Merry Christmas 2012

Merry Christmas everyone!





Best Diet Secret EVER

Best Diet Secret EVER


Christmastime is such a fun time of year.   We have been full-on Holidays and now, I'm all talking "Diet" on y'all, sort of.  Seriously, you know I have been a huge, fitness lover and healthy living advocate throughout my blog.  In recent years, it has been no secret that I have struggled with my weight.  Well, today I wanted to share what is the Biggest "Diet" Secret EVER!  And I just happened upon it!  This is my story - a bit more in depth than just saying, I've lost weight this week. 




Background.
After all those years of relying on exercise and a moderate diet, in the Summer 2005,  my mother became rapidly ill, we suffered the loss of a child through miscarriage and Katrina hitting my hometown (where my Mom was in the hospital at the time) and quickly I found myself with a rapid weight gain.  I had never weighed that amount in my life.  I had never been more than 20 pounds over weight (that's enough, right!) which happened my freshman year of college.  I have battled it on and off these past years always thinking, just eat less, exercise more.  Then, I had good success with Weight Watchers Points Plus and their Meetings.  However, with Weight Watchers, I always felt "Bound to the Calculator" at the dinner table.  And I also suffered from an "on and off" mentality of my healthy eating.  

My Change - Secret. 
This year in January, my brother challenged us "Just try to illuminate High Fructose Corn Syrup" (now referred to as HFCS).  At that point, we thought, "we can do that!" And we did!  It was so easy and liberating to literally throw out all of those items that were primarily HFCS!  The scales began to be removed from our eyes - the American Diet was chock full of HFCS.  Even educated folks like us who love a healthy and active lifestyle, were sadly unaware.  We were shocked that HFCS was the number one or two ingredient in many items!  If you don't know, the first ingredient listed, is the largest quantity item in the product....  

I had focused so much of my 'diet boundaries' on fat, protein, carbs, calories - all good things to pay attention to for sure.  However, I didn't look at that LONG ingredient list of stuff that IS NOT FOOD!  Or, all of the Corn and Corn Syrup filling up our foods.  Ugh.  

Then, after hearing all the health benefits of the Gluten-Free Diet (further referred to as GF), I got over the weird sound of it and researched what the diet entails.  My eyes were opened again to the processed, filler, non-food.  Over-night, I decided to embrace the Gluten-Free "GF" Diet!  Reading Wheat Belly, got my attention.  Even after a full term Twin pregnancy, I had never struggled like this with 'middle weight' or wheat belly, etc. :) 

So, I chose the first day of Gluten Free eating and so the journey began.  Like Homeschooling has been for us, we are not pioneering it and there have been many who have gone before us.  The GF diet is really pretty main-stream.  It is up to you to chose it and see if it is a good fit for your body and what you struggle with personally.  

It took a little planning, yet, overall, it really was an easy transition.  I was truly willing to give it a try and make it happen because I had a hunch there was something to the success of this diet.  I knew it was more than just a "Hollywood diet trend."  For me, it has been. 

Over the past six months, I can say I am totally free of Cravings!  Praise the Lord.  Seriously y'all.  I have heard so many tips, tricks, and things that make no sense for me like a HFCS free and Gluten Free diet have been for me.  

Immediately, the first week, I noticed changes in my face.  I kept weighing in each week at Weight Watchers because I think I was afraid to trust myself in this new area with which I had come to struggle.  So come November, I decided that since I was not using WW any more, I was only using their scale each Monday, I decided to cancel my membership and continue weighing myself at home and continue my HFCS Free and Gluten Free diet at home with moderate exercise as I had since June.  And guess what, I continued to lose weight. I didn't need a crutch.  I do still say WW works well and focuses on "Good Health Guidelines" which include, moderate eating, exercise, drinking water and taking vitamins. I love refocusing on WHAT I am eating and on eating real foods.  

