Aloft Downtown Asheville is the Perfect Stay for Dogs (And People, Too) in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains

Asheville, a gorgeous mountain city, nestled in North Carolina's Smoky Mountains, is a haven for vacationers. The reasons to visit this city are endless.

When I was working on a magazine piece for a national publication this summer, I interviewed local business owners in Asheville.

Jillian Kelly, a local Asheville beekeeper, and owner of the store, The Asheville Bee Charmer, told me, "You have a want for nothing in Asheville, North Carolina!"

She's right.  There is something for everyone in this mountain city. All people and their unique, individual tastes are welcome in Asheville. Whether you are an adventure traveler, foodie, or a history and culture lover, you'll feel right at home in this progressive North Carolina city.

Your beloved pets will feel welcomed, too. Just like my poodle, Andy felt on his most recent stay.

I grew up near Asheville, North Carolina, but in the past nine years, I've visited Asheville more often than anywhere else in the state. For the past two years, our poodle, Andy, accompanied us there. Traveling with a dog is like traveling with children in some ways. Both require a little extra work, but unlike the tiny humans, dogs cannot go everywhere with you nor can they stay in all lodgings. That's why, as pet owners, it is refreshing to know before booking a trip that your four-legged family member will be welcomed, too.

Asheville is touted as one of the most pet-friendly cities in the U.S. I think that's an accurate depiction of the town. Sometimes, I saw as many dogs as people walking the streets during my visits. The Aloft Hotel in downtown Asheville has the honor of being of the most pet-friendly hotels in the entire state of North Carolina, in my opinion.

The Aloft Downtown Asheville operates a popular pet-adoption program that allows a rescue dog to live at the hotel until it finds a permanent home. This program has been so successful that it has been piloted in other Aloft hotels across the United States. With its own "lobby-dog" as a hotel greeter, your pet feels like a top dog or top cat, too. That's right. I said cat, also. The hotel does not discriminate against cats when it comes to their pet policy. Cats stay free at the property just like dogs. Cats, as you would expect, are not as visible in the public areas as dogs, but Andy met a cat guest on his stay this time. If you have cat allergies or any pet allergy, be sure to discuss that with the front desk before checking-in.

I first stayed in the Aloft Downtown Asheville, located on Biltmore Avenue, several years ago. My daughter, who was five at the time fell in love with the hotel's lobby adoption program. Every single year, she insists that we go to the Aloft hotel lobby to see who is up for adoption even if we are not staying in the property. In fact, I have found myself inside the hotel a lot through the years because of the hotel's superb location to Asheville's South Slope district. Will and I are avid craft beer lovers, and this section of Asheville is where we chose to spend the most time.  The Aloft Asheville is within walking distance to everything in downtown Asheville. The Biltmore area is a quick ride away.

The nightly rates for this Aloft location may seem higher than what you are used to experiencing at other Aloft Hotels in different areas. That's because the demand for Asheville hotels is very high in general, especially in the downtown area. In fact, on peak weekends, a room at the Aloft Downtown Asheville can cost travelers between $400 and $500 per night. Marriott rewards members like myself get a slight discount on those rates because of brand loyalty.

Many hotels charge a pet fee when traveling with pets, but not the Aloft Downtown Asheville. All pets stay at this property free. Parking is also at a low cost of $10 a day at the deck underneath the hotel.

Not only do pets stay free at the Aloft Downtown Asheville, but there are not any public area off-limits inside the hotel. At the Aloft Asheville, you can have an appetizer and a drink at the WXYZ Lounge, and your dog can be right there with you. It really makes you feel as if you are in your own home when staying there.  I loved it, and I think Andy did, too.

The Aloft Asheville is so pet-friendly that it sometimes hosts fun "Bow-Wow" type social events for dogs and their owners. It's fun to stay at this hotel because most hotel guests have the love for their pets in common.

In July on my last stay, I learned that a woman had a dog back home that looked just like my Andy. It made her miss her dog. I also met a couple from New Jersey with a dog named Opie. I told them "Opie and Andy" were the perfect combo for North Carolina. Andy Griffith TV show fans will certainly understand why.

Upon check-in at the Aloft in downtown Asheville, Andy was given a doggie care package.  He received extra pooh bags, treats, bowls for water and food, plus a massive dog bed, well at least for an eight-pound poodle. The front desk has a list of places where dogs can walk and have a good time in the city.

If you want to know more about North Carolina, be sure to sign up for my #OutaboutNC Travel Guides, coming to your inbox this fall. If you're going to book this hotel, you may begin that process here at the Marriott Bonvoy site.  When booking, type in Asheville, N.C. in the destination bar, and you will find all the Marriott hotels in this area, especially if this one is not within your budget for the season you want to visit. Feel free to email me about Asheville lodging and locations. I've stayed in a lot through the years, and you can find those posts in my archives by searching for Asheville and hotels.

Pet-friendly Asheville

Disclosure: The HinesSightBlog is a Marriott Bonvoy Affiliate for bookings and referrals. We traveled during the peak summer tourism season and received a slight media discount on lodging. Opinions about the hotel are my own.


Savor Summer with a Southern Tomato Pie

We are in prime tomato season right now in North Carolina. In fact, I think I'm eating about one tomato a day. I love tomatoes. This is the best season to have a Southern tomato sandwich. For me, that's white bread, Duke's Mayo, a ripe NC tomato with some salt and pepper. Oh my gosh, that sandwich cannot be beaten.

