When I think of my #1 go-to person on anything and everything, I think of Carolee Sinton. She is in.the.know on everything from the best food trucks, to the best book on goodreads.com, to breaking news that Swoozies just opened up again in Sharon Corners (this is for real and brand-spanking new!) – this Smarty Mama should be your #1 on text speed dial, she certainly is on mine.
I met Carolee a few years ago when I reluctantly agreed to join a book club. These always sound like a fabulous idea until I scramble to finish the book as I’m walking in the door on the night of book club. And that’s a good book club performance for me. Carolee is an avid reader, she is always one step ahead of the book circuit as she’s always on to the next good read. I love her for this and have enjoyed every single book she has recommended.
On top of that, Carolee makes the best pound cake I’ve ever tasted with her side business, Takes the Cake. You can often find Carolee at The Potato Sak Flea Market selling her treats. Rumor has it she’s made cakes for quite a few celebs in NYC, I can’t tell you who they are or she’d have to kill me – but know that they heard about her deliciousness all the way up there.
But Carolee’s true passion is her work at Family Support Network, a non-profit here in Charlotte that is dedicated to helping families with infants and children who have special medical needs. I’ll let her tell you all about it.
Smarties, I’m proud to introduce you to my dear friend, Carolee! You’re in for a real treat!
Carolee’s Smarty Mom Stats:
Mom of: Mary Clare (12), Anna Grace (10), Timmy (9) & Declan (6)
Married to: Jon Sinton for 14 years
Years in Charlotte: 5 1/2
‘Hood: Foxcroft East
Hometown: Summit, NJ
Occupation: Program Coordinator at Family Support Network
Tell us about Family Support Network and how you got involved.
Family Support Network (FSN) is a non-profit organization in Charlotte. We provide services for families with infants and children who have medical needs, health care needs and disabilities. We connect parents who have babies born prematurely with support systems, resources and information. We have NICU support programs at both Levine Children’s Hospital and Hemby Children’s Hospital here in town. I got involved by total happenstance, really. I connected with a woman at a small-business party who has a daughter who suffered from internal hemangiomas lining her airway as an infant, the same condition that my twin brother died from when he was 9 months old. A medicine has been created in the past 5 years or so, and it shrunk her daughter’s hemangiomas and allowed her breathing trach to eventually be removed. Her daughter is now a happy, healthy kindergartener! I started doing some volunteer work for FSN soon after I met her and was officially hired on about a year ago.
How can we help?
We could always use children’s board books for our Books for Babies program, white onesies (preemie size) or craft supplies for our outreach programs. Because we are a non-profit organization, we could always use in-kind cash donations, too, of course.
Also in your bag of tricks is your love of baking. Tell us how that has evolved.
I’ve always loved baking but I had never considered doing it for any reason other than for fun. A couple of years ago a friend gave me the most delicious pound cake that I had ever had. I asked her for the recipe and soon after she handed her family recipe over to me (in a sealed envelope marked “Confidential” nonetheless!) When I made the cake for a few people down the road they all raved about it, too, and some actually said they’d pay for one if I made it for them again. Well, fast-forward a couple of years and here we are at Takes the Cake. It really is delicious and addictive! And nothing beats being in the kitchen with a close friend for hours every week. . . if the ovens could talk.
Favorite holiday recipe?
Definitely Molasses Spice Cookies. They are like crack! They’re very chewy with just the right amount of sweetness and a little bit of glaze drizzled on the top. I got the recipe from Cooks Illustrated years ago and have since tweaked it to perfection.
Go-to neighbor gift?
I just discovered what is going to be my new go-to gift last week at the Common Grounds farm stand. It’s a candle by Park Hill called Burlap and Barn Wood. It smells so fabulous “with notes of hickory, fire, rich tobacco and tweed”. It’s like having your own little rustic Christmas trapped in a jar (but it doesn’t smell at all like cigarettes, don’t be alarmed by the tobacco notes!)
What is your favorite thing to do with your family during the holidays?
I love the holidays! Driving up to the mountains to cut down a Christmas tree is one of our favorite things to do. Some years we can swing it and sometimes we can’t, but when we do it’s so much fun.
What is the last meal you cooked?
This is poor timing as I have been cooking a lot of nice meals lately, but not so much this week! The last dinner I served up was meatball sandwiches for the kids. Trader Joe’s made the turkey meatballs and I served them with marinara sauce on french bread with mozzarella on top. Easy peasy. If you want a good grown up soup recipe though, this one is delicious. A friend gave it to me a couple of months ago and I’ve made it half a dozen times already. So healthy and tasty!
You are also a lover of food trucks – what’s your favorite food truck?
Auto Burgers and Fry Guys did such an amazing job at my birthday party, that I’m going to give them a shout out. They even made a Carolee Burger made with grilled cheese sandwiches instead of hamburger buns. I still dream of it. My other favorite is Papi Queso, although I guess I’ve never actually met a food truck that I didn’t like!
Onto the mom stuff…
You’re in the big fam club (fam of six – wahoo!). What are your tips for running a big family?
Honestly, I can’t say that there is just one thing that makes it work. I’d say it’s a medley of things. One being that I still have an old-school style desk calendar, as I function better when I can see what’s on my plate for an entire month at a glance! I am also very fortunate to be married to a guy who is very involved in helping around the house and shares the duty of hauling our kids to and from sports practices, activities, etc. I always say I don’t know if I could have had 4 kids if I was married to anyone else! I’ve always been a stickler for decent bedtimes, as I know that if my kids are well-rested then they start off the day as nicer kids. I do think that helps keep things in check, too. Mary Clare once told me, “It should be illegal how early you put us to bed!” and she was probably correct! But Jon and I managed to pull it off and we had many years of quiet QT after 7pm. It was a good run, but everyone’s bedtimes are now more “legal”!
If you wrote a parenting manual, the title would be?
I can’t even imagine writing a parenting manual! If I did it would likely fall into the same genre as a comic book. It would contain lots of pictures and thought bubbles. Parenting really needs to be taken with a dose of humor!
Behavioral trait you hope your kids don’t inherit from you.
This answer would highlight all of my flaws to the entire Queen City. I plead the 5th on this one.
The phrase you’ve said to your kids more than any other at home is…
Practice makes better. I say it to all of my kids. I really don’t like the word “perfect”.
Favorite holiday movie?
Who are you following on twitter?
I only signed up for Twitter in order to enter a contest once. I had to look up my account to even answer this question! I am following some news channels and comedians. I hardly ever go on it, but I have learned that it can be a useful tool for checking out the integrity of your middle schooler’s cohorts!
Funniest thing your kids have ever said to you?
I have a journal in which I write down the funny things my kids say, so there’s lots of quotes to choose from. I’m so glad that I started doing this years ago, because I have the memory of a sand gnat these days. It’s all good stuff, but here’s one: When Declan was 4 he pointed to his nipples in the bathtub and asked me what he needed them for. When I told him he didn’t really need them for anything in particular, he said, “Ok, then go get something to take them off. I don’t like them sitting there.”
Best book you’ve read lately?
I love reading a good book. The last book I couldn’t put down was All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.
When I go to Pinky’s for a meal there are no holds barred! Pimento cheese melted on a burger? Great indulgence when the time calls.