Posts by Kelly Mattei

I grew up in Alabama but have lived in Charlotte, NC, for almost 20 years...longer than I've ever lived anywhere. My husband and I have a teenage daughter and three dogs. We love to laugh, and fun is the name of our game.

Truly Scrumptious

Truly Scrumptious.

Anyone who has ever seen Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the film based on the Ian Fleming novel, knows who Truly Scrumptious is. Played by the late Sally Ann Howes, the character becomes the love interest of Caractacus Potts, played by Dick Van Dyke. When I was a little girl, I thought Truly Scrumptious was beautiful…and she was.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is, quite possibly, my favorite film of all time. Well, that and Mary Poppins, which also happened to star Mr. Van Dyke. I loved both films then, and I love both films now…and the soundtracks! I feel sure I wore out both LPs on my record player as a child. In fact, I have both soundtracks on But the first time I went to the movie theater to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, I didn’t see the whole movie. I was a little girl, and we were visiting our cousins in Florida. I’m not sure how old I was…three or four? My mother took a bunch of us to the theater in downtown Marianna, Florida, but I think she spent half the movie outside on the sidewalk with me. The child catcher in the movie terrified me, and being a particularly strong-willed child (imagine!), I refused to sit through the movie. Later, when I was eight or nine, I grew to love the movie, but even then, the child catcher scared me…not enough to make me leave the room when he appeared, but he scared me…much like the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz and the Sleestaks in Land of the Lost. If you know, you know.

I have a favorite scene in CCBB…the doll scene near the end of the movie in which Caractacus Potts and Truly Scrumptious, disguised as dolls, begin their rescue of the children. Oh, I still find the scene glorious! You can see it here.

Fast forward more than 35 years, and I had a daughter of my own. When she was two or three, I introduced her to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang via DVD, and she fell in love with the movie. This was a child who had no interest in animated movies like Cinderella, Bambi, or The Fox and The Hound…but she loved Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. In fact, she wanted to watch it all the time. Specifically, she had a scene she loved. The doll scene? Nope. The flying car scene? Nope. My child loved the child catcher scene…the very scene that terrified me as a child…she found it hilarious! Who knew any child could find that hilarious?!?! But she did. And she wanted to see that scene over and over and over.

Since you know that, you won’t be surprised at all to know she found the Sleestaks in Land of the Lost hilarious. And the flying monkeys and wicked witch in The Wizard of Oz? Also hilarious. Wow…I had a brave child. Even as a little girl, she would laugh at the special effects in Land of the Lost and The Wizard of Oz. The charm of one of the greatest films ever made was completely lost on her, because the wicked witch and the flying monkeys were funny…not just funny, but hilarious. Nonetheless, she still enjoyed watching both, but Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was her favorite…we still talk about it.

So today, when I learned Ms. Howe, the actress who played Truly Scrumptious had passed away at 91, I was a little sad. Frankly, I hadn’t even investigated whether she were still alive or not. I guess I just assumed, incorrectly, that she had died, but I shouldn’t have. Apparently, she lived a long, full life. And even though I cannot name one other film she was in, she has a special place in my heart as Truly Scrumptious.

I haven’t had the chance to tell my daughter yet, but I will tell her soon, and hopefully, she will sit down and watch Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with me while we eat cake batter popcorn…just like old times. And I’ll drink a toast to Truly Scrumptious.

Moms After Christmas Day

Moms after Christmas Day.

We made it! Moms of the world, we made it! We got through Christmas Day!

No, this doesn’t mean we don’t celebrate the real reason for the season. It doesn’t mean we aren’t grateful. It doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy the holidays. But moms, in most families, take on the lion’s share of the “burden” of making Christmas Day happen in our homes…and we wouldn’t have it any other way!

When our now-18-yr-old was ten years old, she came down with the flu on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. We were ice skating with friends, and suddenly, she wasn’t feeling well. We left immediately and went home, but when I discovered her fever kept going up after taking meds, I took her to Urgent Care just before they closed. She had flu. It was Christmas Eve. She still believed in Santa, and Santa (me) had some work to do that night!