Summer is also the best time to make a tomato pie. Tomato pies make a great side dish or even a main meal with a salad.

Southern Tomato Pie with Parm Cheese.
Southern Tomato Pie

There are several ways to do a tomato pie and a lot of times, the variation is in the cheese that you use.

Savory Southern Tomato Pie
(adapted from Southern Living, August 2011)

Puff Pastry (you can also use regular pie crust instead)
4 medium tomatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices (about 1 1/2 lbs)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup mayonnaise 
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 cup (4 oz) shredded Parmesan cheese, divided

  • 1. Preheat oven to 350º. 
  • 2. Meanwhile, place tomatoes in a single layer on paper towels; sprinkle with salt. Let stand 45 minutes to an hour. Pat dry with paper towels. Stir together next 3 ingredients and 3/4 cup of cheese. 
  • 3. Cut the puff pastry into a 13-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate; fold edges under, and crimp. Prick the bottom and part way up the sides with a fork.
  • 4. Bake at 350° for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly brown. Remove from oven, and sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup cheese over bottom of crust. Arrange tomato slices over cheese in crust; spread mayonnaise mixture over tomatoes.

  • 5. Bake at 350º for 34 to 37 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with whole basil leaves if desired.
Instructions for Summer Tomato Pie

I also use an alternate version of Southern Tomato Pie with onions, pepper, and different cheeses.  I also use a Pillsbury pie crust. 

Add 1/4 tsp of pepper and 1/2 cup of diced onions to the above list of ingredients. Use one cup of Cheddar Cheese and 1 cup of Mozzarella cheese rather than Parmesan cheese.

This recipe,, adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks from Edenton, North Carolina, uses a pie shell. Preheat oven to 425 degrees, and bake crust for five minutes; reduce heat to 400 degrees. Remove from oven and arrange thick tomato slices in the shell. Mix salt, pepper, basil, and onion.  Sprinkle over tomatoes. Mix mayonnaise and cheese; spread on top. Bake for 35 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before slicing. 

You could even be adventurous, and use all three kinds of cheese. I guess it you really wanted you could add some bacon to the tomato pie as well or serve it on the side. Enjoy!

Southern Tomato Pie recipes. Great for when Tomatoes are in abundance in the summer. #sidedishes #mainmeals #tomatoes #healthyfood #southerncuisine #southernfood

Disclosure: My thanks to Costa Family and Cosmetic Dentistry. Your source for emergency dentistry in Ashburn, Virginia for being a July HinesSightBlog sponsor. My sponsors keep me at my desk writing editorial content for you and #OutaboutNC. Thank you to my sponsors. If you have interest in being a blog sponsor, please email Leigh@HinesSightBlog.com. 


CATS the Musical was my First Real Exposure to the Arts: Why Pushing Kids when they Don't Want to Do Something is Important

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I'm off-topic for my usual banter on this blog, but it was a big day in movie trailers this week. Honestly, I feel as if my teens are coming back to life. Do I need to look at a calendar? Is it the eighties again? All I need now is for Madonna to go back on tour and I'll be golden.

First off, Tom Cruise will be back as Maverick in a Top Gun sequel. I declared on social media that I may actually go to a movie theater again. I really can't remember the last time I went to one.

No, seriously. I can't.

When you're two aging parents going into different directions with kids all the time then the last thing you want to do is pay $40 to go to a movie plus pay $40 for a babysitter to sit in a gigantic room with people munching over food and creating light because they just cannot turn off that device. Seriously. I rarely talk to my spouse now. I have no desire to pay $80, be alone with him, and still not talk to him.

But then over coffee this morning,  I woke up to the trailer of the new movie, "CATS!"  The cats look a little creepy so I don't know if Liza will want to go see it with me, but perhaps if I talk up Taylor Swift, I can expose her to the same exact musical that made me fall in love with the arts so many years ago.

I saw Cats on Broadway in 1982 with the original cast just one month after it opened. I was thirteen. And to be totally honest, I griped about going to see it.

You see, I have not always been a crazy dog person like I am in my older years.  In my younger days, I was the most loyal cat lover ever, but when my Mom told me that the Musical about CATS that I was about to see on Broadway was based on a collection of whimsical poetry called  T.S.Elliott's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, I resisted.

I probably did more than balk. I more than likely threw a fit like I saw my own daughter do just yesterday over something very trivial.

It did not matter how much I complained that day though. We were going to that show no matter what and I had to listen to boring poetry being sung in orchestra seats, and then afterward, we had to talk to one of the main cats, Mr. Mistoffolees in a theatre panel.

I'm sure I thought at the time, "Just kill me now!" We were on a drama department trip with the University in the town where I lived it.

When I look back on that trip thirty-seven years ago, I realized I was the luckiest person in the world on that day and that one moment changed my life forever.

From the moment we got into our seats and saw the oversized sets, life as I saw it would be different.

The house lights went off. The theater was black except for twinkling lights that resembled cat eyes. It was slightly spooky.  A cat slinked by me and stared into my face.

My former disgust of knowing I had to listen to poetry being sung by a bunch of people dressed as cats slowly turned to mesmerization.

Then there was Rum Tum Tugger. He reminded me of my own yellow tomcat, Sonny.

"The Rum Tum Tugger is a curious cat
And there isn't any call for me to shout it
For he will do as he do do
And there's no doing anything about it!"

