Arizona Biltmore for Mother’s Day

Moms who’d love to escape but can’t make a kid-free getaway will find the ideal Mother’s Day package at the historic Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix. I was just there over spring break with my daughter, Leigh, and we absolutely loved it!  The Spring Escape All-Inclusive Package, starting at $359 on Mother’s Day weekend, includes an array of amazing extras:

– Kids meals:  Up to two kids 12 and under eat free for breakfast and dinner
– Breakfast for two in Frank & Albert’s or The Café (includes gratuity)
– Dinner for two  (includes gratuity, excludes alcohol)
– $100 Spa Credit  on any spa treatment of your choice
– Self Parking
– Resort Charge
– A bottle of wine delivered upon check-in
– 20% off retail shops
– Arizona Biltmore History book
  • The Arizona Biltmore, a Waldorf Astoria Resort is a favorite spot for Mother’s Day.  Moms enjoy strolling the beautiful flower-filled gardens, soaking up the historic ambience, taking advantage of special discounts on treatments at the spa, and indulging in the mouth-watering holiday dining choices. At the Arizona Biltmore Spa, moms will enjoy 20% off four popular treatments:  Dreamcatcher Aromatherapy Massage, Restorative Anti-Aging Facial, Ultimate Manicure and Ultimate Pedicure. Find more at Arizona Biltmore

10 Budget-Friendly Tailgating Tips

People don’t always believe me when I say that in Alabama, football is like a “religion.” Tailgating is an integral part of the fall weekend routine in the south, and it’s a great way to spend time with family and friends outdoors. This week is the SEC National Championship game with Alabama and Georgia. I think just about everyone in my hometown is going to the game in Atlanta. Since tickets are a premium, try some of my favorite money-saving tailgating tips for a party that costs less but is still full of fun for everyone.

1. Plan ahead: One of the most important things you can do to save money on your tailgating party is to plan ahead. Make organized lists of essentials so you won’t have last minute expenses.

2. Shop smart: Buy meats, drinks, plastic cups, napkins, etc. in bulk to save money. Preparing recipes at home such as pasta salad, potato salad, chili or sandwiches will also cut back on expenses.

3. Store it: Use Ziploc® Brand Sandwich Bags for easy transportation of foods to the game and pack leftovers that can be reused at home.

4. Enlist help: Join forces with your friends to save money. Ask each person or couple to bring a dish or beverage that fits into your menu. Everyone loves a potluck, especially while tailgating and the more the merrier. Driving to the game with other people also saves money on gas.

5. Keep it simple: Don’t try to overdo or outdo your friends. Tailgating is all about fun, being outdoors and being with friends with minimal amenities. Less is more. In this case, try sticking to one main dish and three to four sides max.

6. Bake: Bake homemade treats and deserts, such as cookies and brownies instead of buying them. Store them in Ziploc® Brand Containers with the Smart Snap® Seal or bags for easy transport. You’ll save money and impress your guests at the same time. Who doesn’t love a homemade treat instead of store-bought?

7. Use your slow cooker: If you’ll have access to electricity, prepare dishes ahead in a crockpot or slow cooker. You can then bring the entire pot of chili, pulled pork or baked beans straight to the event and serve your team right from the pot. Just don’t forget your extension cord!

8. Park farther away: Parking spots closer to the stadium usually cost more money. Pick a spot a little farther away and jump on a shuttle. Just be sure to plan ahead and allow extra time so you don’t miss kickoff!

9. Assign an entertainer: Have someone bring an iPod speaker dock for music, a frisbee and of course a football to help entertain kids of all ages.

10. Decorations DIY: Instead of worrying about expensive decorations, visit your local discount store to purchase plate.

7 Best Things To Do on Your Lunch Break

I have had own company, Ingredients, Inc. for 11 years, and it has taken me this long to figure out the things I should be doing on my lunch break. I used to spend my lunch break eating and working at my desk or else just skip it all together and keep working. Then, I started a trend of spending my lunch breaks on the computer looking at blogs, Facebook, twitter, etc.  Finally I realized that taking time in the middle of the day for “me”  is essential to reenergize for the rest of the day.

Here are 7 best things to do on your lunch break. Whether you work at home or not, I think all of these should apply. Leave me a comment telling me what is your favorite thing to do on your lunch break.