I took her home and put her in my bed, and shortly thereafter, the nausea kicked in. We were up all night till about 6:30am, when she finally fell asleep and Santa (me) could jump into action. Fortunately, that year, I had prepared well ahead of time. I had wrapped all the Santa gifts in advance and put them in a giant black garbage bag in the game room upstairs. I sent my husband up to bring that down, and as soon as our daughter fell asleep (for a total of 30 minutes!), I dashed out to the living room and put the gifts out…just like Santa would do!

But isn’t it that way for most moms? At the holidays, we just have to find ways to make things happen. Burn the turkey? Pull out some frozen chicken pies from the freezer. Forgot to buy milk for a recipe? Call the neighbors and rush over with a cup to pour some from their refrigerator.

And invariably, we purchase and wrap all the gifts. I looked at all the beautifully-wrapped family gifts under our tree this year and realized I had wrapped every single one! Not only that, but I had also purchased every gift! I had spent countless hours shopping online and in local stores, trying to find the perfect gifts for friends and family. And the gifts were all neatly wrapped with beautiful handmade bows (I have a little talent) and placed carefully under the tree. Nope, there wasn’t a wrapped gift for me. My gift was the expensive vacation my daughter and I took right before Christmas…and it was the perfect gift for me. So every gift under the tree had been wrapped by me. And all those stocking stuffers that magically made it into the stockings? Also me. This year, somehow, I had been prepared. I had everything wrapped and ready to go a week before Christmas!

Of course, as things go, there were a few hiccups. I didn’t have time to go grocery shopping when we got back late on Christmas Eve, so on Christmas Day, we had refrigerator and cupboard surprises! Whatever was in there is what I prepared. Chicken/Bean Soup? Yum! Beer Bread? It was gone in two hours…the whole loaf! Chicken Pie from the freezer? Check! Grilled hot dogs? Yep. Chips and my fabulous Fiesta Party Dip? Everybody loved it!

There were gift hiccups too. Our daughter had opened all her wrapped gifts, and afterward, she asked, “I guess you didn’t get a chance to get the stuff from Lululemon?” Panic struck. Had I remembered? It didn’t really matter, because I know she isn’t “doing without,” but I needed to know what had happened! Had I completely forgotten? Or had I ordered it and forgotten what I had done with it? I thought I remembered ordering from Lululemon, so I said, “Let me check.” I grabbed my phone and checked my email, where I found that I had, indeed, ordered from Lululemon…and it had been delivered! I excused myself and went to the room where I had done all the gift wrapping. And there I found the package from Lululemon, still in the shipping package…just as it had arrived. I took it into the living room, where my family was waiting, and I acknowledged my error, but at least I had the goods from Lululemon! I wasn’t completely crazy! In a few minutes, our daughter asked about a necklace she had requested. Hmmm. I knew she had sent me a link. I checked the email again and found that, indeed, I had ordered the necklace. But as I read the email, I realized it wouldn’t arrive till January. Whew! In the overall scheme of things, though, the daughter would have been fine without the Lululemon stuff and the necklace. Her life wouldn’t be any different with or without them. She knows that. I’m sure she just kept expecting to find them, since she had sent me the links, just as I asked her to do. I was glad she had asked! And thankfully, at least I remembered to order them, even if I couldn’t remember what I had done with them!

Various friends dropped in throughout the day, and because I enjoy a good cocktail with friends, the Mimosas (prosecco or champagne + orange juice) and Poinsettias (prosecco or champagne + cranberry juice + a splash of Cointreau orange liqueur) started flowing pretty freely. I played bartender and brought out snacks while we all talked and laughed. We even played a silly game I found online called Merry Dissmas, and we laughed even more! And there’s nothing else I would have wanted to do. It was great fun.

Of course, between the cooking, laughing, talking, and game playing, just like most moms do, I picked up all the wrapping paper (with some help from the hubby and daughter). My husband flattened all the boxes and took them out to the garage. Since we had just returned from vacation twelve hours before we opened gifts, I unpacked suitcases and did a few loads of laundry. But I have to give my husband credit: he cleaned the kitchen really well.

And honestly, I love doing everything for Christmas Day. I love shopping. I love wrapping. I love trying to find something to please the recipients of the gifts. And just like most moms, I love doing everything I can do for my family. It’s part of what makes it a Merry Christmas for me. I hope I’ll get to keep shopping, wrapping, making bows, cooking, tending bar, and everything else for Christmas Day for many years to come.

It’s what moms do.

And on December 26, after Christmas Day is over, we rest…unless our kids are still small, and then there’s no rest for Mom.