Rum  Tum Tugger Poem by T.S. Elliott from Cats

Thirty-seven years after reading the poem I've discovered that I'm part  Rum Tum Tugger, too. I kind of do as I do do, and there's no doing anything about it!

What I write might not be popular or viral on the internet these days, but I do it because I want to do it even though advisors may say I should focus on something else to be more successful.

On that one night in 1982, the magic happened.


And you'll all say:
Oh! Well I never! Was there ever
A cat so clever as magical Mr. Mistoffelees!"

That night I was a tween made to DO something that I did not really want to do. 

But, after I did it. 

I bought that poem book.

I still own that poem book to this day. 

I became interested in drama. After that night, I went on to be in several plays and musicals. Unfortunately, I can't sing so one is kind of limited in musicals when you can't sing. But, I still was in shows.

I served on Arts Councils in my professional years. 
I have a liberal arts degree.  I almost had a minor in theater. 

I work in the arts now. Writing is a form of art. 

I made Will see Cats in London's West End. He didn't love it and will certainly not want to go see the movie.

His response when I told him about the trailer was simply, "Why?"

The moral of this little blogging tale is that one night of doing something I was made to do opened up a whole new world for me. 

Thank goodness for doing something you did not want to do.

CATS the Musical was my First Real Exposure to the Arts: Why Pushing Kids when they Don't Want to Do Something is Important #Inspiration #Parenting #RaisingKids

We all know a cat has nine lives. It's never too late to open your eyes and start something new.

What is something you didn't want to do, but you do it then it made an impact on you?

Cats the movie will be in movie theaters this holiday season.  Will you go? 

Disclosure: Kids may not want to get braces either, but sometimes they just have to do what they need to do. My thanks to HinesSightBlog sponsor, The Miami Orthodontist, Derek Sanders, DMD MDS, for being a July editorial sponsor and for keeping me at my desk writing and exploring #OutaboutNC.


Healthy Recipe: Warm Quinoa Salad with Fresh Cherries

Cherries. They are sweet with a bit of tartness. They are filled with health benefits.  Life is perfect with a bowl of fresh cherries.

Fresh cherries are summer fruits and are in season late June, July and August.
Post Updated July 2019

At least my daughter thinks so. She has eaten so many fresh cherries this month that I've lost count. They are filled with fiber and powerful antioxidants. It's food that I am glad she is eating.

Most cherries are grown in our Northwest state.  More than likely, what you find in your grocery store will be from this part of the country.

The Northwest is known for seven varieties including Bing cherries, the most popular cherry in North America, and the unique golden-blushed Rainiers. Other popular varieties include the deep juicy sweet Tietons and heart-shaped Chelans on the shelves now, and late-season Lapins, dark Skeenas, and bright red Sweethearts. Aside from the light-hued Rainier (and its many sub-varieties), consumers can typically spot sweet cherries by their darker red skins – in general, the darker, the sweeter. Fresh cherries should be kept in a tightly sealed bag or container and will keep for approximately two weeks when refrigerated. Rinse just before eating for best longevity.

I used Chelans from Washington for this healthy recipe. They were dark, sweet and delicious.

You could use this dish as a vegetarian entree or a side dish.  Once I prepared it, I ate it a lot for a late breakfast or lunch.  Liza,  my daughter, would not eat this. She continued to eat her cherries plain.

Healthy side dish or entree with quinoa and fresh cherries

Warm Quinoa Salad with Fresh Cherries 


1 cup of quinoa cooked in vegetable or chicken broth
fresh basil
20 fresh cherries, quartered and pitted
15 ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons of Olive Oil
Green onions (optional)
1 tablespoon of white wine or white balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon of Himalayan Pink Salt or more as needed
1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
Crumbled Feta Cheese

Prepare quinoa as directed. Once quinoa is ready, combine all ingredients except feta cheese in mixing bowl.  Add additional salt or pepper to your taste. Once mixed, serve in bowls and top with feta cheese.


When eating leftovers, I reheat in the microwave and eat in warm.

A very easy recipes with quinoa using fresh cherries. #cherries #healthyeating #sidedishes

To learn more about cherries, visit www.nwcherries.com

Updated July 2019 

Disclosure: My thanks to HinesSightBlog sponsor RiverRun Dental Spa in Richmond, Va for being a July blog sponsor. My sponsors keep me at my desk writing editorial content and #OutaboutNC. 


A List of my Favorite Beautycounter Skin Care Products I Buy and Use Daily

*This post contains affiliate links

I'm not a beauty blogger and I certainly don't play one on the internet either. In fact, some people may compare me to an old-shoe because I get very brand loyal if I like a product and that is especially true with me when it comes to beauty and skincare lines. I don't switch it up if I like something.

However, it may take a while to find the beauty product that works for you so there is a lot of trial and error.  Skincare is so personal because what works for me may not work you. Our skin, our largest organ, is unique to us. What I choose to pay for skincare lines not be what you choose to pay for products. But, as aging women, we all can agree that we want skincare products that perform well.

Since I'm now 50, my cosmetic bag has been filled with many brands over the years. In the past twenty-five years, I've purchased brands such as Bobbi Brown, MAC, Elizabeth Arden, Lancome, L'oreal, Stila, Avon, Urban Decay, Olay, Estee Lauder, Clinique, Cover Girl, Revlon, Peter Thomas Roth, Smashbox, Tarte and probably many more. Seriously, just take a look at this list of this Nordstrom beauty products and you will see just how many cosmetic and skincare brands are on the market, and this is just the high-end list. Have you been to an Ulta store lately? It can be overwhelming.