1. Detach and unplug-Try not to check email and stay off social media. Give yourself an hour off and away from the internet.

2. Exercise-Go workout, head the the gym, or go lift weights. You’ll have more energy and refresh your mind at the same time.

3. Get outside-Go for a run, walk, place tennis with a friend or even eat outdoors. It will give you a great a fresh break, and you’ll be even more creative or productive later.

4. Have lunch with a friend-When I go to lunch with friends it gives me adult time and a mental break from my work.

5. Eat with your kids-It’s always fun to surprise your kids at school. They love when I bring them lunch (although it is not often enough), and it’s always fun to sit with them and their friends.

6. Read a book or magazine-A friend of mine always says she reads a fiction book during lunch. This sounds so relaxing. Lunch time is also a great time to catch up on your favorite magazines.

7. Have a picnic-Pick up your favorite lunch item (salad or sushi) or make your own sandwiches and head to the nearest park. It turns an ordinary day into something fabulous!

8. Take a yoga Class-One of my favorite things to do during lunch is yoga. Find a class near you. You will fall in love with it, I promise.

Lightened-Up Pimiento Cheese Recipe

Since it’s Labor Day weekend (and the start of college football), I thought I would share a lightened-up version of pimiento cheese perfect for a game day appetizer, Labor Day picnic, or weekend snack with crackers. Most of our friends will be at the Alabama game, Auburn game, the lake or the beach (that is how it goes around here in the south). I will be at the Auburn game because my daughter’s cheerleading team gets to cheer during the Auburn halftime show. How cool is that? Anyway, this Lightened-Up Pimiento Cheese uses Greek yogurt and mayonnaise. It tastes great, and no one will know the difference. I also like to add smoked paprika or chipotle seasoning for an added kick. Have a great, safe weekend!

Greek Yogurt 101 and Recipes

Not only is yogurt great for a nutritious snack or breakfast, researchers are finding that eating yogurt can help fight infections, aid in weight loss, boost the immune system, fight osteoporosis, reduce high blood pressure, aid in digestive problems and even add years to your life. Yogurt is also a great source of protein, calcium, zinc, B12, magnesium and even potassium. Not a day goes by that I don’t eat it (honest). My favorite, by far, is the nonfat or reduced-fat Greek yogurt. One (6-ounce) container of nonfat Greek yogurt contains 100 calories, 7 grams of carbohydrates and 18 grams of protein with no fat and only 65 mg of sodium.

How to choose yogurt

-Choose low-fat yogurt or Greek yogurt for best nutritional results. I prefer nonfat or low-fat Greek yogurt because it is very high in protein and low in fat, carbohydrates and sodium.

-Look at the ingredient list for added sweeteners and artificial colors.

-Check the calories and carbohydrates on the label to find the ones with the least amount of sweetener.

-Look for the words “live culture”, “active culture” or “live active culture” on the label. This type of yogurt contains probiotic cultures that help regulate your digestive system.

-Be sure to check the date of expiration before you consume it.

How to store yogurt:

-Refrigerate yogurt as soon as you purchase it. Store it on your cooler shelves in the refrigerator.

-Be sure the yogurt is tightly sealed

-Once opened, be sure to seal it properly and store in the refrigerator.

-If you buy the freshest yogurt, it can usually be stored for up to 2 weeks depending on the date of the package. Your best bet is to use it as soon as you can after purchase.

-Do not freeze yogurt. This will affect he quality, texture and flavor.

I took a poll on Facebook, and here are some of my facebook friends’ and my favorite ways to use yogurt:

-Use in smoothies and shakes

-Eat for breakfast with almonds and blueberries

-Stir in bananas and walnuts

-Stir in granola cereal and fresh peaches or strawberries

-Use on top of baked potatoes instead of sour cream

-Use instead of mayonnaise in tuna salad

-Use on tacos or taco salad

-Use in layered dips or vegetable dips instead of sour cream

-Use in a tzatziki sauce, white barbecue sauce or tartar sauce recipe

-Stir in homemade jams

-Drain the excess water from Greek yogurt and use in coffee like creme fraiche

For a few of my favorite recipes (photos above), check out the following links:

Banana Bread with Yogurt

Banana Dark Chocolate Muffins with Greek Yogurt

Apricot and Almond Coffee Cake

Easy Pork Fajitas

Favorite Back to School Snack: Healthy Trail Mix

School starts in one week so I (and we) are trying to brace ourselves or get fired up (depends which way I look at it). I have been thinking about healthy snacks since my daughter, Leigh, takes her lunch every day and goes to cheerleading straight from school. Also, my two boys, Alec and Zachary, are ravenous when they get home from school, and this recipe really fills them up. This trail mix is a cinch. I call it a “dump and stir”. It has a got a great variety of ingredients with protein, fiber and carbohydrates. They love eating it plain, adding milk to it or even stirring it into Greek yogurt. The only problem is: I have to control myself. Once I start eating it, I cannot stop.

Halibut with Mango and Goat Cheese

Grilling in the summer is the norm at my house. Lately, I have really been trying to get my kids to eat more fish. This Halibut with Mango and Goat Cheese recipe is one of my newest favorite creations that they really liked (can you say no leftovers?).  The combination of maple syrup and Dijon mustard flavors the fish to perfection, and it goes great with the sweet and savory mango topping made with fresh mangos, parsley, lime juice and goat cheese. This makes a great weekend night family dinner or weekend idea for entertaining with friends. Serve with a tossed salad and grilled asparagus or grilled okra for a healthy summery meal in under 35 minutes.

10 Reasons Why to Love Yoga

I have been taking yoga classes for about 10 years, and I’m a fan. Bikram yoga is my yoga of choice. Bikram yoga was designed by Bikram Choudhury, who learned yoga at the age of 3, and after a crippling accident, he found that 26 certain postures restored his health. All 26 postures are done in the same exact order every class in a heated room up to 105 degrees, and they are said to work every part of the body. The heat improves and enhances flexibility, flushes the toxins from the body, improves your overall fitness and increases your immune system (not to mentions helps to reduce your weight). Many forms of yoga exist, and you have to find what is right for you. Whichever type you choose, here is why you should love yoga:


1. It gives you energy-Hatha yoga is one of the only types of exercise that actually increases your energy levels. It works the body from the inside out and strengthens the organs getting everything to function normally. One specific pose in Bikram yoga is said to be equivalent to 8 hours of sleep. I don’t know if I believe this, but I do know that I have more energy after a class. On the nights I do yoga, I have this incredible energy buzz, and I always wake up early feeling extra rested.

2. It takes your mind off everything. Yoga is meditative. It also enhances concentration and focus while teaching you how to stay in the present moment.

3. It puts me in a better mood. Yoga increases oxygen to the brain which makes you feel better and is said by medical experts to even help fight depression.

4. Yoga gives you strength. Yoga helps elongate muscles and creates great looking tone to the muscles in the body.

5. It relieves stress. It helps me be mindful of breathing so when I am in stressful situations, I can deal with them even better. It truly gives me peace.

6. Increases balance, clears the mind and the soul. Balance postures really help you strengthen your body such as standing on one leg.

7. Improves your posture.

8. Yoga reduces your risk of sports injury-Yoga is a great way to gain flexibility which helps reduce risks of injury from other sports.

9. Yoga strengthens your back. When I first started doing yoga, a few friends asked me what type of strength training I was doing for my back. Yoga is the answer.

10. It’s a a great workout. I love doing yoga because it’s a wonderful workout. I honestly feel like I have worked every bone and muscle in my body. I think it only enhances my other sport activities and also enhances my work, my relationships and mood.

Note: The yoga tank above is from 59 Splits.

 

Evo Conference: Learning, Sharing and Being Inspired

Last year, I was lucky enough to win a ticket to my first ever social media conference: Evo Conference in Park City, Utah. I was lucky enough to go, and I was wowed. This year, I paid my way without a second thought. To say the least, it didn’t disappoint. Many have said that Jyl Pattee and Rachel Herrscher “made lightening strike twice.” The picture (above and thanks to Paul, Sandy’s husband) was taken while I was on the Alpine Slide at Park City Mountain Resort. Okay, what was this guy doing? I was freaking out that he was so close.