You Look Like You’re Going to a Disco

“You look like you’re going to a disco.”

When you’re getting ready to go to a Christmas party, the last thing you want to hear your husband say is, “You look like you’re going to a disco.” OK, so I guess it could be worse. It happened recently. I was dressed and ready to go, and my husband of 21 years made that statement.

What do you think I did? No, I didn’t get mad. I didn’t cry (as if!). I didn’t pout. I laughed till tears were rolling down my face! It was funny! I took another look in the mirror and realized he was right…I did look like I was going to a disco…and I laughed some more. I actually liked the look, but it wasn’t right for a Christmas party.

Honestly, I haven’t had the disco look many times in my life. I was a teenager and went to college in the 1980s…the heyday of Laura Ashley, Gunne Sax, and gigantic clothing. Seriously, when we should have been showing off our cute figures, we were hiding them underneath gigantic clothes. I’ve written about it before here. The era had a real influence on me, I suppose. No, I don’t wear Laura Ashley or Gunne Sax in the 21st century, but I still dress pretty conservatively. Of course, now, at 54, I don’t have the figure I had at 18, 21, or even 24. Now, people are really glad they don’t see more of my skin! So no, the disco look has never been a big part of my life.

But apparently, in 2021, when I was getting ready for a Christmas party, I dressed like I was going to a disco. Are there even discos anymore? I think the only “disco” I ever went to was in Acapulco, Mexico, in 1982. I was 14, and I was allowed in, so was it really a legit disco? The tour company we were with called it a “disco,” and it had flashing lights, music, and a dance floor, but I’m not sure it would qualify. I feel pretty sure I wore a blue dress…that’s about all I remember…that, and we watched the La Quebrada Cliff Divers from a balcony/patio on the back of the disco. The cliff divers in Acapulco were popular in the 1960s and 1970s; they were even featured regularly on sports television at the time. I was familiar with them before my trip to Acapulco, because my parents always had sports on TV at our house. Acapulco is not as safe as it was back then, but you can read more about the cliff divers here.

My disco ensemble for the Christmas party in 2021 was a cute black jumpsuit with a sparkly Christmas top underneath. Maybe it was the jumpsuit. Or maybe it was the sparkles. Whatever it was, my husband was right…I looked like I was going to a disco.

If you’re wondering, after I laughed till my stomach hurt at my husband’s assessment of my party ensemble, I changed. I decided to save my disco duds for a night out on the town…or maybe just a nice dinner out. I’ll be in California soon, so I will definitely have an opportunity to wear it there. No, not to a disco…to dinner. Anything goes in LA, so no one will care if I look like I’m going to a disco. Well, my daughter, who will be with me, might care, but she won’t have the final word.

Maybe I’ll play some Disco Duck by Rick Dees in the hotel room while I’m getting dressed. I learned last week that Rick Dees and I have a mutual friend! Who knew?! I bet he would appreciate my disco duds.

***To see a 1976 video of Rick Dees performing Disco Duck, click here.***

He’s Somebody’s Baby

He’s somebody’s baby.

Late yesterday afternoon, when my daughter got home from a Secret Santa party, she asked me to order her a pizza. I normally order from a favorite local place, but I remembered some cheesy bread another pizza place has, so I ordered from there, thinking it would be fun to try something different.

We live in a gated neighborhood, so when I placed the order, I included directions about how to get in. About an hour later, I received a phone call, and when I answered, a man on the other end of the line was rambling, saying, “I’m outside the gate and can’t get in. Do you want me to leave your pizza at the gate? I see a sign out here that says go to the light and turn left and turn left again, and I don’t understand that, so should I leave your pizza for your here? I don’t see a keypad. I’m not sure what you want me to do…leave the pizza here?” Seriously. I had to interrupt him to say, “No! Please don’t leave it at the gate! You went to the wrong gate, but I will come get it from you. Just wait there!”

It took me about sixty seconds to get into my car and to the back gate, but I was a little hesitant, because I had no idea what was going on. On my way out the door, I told my husband I would be right back, but I added, “The guy sounded weird. I have no idea what’s going on.” Was the pizza delivery guy hopped up on drugs? It sure sounded like it on the phone. What was I walking into?