Resources. 
This Fall as I was experiencing much success without additives and fillers in our foods, I discovered 100 Days of Real Food right here in NC!  She made so much sense to me, eat real foods. And only eat foods with 5 Ingredients if you use a "packaged food."  Like tortilla chips, corn, safflower oil and salt.  Done. It became easy and a real fun game like "Survivor" or something. I even saw my competitive side come out after viewing "Food Inc." and reading Michael Pollen's "Food Rules."  I was determined to disregard the food 'industry' and what they call food.  It is so worth it to feel better.  

As I heard a TedEx Talk by Robyn O'Brien on "Real Food," there is no coincidence between the food industry - genetically modifying foods and adding fillers and gluten and corn to every.thing and so much more - and the disease (diabetes, heart and more) and obesity epidemics in America today.  

At any rate, I began to share my success and simple secret with others. I was shocked and saddened that more people had not shared these simple and healthy secrets.  A couple of people asked me 'what about chocolate?'  'What are you eliminating?" And the truth, I only eliminate non0foods and fillers and chemicals!  Isn't that freeing! It is indeed and I feel so much better.  I have NO cravings. I still love a little sweet bite. So I go for my Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds.  These are my little success ingredient - seriously, I love the taste and the almonds are so good for your heart. And the dark chocolate is praised for healthful benefits. So it's a Win Win! 

Fortunately, I LOVE water!  So I still drink lots of water and I do adore my Iced Coffee.  Thanks to my dear husband, I drink Iced Coffee, Milk and a teaspoon of honey or raw sugar.  Done!  

Right now, I am exercising 3 to 4 times a week.  I feel great and I would like to get back to a 5 to 6 day a week schedule for working out because we love it.  Though I am so excited to be consistently shaping up and losing weight living a regular lifestyle with a few successful parameters. 

If you have questions, please let me know and also, please share any tips or 'secrets' you have! All the best.  Hope this helps. I am happy to share as I go along and all the best to you on your journey to health and wellness.

Warmly,
Carolina Mama 



Holiday Gift Idea: See Our Restaurant.com Gifting

Christmastime is here!  Are you enjoying all of the fun musical concerts, food, parties, shopping and family time?!  It is a wonderful time of year and it can be a busy time of year.  We have an idea for you.  Here is our best idea for Teachers, Coaches, Extended Family or Immediate Family, food is every one's favorite, the Restaurant.com Gift Card is ideal.

Recall our Restaurant.com Movie Basket?  Now, you can send a "Creating Memories" Gift Card package to someone you love - maybe the Grandparents who live afar.  Simply add the Restaurant.com Gift Card in your favorite frame.  I'd even add a picture of the Grandchildren.  Then they can remove the card and enjoy a meal out on the family.  And they still have the framed photo to enjoy all year.




Well, how about an "After Dinner Mint" Gift!  The RDC Gift Card fits right inside a tin of after dinner mints.  What better way to say, "Let's do this again!" Or, "enjoy a night off with dinner out!"  We love this gifting.  I love the idea of adding a RDC Gift Card to a Cocoa Mug and fixings. Simple and good. The ideas are endless. 

Check out Restaurant.com for up-to-date deals like Double Deals and Feed-It-Forward and more throughout the year.  


Warmly, Carolina Mama

*FTC Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Restaurant.com and my partnership with the RDC Official Blogger Program. All opinions are my own. 

The Cove Billy Graham Training Center An Evening at the Cove

God's timing is perfect.  Even in the midst of great grief and loss at my amazing Mother's home going, we were able celebrate her life, loves and accomplishments.   My husband and I felt an added blessing to be able to reflect and refresh together after all of the services and meet Him here at The Cove at the Billy Graham Training Center in Asheville, North Carolina.

"The Cove is a Christian conference center designed to encourage, refresh and empower believers who want to grow and deepen their faith."


Truly a haven, a heaven on earth.  We were so thankful that God's providence would have it for us to be here this weekend. His timing is always perfect.


The Cove is a great time of refreshment from outside distractions and the daily quick pace of life we all seem to have.   Once we settled in, we gathered by the Fireplace ... can it get any more peaceful.  

The Cove is a perfect place for Clergy and Laymen alike.  In fact, our Church is having our Women's Retreat at the Cove again this year!  It is wonderful to get away, as we did, as a Couple.  Or, for Bible training. They host Marriage Retreats. And Biblical Training.  So there are many reasons to come and be blessed.  Everything is done for you so you can focus your time on Christ and relax. 