Evo, for me, is about learning, feeling inspired, seeing old friends and making new ones. I was lucky enough to meet Jennifer, (above) from Piggies & Paws, last year. She is one of the most incredible women with such a great heart that I have ever met. This year I made so many new friends. I love this group (below) with SandyAggie, and Maria. All are hugely talented food and entertaining bloggers. I am honored to know them in person, and I have a feeling we will be lifetime friends. Thanks to Maria for sharing her photo with me.

And while this wasn’t a food conference, there were two more amazing food workshops. We learned photography tips from Helene from Tartlette, one of my most favorite blogs (see below). She is so nice, humble and genuine.

Our lunch with Helen and the Chefs of the The Canyons was held at Lookout Cabin, a picturesque setting overlooking the mountains.

Just a look at our view from our table (below).

Our meal was scrumptous as well, and we learned how to make all of the fabulous recipes from the chefs. This shrimp dish was just one of the mouth-watering appetizers we learned to make at home.

Day two, I went to the other food workshop which was held at the Waldorf Astoria resort sponsored by Bushs Beans with Todd and Diane from White on Rice Couple. I was lucky to meet this dynamic duo last year, and words can’t describe their talent, generosity and gift of teaching. Here’s Todd in action.

We learned more about food styling from Diane, and then we each got to practice our styling. I couldn’t get over Jennifer, from Baby Making Mama, with her beautiful baby on her back while shooting away with her camera on the ground. Now that was inspiring!

She was a delight to photograph (even though I was supposed to be food styling).

I must admit that one of the scary parts of the trip is when we took a gondola ride up to another mountain to the closing party sponsored by Together Counts. It got really windy, and while in mid air, the gondola stopped for what seemed like an eternity. It was frightening to say the least. When we got to the top, we suggested maybe taking the edge off. So we did. I had so much fun with Annalise, Kelly and Lisa, three of the most talented and genuine people I have ever met. Extra thanks to Kelly (second to the left) for her incredible hospitality. We met at the conference last year, and this was the second time I have seen her this year.

So what else can I say about EVO? I learned so much at this conference about social media, business, entrepreneurs, women, friendship, community and more. I have never met so many creative and passionate people in one place. There are so many others I want to mention who I don’t have photos of but Jen, Gena, Jenn, Alisa, Paul, Cameron, Marla, Diana, Jamielyn, Missy, Evan, Melissa, Heidi, Helen and Dara are just a few. I just feel lucky to have had this experience. It brings a smile to my face. Just look at it with Aggie (below) and Maria (bottom).

Part 2 Marche Region: Food, Fashion and Travel

For 4 nights, we stayed at Hotel Emilia in Portonovo in Ancona, Italy which sits on the mountain where you have a spectacular view of the coast. It’s a serene spot that speaks beauty and relaxation. I loved to sit out here overlooking the mountains.

An outdoor bar was the perfect place to sit after a busy day.

The pool was beautiful sitting in front of the rooms of the hotel.

It’s difficult to pinpoint the most exciting part of the trip, but visiting Tod’s headquarters seemed to be the highlight for some of us women. Tod’s is the largest shoe manufacturer in Europe and the largest business in the Marche Region, which is publicly traded on the Italian stock exchange. We saw the entire shoe making process; how they check the leather and why these shoes are such great quality. This is the coolest work of art when you walk in the lobby of Tod’s.

Do you think these boots will be the hit of fall 2011?

After the tour, we went to the Tod’s and Prada outlets nearby. This is also a must stop if you’re in the Marche region :). I love these kid’s shoes.

Next, we were off to lunch in the town of San Benedetto del Tronto at Ristorante Mattia with Chef Marco Cameli. I loved his Miami-style restaurant. His specialty is fish since his restaurants sits right near the beach. This clever way to present an appetizer was a favorite. I call this an Italian version of ceviche.

Next was a pasta course with clams and shrimp. I have never tasted a dish so fresh. I loved that the Chefs don’t over-salt their food.

One of my favorite dishes on the entire trip was this fish dish. It’s monkfish cooked in garlic, olive oil, white wine, with fresh tomato sauce and rosemary. I am trying to recreate this one for sure. Delizioso!

And the dessert was phenomenal and nothing like I have ever had before. Bomboloni (Italian doughnuts) with Chantilly Cream and Limoncello topped with chocolate.

There’s more to come. So much to say…This region is too spectacular for words.