As soon as I got to the gate and saw the pizza delivery guy outside his car, I knew. The pizza delivery guy was outside his car, pacing. When he saw me walk to the fence in front of my car, he said, “Oh! Let me get your pizza! I’ll get your pizza now!” He hurried to his car and got the pizza, then brought it over to me, handing it over the fence. I thanked him and wished him a Merry Christmas. He thanked me and wished me a Merry Christmas too. And he started rambling again, “I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know if I should leave the pizza at the gate. Some people want me to leave it at the gate.” He went on and on. I just said, “This was perfect! Thank you again! And Merry Christmas!” (I tipped in advance on my credit card.)

He wasn’t hopped up on drugs at all. He had special needs…likely “on the spectrum” somehow. But he was out there trying to earn a living and working hard to do it correctly! He was worried that he was doing it wrong. He wanted to make the customer happy. He simply wanted to do a good job. And he did. I was thrilled to see him working hard, and I thought his mother would be proud.

Because yes, he has a mother. Somewhere, he has a mother. And she probably has always worried he wouldn’t be able to get a job. She probably worried he wouldn’t be able to function in society or contribute to the “greater good.” She might have worried people would be afraid of him or make fun of him. He is her baby, after all.

But last night, he definitely contributed to society. He delivered a much-needed pizza for a tired, hungry, teenage girl. He did a good job. I wish I could tell his mom.

A Holiday Village

A holiday village.

Today started as a a standard Saturday morning. I got up at about 8:30 and prepared breakfast. OK, so I don’t do that every Saturday, but I should. Our daughter had a 10am lacrosse game, so I wanted to make sure she had plenty of energy…scrambled eggs, bacon, grits, and “special” toast. (I’ll post info about that later.)

After breakfast, she got dressed quickly and left for the field. After loading the dishwasher, I slapped on a little makeup and threw on some comfy yoga pants and a sweatshirt before going to the field with my husband. The girls won their game, and we all headed home.

As soon as our daughter got home at about 11:25, she told me she needed to get cleaned up before going to a Secret Santa party, but she had to stop and purchase a gift on the way. I felt my pulse quicken and my blood pressure rising, because I knew she would have to drive 20 minutes to the party. There was no way she could pull it all off.

I asked her, “Do you want me to run to a boutique and get a gift? You could stop by there on your way to the party and get it from me.” She agreed that was a good plan, and I was off to the boutique…showerless and in the same yoga pants/hoodie I had worn to the lacrosse game…clothes I shouldn’t have even worn to a Saturday morning sporting event, and I definitely shouldn’t have worn them to a boutique. But there was no time to change. I had planned to take a shower after the game, but that could wait.

I arrived at the boutique and immediately found a gift. Just as I was taking it up to pay for it and get it wrapped, a friend of my daughter’s walked in. I knew she was shopping for the same party, and she knew why I was there. She then very graciously offered to take the gift to the party so my daughter wouldn’t have to make an extra stop. Wow! Things were coming together!

When I got back to my car, I called my daughter and told her she could go straight to the party, because her friend was taking her gift.

My morning had not gone as planned, but disaster had been averted! It had taken a village, but it had all worked out. Of course, as a mom, I was the only one who still needed a shower.

I posted about it on Facebook, and one friend said, “Kinda makes you worry that she’ll be fine on her own at college next year, doesn’t it?” Indeed, it does. But I can’t get too crazy about it, because I was the same person at 18. And I went off to college, and somehow, things worked out.

I was lucky I found a supportive village in college pretty quickly. I made great lifelong friends, and I’m sure they can all tell stories of rescuing me in different situations, just like I can tell stories of rescuing them in different situations. That’s how bonds form, right? And it’s how memories are made in college. Every time I spend time with friends from colleges, we talk about shared experiences…and often the stories involve disasters we averted!

It made me realize that next year at this time, our daughter will be having Secret Santa parties at her university. And I find myself hoping she finds a good village there…a holiday village that helps her…and a village in which she will help others. When she needs that last-minute gift and can’t get it, I hope someone will jump into action for her. And when a member of her village needs help carrying lots of boxes from the parking lot to her dorm room, my daughter will help her. It’s what makes friendships.

We all need villages to help us raise our kids. I thank the Lord every day for the village that helped me get our daughter to 18. I talk often about how I don’t know how I would have survived without my friends in our toddler playgroup. They have been a part of my village for a long time. We all need villages to help us with those last-minute items. We need villages when we’re sick. And yes, we especially need villages during the holidays…like the one my daughter had today.