                                

One of the Fireplaces is a perfect spot for some quiet time and a refreshing, complimentary Sprite (or coffee, tea, cool water) at each Inn.  


Our room was so warm and comfortable.  We love the good nights sleep on these beds and the spacious bathrooms.  The two sinks are my favorite with one being a separate vanity so everyone can get dressed and ready for the special evening.  And lots of fresh towels!  I love not having to ask for more towels - we had lots of fluffy, soft white towels and toiletries in our room.  We even had a little chocolate waiting on us at bedtime.


When you enter the Training Center, the great living room looks like this at Christmastime. I could just stare. It was so magical.  Love the stone walls and every detail.  Everyone is relaxing by the fireplace. 


We paused for a minute to enjoy a photo opp on the Sleigh out front. This was fun and 
so convivial. 


On to Dinner, it was so fun to sit by the glass wall/ windows and looks at the mountains, the stars really since it was past sunset.  So very breathtaking and romantic.  We sat with a really nice couple. Though we enjoyed our "Date Night" dinner together.  I know, we couldn't help ourselves.



The Dining Room is so beautiful and elegant. 

The Chef at the Cove is phenomenal.  We love the consistency of a tasty, unique and 
healthy meal at the Cove!  And it's in abundance.  We chose the White Fish and Polenta with 
two fresh salads with homemade dressing. Oh my heaven on a plate! 



My husband felt the whole trip was worth it after his first (yes, he had to have two. :) I had one to 
balance us out.) Peanut Butter Chocolate Mousse!  They were truly worth each calorie. 


Then it was on to the most beautiful Michael Card Concert ever. We LOVED it. 
We heard him in concert just before we got engaged so this was really special for us. 


The Cove is such a warm and comfortable and social setting. We got to meet 
Michael Card at the Ruth's Attic Book Store after the Concert.  So fun! 


See, we really did love getting all Christmasy dressed up for our evening out. I am carrying the Tartan Plaid Clutch my Daddy brought me back from Scotland way back.  Memories. And in memory of my Mother as well.



It was an honor to meet Billy Graham's daughter, GiGi Graham as she Hosted us in the Dining Room. Such a real delight to meet her.

GiGi Graham at An Evening at the Cove
Obviously, we could go on and on.  We had to have one more picture by the Fireplace. Everyone has to do this. Right?  It brings back the fabulous memories already .


My husband was right at home by the fireplace and with the old-fashioned 
sled. We took a picture for Colorado sake.  Totally handsome and good-looking, for sure! 
And mine.  #thankful




The Nativity scene about full-life-size was one of my favorites. So very Christmas story.


We love meeting lovely, Christian couples who have been married forever. All of these (including the lady in the middle whose husband was back at their room) were married over 45 years. What a great heritage.  And some great stories, too!  So we only have 31 years left to join their ranks. :)



The beautiful setting as Michael Card played the Grand Piano and sang.  And we were not only refreshed in a new way, we were reminded of Christ in Christmas. 



"I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help, My help cometh from the Lord which made heaven and earth."  Psalm 121

You can plan your own event here and follow The Cove on Facebook here, the Cove blog here. 

Warmly,
Carolina Mama

*FTC Disclosure:  This post is sponsored by The Cove. I am honored to partner together and all opinions are all my own. 

Restaurant Review: Los Tres Magueyes, a Favorite Mexican Restaurant

No secret we love our partnership with Restaurant.com.  We look forward to checking out new restaurants and visiting some of our old favorites like Los Tres Magueyes.  This time we tried a different Los Tres locale and we were just as pleased.  That's a thumbs up.

See, even the whole family was smiling after this lunch out. We loved the atmosphere, as always.  It is a fun and lively place to eat.  See the fun colors on the walls.


We liked it so much for the atmosphere, Boulder Mt. Man and I got our own photo. Thanks Tigers! 



We Love the Los Tres Chips and Salsa.  These come with your meal and are nice and fresh and warm. 
WE love the salsa that is always fresh.  We tried the Guacamole and it was fabulous. 