Southern Blogger Leigh Powell HInes shares her favorite Beautycounter products. #CleanBeauty #NaturalBeauty #SafeBeauty. Beautycounter has a neverlist of 1500 ingredients that the company will not put in its products.

About four years ago, I started looking into using safe beauty products since I learned that the cosmetic industry is basically unregulated when it comes to product safety. Mainstream companies are now changing their toxic ways and the entire beauty industry as a whole is changing to become safer. That is good news, but there is still a lot of greenwashing of labels these days for marketing for clean beauty products. You may think you are buying a safe beauty product because it's labeled natural, but the reality is that not all cosmetic and skincare ingredients are safe for your body.

The beauty brand that I buy most consistently now is Beautycounter, which was founded by Gregg Renfrow in 2013.  In 2018, this California-based skincare company was the most searched clean beauty product line on google. Is Beautycounter really safe? Yes, it is. The company bans 1500 ingredients in its product line known to cause health issues. The company also lobbies for better legislation.  Is Beautycounter a pyramid scheme?  No, it is not. You can buy Beautycounter directly through the company website,  pop-up markets, or through direct links like mine. It does have direct consultants as well who actively sell products in communities since it an online business only. Can you return Beautycounter products? Absolutely.  Beautycounter has a very liberal return policy.  Regarding what was searched on Google, Beautycounter has created a lot of buzz and industry awareness since its creation.

Southern Blogger Leigh Powell HInes shares her favorite Beautycounter products. #CleanBeauty #NaturalBeauty #SafeBeauty. Beautycounter has a neverlist of 1500 ingredients that the company will not put in its products.

I have tried many products by Beautycounter and I certainly have my favorites. It's also important to note that I'm not one of these people who buys or uses everything natural or organic. I think small steps make a difference toward a cleaner lifestyle. It has taken me years and a lot of reading to actual change my buying habits and even eating habits.

I am also very careful about what my children use when it comes to products. In my fifty years, I've been exposed to many toxins probably. Sometimes I wonder if the cosmetics and skincare I was using in the past had any correlation to my late fertility. We know a lot more today than we did twenty years ago so I owe it to my children to try to give them a  clean start because our knowledge is so much greater.

Beautycounter Countercontrol Products for Acne and Oily Skin for Tween/Teenage Skin

Countercontrol products by Beautycounter for blemish-prone and oily skin.

My teenage son uses a few of the Countercontrol products to help control his acne. I personally think that he may overuse them because he is going through them a little too quickly for my beauty budget,  but he likes it and uses it. That is key for me. He uses it without complaint.  It is also reassuring to know he is using a product that will not impact his hormones. Beautycounter has a NEVER LIST of 1500 products that they feel are questionable to human safety. The countercontrol collection is without harsh chemicals that cause drying and irritation.

The only downside of these Beautycounter skincare products that I see is that I have to order them online and unfortunately, he tells me he is out of the product the day that he is out of the product. I have tried other over the counter products for convenience in between orders, but they were too harsh for him. I always try to keep the Countercontrol Clear Pore Cleanser and Countercontrol All Over Acne Treatment in stock. Beautycounter has a countercontrol regimen that helps you save in bulk, but I know that my son would not use all the products right now as a routine so I still buy a-la-carte.

Beautycounter Anti-Aging Skincare Line (New Product Launch called Countertime on July 9)

Countertime, a new anti-aging line by Beautycounter with a retinatural complex instead of retinol.

As of July 9, Beautycounter is phasing out its Rejuvenating skincare line and has launched Countertime, an anti-aging line with a retinatural formula instead of retinol. Retinol is a common beauty ingredient that many beauty brands tout as safe. Beautycounter still has retinol on its NeverList though and refuses to use it in its product line. The EWG Skindeep score for retinol is in the red-zone at 9.

Beautycounter has developed a new retinatural formula in the Countertime line, which is plant-derived, featuring bakuchiol and swiss alpine rose. Bakuchiol, used in Chinese skin-care remedies, offers retinol results without irritation. It's also safe to use when pregnant, nursing, and when in the sun. Retinol is not safe according to the EWG.  Even though retinol is not that safe for our bodies, we know it works for anti-aging and it is coveted in many over-the-counter and prescription skin care products.

I am very excited to try the Countertime Ultra Renewal Eye Cream because I have been in this stage of my life where I was not happy with any eye cream I was using at the price point I was willing to pay. There are many eye creams out there for over $100 and I am not paying it. The Rejuvenating eye cream line worked for me for a while, but as I got closer to fifty, I felt I needed more active ingredients. I have floundered for years in this product area and am anxiously awaiting this eye cream to arrive at my home. I will have to follow up at a later date.

Beautycounter Countermatch Adaptive Moisture Line

Countermatch by Beautycounter. This is a great line for those who are starting to be concerned about aging.

In the past couple of years, Beautycounter launched a special Countermatch line that gives your skin hydration when you need it. I tried it and liked the Countermatch adaptive moisture lotion for daytime use better than the old Beautycounter Rejuvenating line. I recommend this line for those who want to start anti-aging clean beauty, but not spend $75 on a daily moisturizer or night cream. I think this is a good product and does its job. It's lightweight, too. If you do not know where to start with Beautycounter then I recommend purchasing this line. However, I don't really like the cleanser in this line as much as I like the Countercontrol and Essential Nourishing lines.