I hope when she gets to college hundreds of miles away from me, she finds her village.

Facebook Memories: A Gift to Ourselves

Facebook Memories: A Gift to Ourselves.

I joined Facebook in 2009, because a friend from high school “invited” me to join. At the time, I didn’t think much of it. I friended a few people, and then I realized I needed to get my mother to join, because it was an easy way for me to share photos of my then-five-yr-old daughter. I had no idea what an effect it would have on life, in general.

Here is where I am the first to admit that Facebook can be a giant “time suck,” as one friend calls it. I choose to call it a “time bandit,” because it steals my time, and when I look up, I’ve lost minutes or even hours of my life…to Facebook.

At the same time, it’s a good thing. We get to communicate with friends from lots of different stages of our lives. I’ve mentioned before that Facebook connected me with a friend who lived across the street from me when I was a toddler. It connected me with kindergarten friends I never dreamed remembered me after I moved away in second grade. It connected me with friends from the school I started attending in second grade and left after fourth grade. And it connected me with friends from high school and college, jobs I had over the years, and new friends I’ve made along the way. It’s a gift.

But there’s one part of Facebook that I truly consider a gift: Facebook Memories. I love Facebook Memories. I love that, every day, I can open my Facebook account, click on “memories,” and I can see things I’ve posted from years past. Today, for example, when I opened my account, the first memory I came across from one year ago was a photo of a space heater. I had posted it, telling my friend I had purchased new heaters to put at our feet while we visited in the garage. Yep, it was a sign of the times…the pandemic forced me to visit with friends in the open garage. The next memory, also from 2020, was a photo of a Christmas gumdrop tree, something nostalgic from my childhood that was clearly nostalgic for other people too, judging by the comments. The next post? One of my favorites of all time: a video from my daughter’s eighth grade basketball season…a girl on the team hit a buzzer beater to win the game 33-31 (yes, 33-31, because it was middle school girls’ basketball, after all) and a celebration ensued! As I continued to scroll, I came across a photo of me with a group of friends at the Good Friends Luncheon in Charlotte in 2016…a great cause that raises funds to help kids and adults in need. From 2013, there is a photo of me and my cousin before the ACC Championship game here in Charlotte. His team, the Florida State Seminoles won that year…great memory! Below that are a few pics from church basketball league in 2012…our daughter was nine. And then there are photos from 2010, when I took our daughter and some of her friends to a Christmas party at the country club. Lots of great memories! And every one of them made me smile. A gift.

Later this month, I will get to “re-live” Christmas memories…pictures of the Christmas tree after “Santa has left the building,” photos of the joy on our daughter’s face on Christmas morning, pictures of vacations during the holidays, photos of gatherings with friends, and so much more.

Every day, after I scroll through my Facebook memories, I want more! But I always have to wait for the next day…and often, another gift…another great memory…another smile.

For all its faults, Facebook, used correctly, is a gift. I will keep adding memories to it for as long as I can! And hopefully, along the way, I will have at least one smile a day.

Mother/Daughter Popcorn Cakes

Mother/Daughter Popcorn Cakes.

When I was growing up in different places in Alabama, Mother made sure we had some traditions. They might not have been the same traditions that everyone else had, but we had traditions. Sure, we decorated a Christmas tree every year…well, till we became teenagers and lost interest in it…leaving Mother to do that by herself. On Christmas Eve every year, we drove around town, wherever we lived, to look at Christmas lights. And every year, as we drove around on Christmas Eve, I worried that Santa would skip our house, because we weren’t tucked safely into our beds. I remember the anxiety I felt. And every year, we made certain foods. One thing we always made was what we called Marshmallow Cakes, but other people called them Popcorn Cakes.

As an adult, after I got married, I started making the Marshmallow/Popcorn cakes at my house. And after our daughter was born and got old enough to help, she helped me make them every Christmas. We kept one every year and gave others to friends and neighbors. It was just something fun to do, and the results were delicious: an ooey, gooey, crunchy, sweet and salty, colorful, fun treat. If you’ve never had a Marshmallow/Popcorn cake and are wondering about the ingredients, here are some: popcorn, butter, marshmallows, M&Ms, nuts of your choice, pretzels…in fact, you can add almost anything you want, but those are the things we use. You can see how to make them here.