Next, I ordered my absolute favorite Mexican Meal, the Cheese Enchiladas. 
At Los Tres, they are always so cheesy and hot and taste like the best in the world! 

Here is another little secret about the restaurant, I love their Rice and Beans as much as a meal. I have often thought if I had more self control, I could just chose the Rice and Beans as my meal.  Cravings for Cheese Enchiladas win! 


The service at Los Tres at all three locales we have tried is fabulous. They are friendly, the service is quick and they are quick.  This makes it one of our favorites.  

So what more could you ask for, fresh, friendly service, great tasting food and the price is right. 
With Restaurant.com, we got more value for an already inexpensive meal out. 

Great food and fun!  

See you next time! 

Warmly, 
CarolinaMama

FTC Disclosure: I am a Restaurant.com Official Blogger. This post is part of our partnership with RDC. Opinions are all my own. 

Mother Loss

Thank you for your thoughts, prayers and kindness in the loss of our dear Mother. She was a Saint. An Angel our loving, caring Mother. She adored our Daddy all his days and hers, she served her God, family, church, friends and community. All were so entwined and blessed by her love and life.

My Mother and Me
Cir. Early Years, New Orleans

We love you Mommy.

Thank you all and we will be back soon. 2013 is for her!

Warmly,
Carolina Mama





Disney on Ice Rockin Ever After Raleigh, North Carolina

My parents surprised us with Disney on Ice in New Orleans when I was a girl.  I have loved it ever since.  So it was a pure joy to help host a Disney on Ice, Rockin Ever After Blogger Social here in Raleigh.  We all had such fun!


We had fabulous seats at the PNC Arena! 




Pure joy for the families to meet "Merida!" from Brave.   She was beautiful and so kind to all the children.  The loved meeting her. Then seeing her on the Ice!


Under the Sea!  One of my favorites with Aerial.


Intermission.  We could hardly contain ourselves. It was a nice long show.


We saw Tangled, Beauty and the Beast.  It was awesome.



My sweet friend and blogger, Leigh of Hines Sight Blog and I got to sit together.  Family fun.


Tangled love!  Love the lanterns.



Get your tickets and enjoy the show.  

Warmly, 
CarolinaMama 

FTC Disclosure:  This post is sponsored by Disney on Ice. Opinions and love of Disney are all my own.

Ragu Give 'Em Ragu iPhone and iPad APP Launches

You know I love checking out awesome just-launched iPhone and iPad apps!  They are too fun and we fell in love with it.  Seriously, we LOVE Italian foods so we also love how Ragu makes it simple for Moms and Families to "Give 'Em Ragu!"


So I will spoil you and show  you the Give 'Em Ragu App first.  This is just too cute.  And you can click it to make your own fun.  Love this.






So here you have it.  "Give 'em Ragu!" It is so fun.  You can open the app and chose your own photos, video and create content on Facebook.  See how easy.



We hope it will put a smile on your face like it did for us! The app can be found on the following platforms:

iPhone: Go to iTunes and search for Give'Em Ragu
Facebook:  Give 'Em Ragu

Enjoy and enter your own Ragu Give 'Em Ragu videos.  Have fun!

Warmly,
Carolina Mama

*FTC Disclosure:  This post is sponsored by Ragu and Circle of Moms.  Opinions are my own. 








eBay Holiday Gift Shop Sweepstakes and Gift Guide


Holiday is a beautiful time of year.  I love when I am all organized and ready to share it with the ones I love.  So I was totally jazzed this year when eBay launched the awesome eBay Holiday Gift Shop and Sweepstakes!  It is so easy to use.  Here's a glimpse at one of my favorites.... 




Thanks to eBay, things are organized and ready for you or your children to explore.  And eBay is known for keeping it fun for their Buyers and Sellers.  They are offering a Sweepstakes Winner everyday.  So you have double incentive to get organized and shopping.  The eBay way!  With eBay I LOVE that you can shop anytime and anywhere with their awesome eBay Mobile APP! 

Here's a peak at 10 Gifts I've found for different people in my life. 