It is recommended that the milk cleanser be used on a dry face first then rinsed. I prefer to clean my face in the shower so I think that is why I chose not to buy it again plus it is more expensive than the original nourishing line cleanser.  The Countercontrol clear pore cleanser also acts as an exfoliator.

Beautycounter Essential Nourishing Line

The Essential Nourishing Line by Beautycounter is great for those who are interested in making a clean swap in their beauty products for safer beauty.

This is Beautycounter's original skincare line. It's the most inexpensive line by Beautycounter and the least effective for someone my age except for the cleanser and exfoliator, which I do buy.

I love these two cleansing products in this Beautycounter essential nourishing line and still use them four years after first trying them.  I also think the day or night cream can be good for someone my age, especially if used in conjunction with the facial oils. The Beautycounter facial oils are hands down my favorite Beautycounter products on the market. I am never without the No. 1 Brightening Oil which is rich with Vitamin C or the Overnight Resurfacing Peel which I  use two to three times a week.

I sometimes use my beautycounter facial oil as my sole moisturizer.  I have tried the other Beautycounter serums on the market within each line, but I prefer the No.1 facial oil so I use that exclusively.

Overall, I recommend Essential Nourishing Beautycounter skincare line to those who want to go with a clean beauty routine and are used to more drug store prices.  This is a great place to start for that clean swap. At first glance, it looks way more expensive than drug store products, but the products go a very long way.  The essential nourishing skincare line is perfect for the twenty-something or for the person who barely remembers to use a moisturizer. It is a good product, but it has its limits in anti-aging performance but overall, it's a great first line to get into safer beauty.

Beautycounter Lip Conditioner 

I'm just going to say this is the best $22 you will ever spend. I adore the peppermint lip balm, but the calendula is a best-seller. The lip conditioner is by far my very favorite Beautycounter skincare product.I've been talking about the Beautycounter lip balm for years on the blog.  One balm should last up to six months. I buy maybe two a year.


We can all make changes in our lifestyle through small changes. Maybe it is a cleanser, a sunscreen, a lipstick.  Whatever it may be, I'm giving my wonderful readers a chance to make clean swap for Better Beauty. 

Giveaway on @LeighPowellHines on Instagram for $50 in product to help you make the clean beauty switch. The giveaway will last until July 31, 2019, in honor of the new Countertime launch.

Southern Blogger Leigh Powell HInes shares her favorite Beautycounter products. #CleanBeauty #NaturalBeauty #SafeBeauty. Beautycounter has a neverlist of 1500 ingredients that the company will not put in its products.


My thanks to HinesSightBlog sponsor Mile High Smiles for being a July sponsor for this month's editorial content. My sponsors keep me at my desk writing and OutaboutNC. Learn more about how dental implants could help you have a beautiful smile.

This post contains affiliate links. Any Beautycounter purchase from this site will generate a commission at no cost to the buyer. This, however, does not alter my opinion about these products. If I did not love them, I would have stopped buying them long ago.


Why You Should Attend NC's Premier Social Media Conference at The Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill

The landscape of social media changes daily. One thing that I've learned in my stint as an online digital publisher in the past eight years is that you can never stop learning and connecting.

When the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill, NC invited me to be part of its first-ever social media conference called #Innfluenced2019, I knew I wanted to be there.

NC Blogger Leigh Powell Hines talks Social Media and Blogging
Photo by Curious Notions Photography

In my career as a blogger, I have floundered many times. Sometimes, it seemed like I had more unsuccesses than successes. As a self-employed businesswoman who still works to do this online publishing gig part-time while my primary focus still remains with raising my children, now 13 and 9, I feel as if  I have created a small business that has the workload of a 60-hour week.  But yet, I don't have enough hours to work. I am constantly saying, "Oh, I want to do this or do that story." As a former TV journalist who served as my own assignment editor, I have the ability to find a good story or angle. My years of education in journalism at UNC-Chapel Hill taught me well.

However, I never have enough time to do all that I need to do to make this business grow and raise my family. So, a lot of my story ideas remain in the black hole of "one day I may do this story on the blog."

And of course, it's also nice to write editorial content for my audience, but I do not work for public relations people. I work for myself and I know very few public relations people ( I've been one myself) who will craft story ideas, write news releases and tell a story without being paid anything.

I have to find sponsors to help pay me for my time. Yes, I love to write, share things, but I also value my own time because, like most working people, I want to have some income and have obligations to do things for my family.

I've never really discussed my goals because I rarely ever talk about the business side of blogging, but I know that what I do now with my blog and social media is my passion. Every year,  I want to do more work than the year prior, but I don't want to do it just for my own enjoyment. Money needs to be behind it somehow whether that be through sponsorships, brand posts or advertising.

In five years, I will have more time to run this business, hopefully. We never truly know the future. My son will be in his last year in high school and my daughter will be in her last year of middle school. When Will decides to retire, I hope to kick it up a notch because when I get in my home office to work on my projects, it does not feel like work to me but instead brings me joy.  I imagine an actor feels the same way when he or she does a role. I really do not have any other way to explain it.

The age of 50 has been my year of a reboot after a few years of soul-searching on what is it I want to do. Where do I want to head in the future? Who am I? What story do I have to tell? And the biggest question of all is why would anyone even care? I wrestle with that one a lot especially when it comes to social media because that is new for me. I've had to learn on the job. I also find that it changes just as soon as I learn something I feel like is the right way.