Photo from cookiesandcups.com

I’ve loved them for years, and they are relatively easy to make, but occasionally, they can be a little messy. So this morning, when I was watching TV, I was thrilled to see a lovely mother-daughter team in Florida making Popcorn Cakes at their own company called Popilicious! And theirs are really pretty, because they drizzle them with frosting and sprinkles…something I never thought to do! You know what I did after I saw them…I had to check out their website. Turns out they have cakes, popcorn pops, popcorn Christmas trees, and popcorn bites! They even take custom orders for game days, birthdays, and events.

And guess what I did next! I placed an order for a few Popcorn Cakes and Popcorn Pops…and I can hardly wait for them to arrive. They will definitely be here in time for Christmas, and I will give them away to friends and neighbors. Well, I’ll give most of them away. I plan to keep one cake for my little family to enjoy with any guests we have over the holidays. And we plan to have lots of guests…feel free to drop in for some Popilicious Popcorn Cake!

So yes, I’m recommending Popilicious without having tried them yet. I like supporting mother-daughter businesses, so there’s that, but I also like the fact that something I used to make with my mother is readily available to those of you who have never had a marshmallow/popcorn cake. See their website here.

I’m still going to get out all the ingredients to make some of my own marshmallow/popcorn cakes with my daughter. Now that she’s 18 and very independent, it is especially fun to go back to some old traditions. It brings us together, and when we are working on something together in the kitchen, we get in some good talk time. So it’s really not about what we’re making as much as it’s about doing something together.

She will be off to college next fall, so I’m cherishing all these moments we have together. Yes, I expect her to come home at the holidays next year, but I know there is a big chance she will want to visit friends in different cities for part of the holidays too. That’s OK. We’ll still make a popcorn cake or two…and chat about anything and everything.

Holiday Gifting 2021 (Part 9): Hostess Gifts

Hostess gifts…another favorite gift category!

It’s party season! That means you’ll be on the search for good hostess gifts (which can also serve as great gifts for neighbors). Let’s take a look:

  • Neiman Marcus Holiday Platter. I have been a big fan of these for years, and if you look in my kitchen cupboard, you will learn that quickly. Because I love them so much and find them useful and decorative, they are my traditional gift for some family members and friends…and they make great hostess gifts too. This year’s holiday platter is a lovely shade of green and features a nutcracker. I can hardly wait to add one to my own collection. Priced right now at $30 (down from $40), they make great hostess gifts. Order now and take one to the hostess of the next party you attend! Purchase here.
  • Appoline Measuring Spoons. A fun, little, colorful gift that’s useful in any kitchen! Who wants boring measuring spoons when you can have these little cuties? Get the colorful set of four from Anthropologie for $18 here.
  • Mexican Hot Chocolate Set. From Verve Culture, a great hostess gift…a set for making authentic Mexican hot chocolate. The set includes two clay mugs, a whisk, Villa Real hot chocolate tablets, and recipes. Priced at $45 at The Grommet, it’s a little more expensive than some hostess gifts, but it’s fabulous and memorable. Your hostess will thank you! Purchase here.
  • Frosted Cup Set. I love receiving plastic frosted cups as hostess gifts! Swoozie’s in Charlotte and online has a great selection of different ones. They come in sets of ten cups for just $12.95, and they can be holiday-themed or just about anything else! Purchase them at Swoozie’s here.
  • Ghirardelli Premium Peppermint Hot Cocoa Mix. This comes in a two-pound bag that says right on the front “just add hot water for instant decadence”! Indeed! Where do I sign up?!? It’s fabulous, as most things from Ghirardelli are, and any hostess would love this gift. Priced at $22.99 on Amazon. The hostess and all her family members will love it! Package it in a gift bag with a lovely ribbon. Purchase here.
  • Wine Condoms. Yes, I just mentioned these in the stocking stuffers list, but what a fun hostess gift! The package contains six wine “condoms” you can slip over the top of the bottle to preserve the bottle for later. Priced at $14.99 on Amazon, this is a useful gift that will get some laughs! Purchase here.
  • Grecian Bust Pot. I love these planters, and I would love to find one in a gift bag after hosting a party! No, it’s not a hint. It’s just the truth. Made of hand-painted cement, they come in two sizes. The small is 6.5 inches tall, and the large is 10.75 inches tall. I think they make lovely gifts. Priced at $16.30 for the small and $30.80 for the large, the price point is perfect too! Purchase from Anthropologie here.
  • Eucalyptus blooms. Sounds crazy, but a friend told me someone gave her eucalyptus blooms recently, and she loves them! Your hostess can display them in her home for a pretty accent with a fresh scent, or she can hang them from a shower head in for a spa experience! For those of us who live in Charlotte, we can shop locally with Eucalyptus Blooms, a local company. For those who live elsewhere, you’re in luck too. They ship! See the website here.
  • Bath and Body Works. When my daughter was a little girl, she was obsessed with Bath and Body Works hand sanitizers, and that’s when I became familiar with their hand soaps. I had to kill a lot of time in our local store while she decided which hand sanitizers she wanted. They’re inexpensive ($7.50 for a single hand soap, or six hand soaps for $27.00) and come in lovely packaging. Plus, they smell really good! Someone gave me one last week as a hostess gift for a little party I hosted, and I love it! Purchase here.
  • Flour Sack Tea Towels. I love flour sack tea/kitchen towels. They’re soft. They get the job done. And they can add a little color to a kitchen! I’ve given them as hostess gifts in the past, and I’ve given them as party favors too. I found some on Amazon that are priced right at $18.99 for four towels measuring 28″ x 29″ each! You can gift all three or break up the set and just gift one. Either way, they’re nice, inexpensive gifts. Just tie a pretty Christmas ribbon around them! Or you can wrap a hand soap from Bath and Body Works in one and tie the whole thing with a pretty ribbon! Purchase here.
  • Terra Studios Art. Terra Studios is the home of the Bluebirds of Happiness I’ve written about before…small bluebird figurines that represent happiness, love, and hope. You can read what I’ve written here. But Terra doesn’t just make the Bluebirds! They have lots of different art pieces made of different media for sale on their website, and they make lovely hostess gifts! The prices are incredible, starting under $20, and I love browsing their site. Check out their offerings here.