1)  You know we're Apple heads. :) Thanks Steve Jobs.  So yes the iPhone 5.  I would give this to lots of Android "sufferers." :)

2) Chuck Taylors.  Yes, classic is good for lots of people in our lives. 

3) Leap Pad Explorer for the little ones in our lives. 

4) Steve Madden Black Patent Toe Ballet Flats.   Fabulous for your Fashionista. 

5) Baby Bullet Baby Care. I hear these are the complete jam for Moms.  This Twin Mom could have used this "back in the day." 

6) Patagonia is awesome for everyone. 

7) iHome is always a great gift.  And look at the great prices for everyone. 

8)  Lands' End Clothing is always a Win in our home.  Check out the great pricing and enter to Win the Sweepstakes. Every day someone wins. :)

9) Black and Decker Cordless Drill is always a win.  These are used more than you imagine. 

10) drum roll.... yes the 4th Gen. iPad.  These manage my life!  Told you we were apple heads and converting our family and friends. :) 

So what is stopping you from making your list. Entering the Sweepstakes and being organized this Holiday. 

The eBay Holiday Gift Shop Sweepstakes if the perfect place for you to create a gift lift, for your child or yourself. :)  Everyone who enters will be entered to win an item on your lucky person's list!  Each day eBay will award an item from a lucky person's list. Or, Entrants can also win eBay gift cards! Those rock! 

Hope you enjoy and that you score some eBay savvy finds and that some of you win one day on the Sweepstakes.  Merry Christmas early. :)  Did you like my Gift List?  What's your top item? 


Warmly,Carolina Mama

*FTC Disclosure:  I am an eBay Parent Panelist.  I was hired by Splash Creative Media on behalf of eBay for this Holiday Post. Enjoy.  The opinions are all my own.

GroupGel App ... because Groups are Good

We all know there is strength in numbers.  So when I was asked to check out the new GroupGel, I wanted to know more.  Because Groups are Good.  And I agree.




We all get frustrated with the colossal size and ever changing security of Facebook.  So I was greatly intrigued by GroupGel.  I love the fact that you can have Private Groups for various areas of your life.  Let's face it, all of our circles, groups if you will, do not intersect.  So why share the information that only applies to one group.

GroupGel is Free.  Love it.  And you sign up and get a log in for your own security and those in your group.  "Like." :)

There are many features like; Group Sign Ups, Schedule Events, Group Discussions, even Surveys. So no more constant email blasts from a group.   I love this stream line aspect of GroupGel.




You even have a Dashboard to "keep your finger on the pulse of the group."  Also, I love that you can send event reminders by personal preference: phone, text or email.  Your choice. So no more massive emails for everyone involved.

I love the variety that GroupGel offers and guess what?  GroupGel iPhone APP is due out soon!  How simple is that?

Would you consider managing your sports or craft group on GroupGel?  Do you like the variety from Facebook?  I surely do.  You know,  I cannot wait until the iPhone APP launches because I'm mobile like that. :)


Warmly, Carolina Mama

*FTC Disclosure: This post is sponsored. Opinions are all my own.

Feed It Forward with Restaurant.com - Give a Free Gift Certificate



Celebrate the Spirit of Giving!  The Feed It Forward initiative gives everyone the opportunity to give a gift for free to friends. family, teachers and more as a simple gesture of kindness.  You can be a part of the Restaurant.com Holiday Mission to celebrate GIVING, DINING and SUPPORTING Local Restaurants and Local Communities.

Restaurant.com will give away millions of FREE $10 Gift eGift Cards this Holiday Season.  Feed It Forward is available this Season from November 29, 2012 to January 1, 2013.  Over a half million are expected to give on Feed It Forward this Season.  So go ahead and celebrate someone special in your life.

We discussed this fabulous and generous program with our local NBC17 show, "My Carolina Today." You can see it here because it truly is a perfect gift idea for the Foodie in your life.

Who are you going to gift?  Remember, give a gift, get a gift. :)  Tis' the Season!

Warmly,  Carolina Mama

*FTC Disclosure:  This blog is sponsored by Official Blogger program with Restaurant.com.