#Innfluenced 2019_Social Media Conference

People like to say social media is for the Millenials. In my opinion, Gen X is going to get more social media savvy each year. More and more people Gen X people or even Baby Boomers will start using Instagram because it's the only way they will be able to see their grandchildren. My own mother-in-law tells me every so often that she needs to break down and get Instagram because she's missing all the action because they never post to Facebook anymore.

Professionally, social media has changed the world's digital landscape. We are connected more than ever. It's changed how events are covered. It gives people professional opportunities. Social media gives every single person a chance to have a voice, a platform and be their own boss.  It's not going anywhere, but it will change from year to year and we will have to learn to grow with it.

With all of this new social media opportunity, however, comes a new wave of blogs, YouTube shows, and social media channels.  Unfortunately,  everyone is out there in this space screaming for attention. Businesses are also looking for your attention as well. What may have started out as something fun for people to do online is now a billion-dollar marketing industry.

If you are a business, blogger, online social media user, join me at #Innfluenced2019 in Chapel Hill, NC at the Carolina Inn August 23-25.  At this conference, we will learn to:

Empower. Expand. Engage

Early Bird Price until July 15 is $299
Admission Price July 16 and after is $349
There is 10% off for groups of more who attend together.
Buy Influenced 2019 Tickets here:

I  look forward to meeting you.

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Dining with Dogs in Restaurants: What Pet Owners Need to Know

The "dog days of summer" are upon us, literally.  That long-time expression has a couple of meanings, but one thing for sure, this is the time of year that we tend to take our pets more to public places simply because of outdoor dining.

A Guide to Dining with Pets
Photo by Curious Notions Photography


Public Health Laws regarding animals vary from state to state. Just because a restaurant has an outdoor patio does not automatically mean that your pet can dine with you. Service dogs abide by different laws than normal pets. In my home state of North Carolina, only service dogs can dine inside a restaurant with its owner. Normal dogs who are considered like my Andy need to dine on an outdoor patio instead of inside the restaurant.


If a restaurant uses glassware and utensils then state health laws put breweries in a restaurant category for public health inspection. If a brewery does not serve food or serves food packaged in individual containers then it may be at the discretion of the brewery or individual city laws on the dog issue.

Dining with Dogs in Outdoor Areas in Restaurants or Breweries

For the past couple of years in North Carolina, it's been confusing to pet owners because breweries started as one of the most-dog-friendly places around. It's great to have a cold one with your best friend around. The North Carolina General Assembly is working on a bill that allows individual breweries to decide if pets can be allowed inside because beverages would no longer be classified with food under state health inspections. Wine tasting rooms already have that freedom. For now, it's a safe bet to keep your dog outside unless you see other dogs inside, too.


There are lots of public debates lately about what qualifies as a working service dog in 2019. There are a lot of dogs licensed now for therapeutic reasons. In the past, service dogs primarily helped people with physical disabilities such as blindness or someone in a wheelchair.  But regardless, of its primary working role, service dogs are like people and can go anywhere, but there are rules and regulations for service dogs, too. Regular pets, on the other hand, are more limited on where they can go.

Dogs at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC

We ran into this issue at Biltmore Estate in Asheville. We were going to ride the bus to the house from the parking lot where we parked our car. As we got ready to board the bus, the driver informed us that dogs were not allowed. The people chanted, "Let the dog ride. Let the dog ride." I mean he is really cute and all, but it was against the rules. We then asked the driver how we could park closer to the house and he easily gave us directions. It was a minor inconvenience, but as new pet travelers, we just were not aware of the limitations. Biltmore Estate does have a kennel nearby that parking lot though to kennel your dog. It is first serve-first come. I personally chose not to do that Andy.


When we first adopted Andy, I could not wait to take him out to eat. It's like, "Oh, I have a dog now. Let's go eat out." Why? I have no idea. I will tell you that it is like taking a toddler to a restaurant. He's good, but it is still a lot of work so I primarily do it when traveling now that I've been a pet owner for awhile now.

Cantina 18 is a pet-friendly restaurant in Raleigh, NC

Our first official dining experience was at a Southwest-inspired with Southern roots restaurant here in Raleigh called Cantina 18 in Cameron Village. It's a favorite lunch spot of mine. Chef Jason Smith uses fresh seasonal ingredients, and I've never been disappointed in all my meals there.

Burrito at Cantina 18 in Cameron Village

I've eaten there more times now than I have fingers. Cantina 18, now with two locations, has a good kid's menu for families. Jason is a parent himself so I believe when chefs have their own children, they really grasp that parents want to dine on great-tasting seasonal fresh food, but be able to supply the simple basics for their children that do not cost them $10 to $15 each child.

Cantina 18 was the first restaurant we dined in with our pet, Andy.

I have only one child that dines off a kid's menu now. Liza loves the chicken nachos at Cantina 18, but she leaves off the chicken every single time and adds a big strawberry sorbet at the end of the meal.

Strawberry Sorbet at Cantina 18

I called the restaurant ahead to make sure their outdoor dining area was pet-friendly. 

Cameron Village is great for dog owners. Most of the patio areas are public sidewalks so it's a natural fit for dogs to dine with their owners outside.

Cantina 18 went the extra mile for Andy. Even though I had brought him water because I had no idea what to expect, the wait staff at Cantina 18 brought him a water bowl when they brought out water for us.

