtown Raleigh.

6. Amedeo's on Western Boulevard

Nothing screams NC State like Amedeo's Italian Restaurant on Western Boulevard. It's a shrine to NC State athletics and the perfect choice for dining on a college visit to NC State. This college staple serves a daily lunch special from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays. My favorite entree is spaghetti and meatballs, but they have solid pizza, too.


Cloo's Coney Island is so retro, it doesn't even have a website. What it does have though is food from a hot grill that will make you drool. Known for its hot dogs and chili-cheese fries, this little restaurant tucked away in Mission Valley Shopping Center off of Avent Ferry Road has been around for 30 years. You can also get cheesesteaks, burgers, gyros and fresh salads. It's open from 11 am to 8:30 pm.

8. Local Food Trucks in The Triangle Area

The Triangle area has an awesome food truck scene. You can find food trucks parked at breweries, businesses and on NC State's Centennial Campus. NCSU Dining has two food trucks parked on weekdays on Main Campus Drive from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm. HireScene employees tell me that they mark their calendars for the days when American Meltdown arrives on campus. That's a day not to miss, apparently.

Hunt Library_Centennial Campus_NC State

These NC State lunch break ideas were recommendations from my OutaboutNC community and employees of HireScene, which is a Raleigh-based company.  While at their office on Centennial Campus, we did some live interviews about their favorite places in Raleigh and I received a demonstration on how this new employment app for the hospitality industry works. Developed by NC State Alumni, it's available for download on iTunes and the Google PlayStore. I was impressed with it and the best way for me to describe it is to compare it to Uber. Hire Scene is a mobile app, headquartered on North Carolina State's Centennial Campus, that has changed the way people work. Hire Scene has partnered with multiple hospitality venues in the Triangle that post to the app when they have a gig available. App Members are notified and get to pick where, when, and how often they work.

It's the perfect situation for students who need to work around their school schedule, retirees and people who want to earn some extra money, but need that flexibility.

FTC Disclosure: This post was sponsored by HireScene. Hire Scene is a mobile app, headquartered on North Carolina State's Centennial Campus, that has changed the way people work. Hire Scene has partnered with multiple hospitality venues in the Triangle that post to the app when they have a gig available. App Members are notified and get to pick where, when, and how often they work.

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