As a first-time dog owner dining with a pet for the first time, I thought that was a really nice perk. 

Now that I've dined a few times impromptu with Andy, I learned that not all restaurants may go out of their way like Cantina 18 did for us, but I've found that overall, most restaurants that allow dogs are very welcoming.

Dogs can dine at Cowfish on the patio at North HIlls

Andy has also been to North Hills in Raleigh which is another outdoor shopping and entertainment area in the area.  He felt welcomed at Cowfish, a local sushi and burger restaurant with locations here and in Charlotte. My biggest gripe is that Andy wants to look at everyone and will not sit down. I've decided that it is easier to keep it at home so I can relax. He is like a third child, although the best one I might add.


What I've learned through trial and error is that it is more challenging to dine at counter-service restaurants with a dog if you are alone or have very young children who cannot be left alone with the dog outside while you go inside to do what you need. 

Even though I have an eight-pound dog that I can carry around like a baby, it is against the law for me to take him inside a restaurant and order food. Someone needs to stay with the dog outside while you order food or request a patio table with the hostess. One may be able to put a dog in a dog purse briefly to do this, but if you have a big dog then it does make it more challenging to abide by the public health laws to order even if you plan to dine outside.


There are so many cities in the U.S that are pet-friendly. Raleigh is a pet-friendly city, but Asheville, North Carolina is touted as the most pet-friendly city in the U.S. It has its own doggy-welcome center, a first in the U.S. 

It was not open when we took Andy to Asheville with us last year so I look forward to going this year summer just for doggone curiosity.  But, what's great about this center is that it will give you a guide to pet-friendly attractions and restaurants.

Andy the Poodle at the DoubleTree Biltmore in Asheville, NC

Andy took his dog bed to the Doubletree Biltmore in Biltmore Village in Asheville when we visited last summer.  The staff was excellent with us as first-time pet-travelers. too. Andy was allowed to be in the lobby and the front desk gave us a list of nearby pet-friendly restaurants, which was very nice for that first night we checked-in.


The Biltmore DoubleTree Hotel has a TGIF restaurant attached to it with a beautiful patio, but dogs are not allowed to dine there because there is not an exterior entrance to the patio. You have to walk through the restaurant to get to the patio. Keep that tidbit in mind when you spot restaurants. A good rule of thumb is that if you see other dogs then you are fine.  

However, if you are the first one to arrive at a restaurant or brewery with a dog in tow then you may want to ask to make sure dogs are allowed.


When you are traveling with your dog and staying in a hotel, information about area restaurants are so important and honestly, it does take some planning. Heaven forbid if it rains. What then? Some dogs may bark in a hotel room when crated and then you run the risk of getting called by the hotel with a noise complaint.

Dogs are part of the family

I feared the "barking dog" when I traveled with Andy for the first time in Asheville. As a result, we ate in restaurants where we knew Andy could go easily. Some Asheville establishments even have a doggie menu.

During my time in Asheville, NC,  I sometimes felt as if there are more dogs walking the sidewalks than people. It truly is a dog-friendly city. Raleigh is dog-friendly, too, but it can also be really hot during the "dog days of summer", too.

Do you have a favorite place that you dine with your dog? Continue the conversation on social media on Facebook or Instagram?


Pedestrian safety is important. Be mindful at crosswalks with your pets, watch for cars, keep your dogs on a leash at all times. Make sure you have your dog's shots records and that your dog is wearing identification and rabies tag at all times.

Always have water available for your pet, and always be diligent about your safety and other's safety if your dog has been known to bite. When traveling in a car, make sure your dog is safely secured in the vehicle.

DISCLOSURE: My thanks to the Law Office of Hardison and Cochran in North Carolina for being a May HinesSightBlog sponsor. My sponsors enable me to keep writing, travel #outaboutnc and stalk a few houses. Be sure to stay tuned for my new YouTube show, The House Stalkers

Dining with Pets in Restaurants: What Pet Owners Need to Know. #pets #dogs #pettravel


Southern Style: The Old Homes and More Tour in Beaufort, NC

For years I have stalked homes.  It's no secret that I love a home tour just as much as I love a good restaurant and hotel. I have stalked more homes in Beaufort, North Carolina than anywhere else. Beaufort is a waterway town near the port of Morehead City and the crystal blue waters of Atlantic Beach. Will's Dad is a Beaufort resident now so we have easy access to the town and have been visiting the Crystal Coast area for the past nineteen years.

Beaufort is North Carolina's third oldest town. The picturesque waterfront town is pronounced Bo-Fort and not Bew-fort like the town by the same name in South Carolina. Beaufort's Historical Association hosts the Old Home Tour and More annually in June. This year marks the 59th year of residents opening up their private homes for all of us to see.  The home tours used to mainly consist of the town's historic homes and gardens, but because Beaufort has become such a popular vacation spot due to its proximity to North Carolina's Crystal Coast beaches, the tour now includes newly constructed homes for the tour weekend. 

Will and I used to attend the Beaufort historic home tour event annually before we had children. One of the highlights was enjoying lunch in St. Paul's Espicopal Church, prepared by the church. I have the church cookbook and some of the recipes in it are ones they use for the luncheon. I shared the  Ann Street brownie recipe from that cookbook many years ago with you.

Unfortunately, we skipped the historic home tour for many years because of the kids. It's hot in Beaufort, NC in the summer. They complained. They were not interested in homes. You get the idea, but last year, we walked historic Beaufort's streets once again to see homes at least with one child in tow.

Beaufort, NC is North Carolina's 3rd Oldest Town

Typically, there are about ten to twelve homes on each tour. One of the homes we saw on the tour was called "The Conch House" and part of it now operates as a VRBO. The home dates back to 1883.

Old Homes and More Tour is in Historic Beaufort, NC every June.

Sunny Living Room of a Historic Beaufort, NC home that dates back to 1883.

When you enter the home, the left side is the owner's side that also incorporates an upstairs.

The home has been updated and expanded.

The right side of the home consists of a bedroom with a sitting area, a bath, and a private tiny kitchen nook and dining area.  It's like an efficiency apartment within a home.

This is the guest room that serves as a VRBO in this historic Beaufort Home. With this side of the house is a small sitting area, bath, and small kitchen nook with seating.

The apartment and the owner's side open up to this outdoor seating area.

Outdoor Living Spaces in Beaufort, NC

If you enjoy homes as much as I do then you may want to subscribe to Leigh Powell Hines on YouTube. In early fall, I'll be co-hosting TheHouseStalkers, a show where we stalk homes and local eats near these homes. We have a The HouseStalkers Facebook page and we are @TheHouseStalkers on Instagram too.

If you are visiting Beaufort, Morehead City, and the Crystal Coast, you will enjoy these dining and travel guides.

Crystal Coast Travel Guide: A LightHouse,  Wild Horses and Emerald Isle 
A Traveler's Look at Historic Beaufort, NC
Crystal Coast Dining Guide: Beaufort, Morehead City, and Atlantic Beach 

Disclosure: My thanks to Basnight Garner Realty located in Morehead City for being a HinesSightBlog sponsor. If you're looking for a home or vacation home in Beaufort, Morehead City or the Crystal Coast beaches, then  Basnight Garner Realty is the place to start. My HinesSightBlog sponsors keep me at my desk writing, #OutaboutNC and now stalking houses on YouTube.

If you love to look at old homes or newly-constructed homes then you would love the Old Homes and More Tour in Historic Beaufort, NC. It's held every June. 2019 is its 59th year.


Five Mouth-Watering Side Dishes for Outdoor Grilling Season

It's officially outdoor grilling season now. In the South, it's not uncommon for one's social calendar to be filled with family reunions, potluck dinners, bbq's or even a good, ole' fashioned "Pig Pickin" where bbq is a noun and not a verb. Usually, the hosts ask the guests asked to bring a side dish to share.  I've been writing about side dishes for years and you can find all of these recipes and more under the recipe section of the HinesSightBlog.

I've made every single of these dishes at least once, and some dishes are so popular that I'm not allowed to attend certain annual events unless I bring a certain dish with me. Here are my family's favorite five side dish favorites.

Southern Mac and Cheese is a great picnic side dish. This is a family favorite recipe from Southern blogger, Leigh Powell Hines. It's not your usual Mac and Cheese. Great for family reunions, family dinners, or potluck dinners.

Hines Mac and Cheese

This recipe came from my husband's family, but it's the only Mac and Cheese I make now. My kids ask for this dish more than anything else. In fact, it's the only dish I take to Scouting events now because my husband nor son will let me take anything else. I've served it to many guests in my home and I hope you enjoy, too.

Shoe Peg Corn Salad

Shoe-Peg Salad is a popular Side dish with a sugar and vinegar base. It is a crowd favorite for church picnics and event side dishes. It is one of the most popular recipes from the HinesSightBlog. It also doubles easily for a crowd.

This particular side dish is a favorite of my mother-in-law so anytime she hosts an event, she asks me to make this delicious side dish that is served chilled. It's even better if made the day ahead.

Southern Potluck Potatoes for a Crowd

This yummy side dish originally came from a cookbook from an Edenton, N.C. church.  It's one of those dishes that tend to come back empty when you take it an event.

Easy No-Mayo Pasta Salad

Not everyone loves mayo, but mayo is common in the South. This no-mayo based pasta salad recipe is perfect for the mayo-haters, but it is delicious enough that it wins over the entire crowd at potlucks, picnics, and reunions. It's easy enough for an easy dinner side on any day of the week.

I have several friends who do not like condiments. When you're in the South, it's sometimes hard to go to an event and find a side dish that does not contain mustard or mayonnaise. When I was having one of my no-mayo friends over to the house, I whipped up an easy pasta salad that I was proud to put on the table. Olive Oil and Lemon juice serve as the base.

Southern Baked Beans with a Twist

I like baked beans as a side dish. However, soaking beans can take a while so to save time, I doctor up canned beans. now. This baked bean recipe is originally from Rachael Ray, but I accidentally created a new version of the dish when I read the ingredients wrong. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

In the South,  tis the season for picnics, parties and reunions. These five mouth-watering sides are perfect pairs for the South's grilling season, or easy side dishes for any night of the week, but several of these recipes are crowd favorites at Southern Potlucks and Family Reunions.

Disclosure: My thanks to Glenn Martin Hammond Law Office, personal injury attorneys in Lexington, KY for being a HinesSightBlog May sponsor. My sponsors keep me at my desk writing about my Southern Lifestyle or OutaboutNC. If your business would like to become a HinesSightBlog editorial sponsor, please contact me at leigh@hinessightblog.com.  My sponsors give me 100 percent editorial content control and I could not do what I do without them. 

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