So if you think you’ll be attending some holiday parties this year, start shopping for hostess gifts now. If you take any of the above, your hostess will love it!

Holiday Gifting (Part 8): Stocking Stuffers!

Holiday Gifting (Part 8): Stocking Stuffers!

This is my very favorite part of holiday shopping. Stocking stuffers are all about fun little surprises, and I love finding all the fun little surprises I can find! Without further ado…here are the finds of 2021:

  • Thrive Causemetics. For the teen daughters or ladies on your holiday list, Thrive Causemetics’ Brilliant Eye Brightener could be the perfect stocking stuffer. I purchased several of these when I saw them advertised on Facebook a year ago, and I love them! I’ve always been a person who had trouble with eye makeup…I’m just not a gifted makeup artist. But this Eye Brightener makes it look like I know what I’m doing! The Muna shade is my favorite for shadowing, but I love the Mieko shade for the upper part of my lid and for highlighting around my eyes. Priced at $24 each or get a set of two for $40…the lady on your list will love these! In fact, I’m ordering some for my Christmas stocking now. See them here.
  • Touchscreen Gloves. These are not a new thing, but not a lot of us have them. If it gets cold enough to wear gloves, the last thing someone wants to do is take them off to text or even answer a call. Purchase these at Amazon starting at $10.99 here. And remember, if you have a Prime membership, you get free shipping.
  • Wine Condoms. Funny name for a great product. Any wine drinkers on your list would love to find these in their stockings, and it’s almost guaranteed they will use them. Watch Mom’s face when she pulls this box of six wine “condoms” out of her stocking! They can be used to save any bottle of wine by simply tearing open the package and slipping it over the top of the bottle. Six to a pack for $14.97 at Amazon here.
  • Lifestraw Personal Water Filter. I have been a believer in the Lifestraw Personal Water Filter since I saw Kristen Hampton demonstrate it on her Kristen Hampton Good News Facebook page.
    She was standing in muddy water and actually drank it through this straw! According to their website, the straw protects against bacteria, parasites, microplastics, dirt, sand and cloudiness. I purchased one for a friend’s daughter who was traveling to Cuba on a mission trip a couple of years ago, and they would be great for outdoor adventures. Right now, you can get them for just $12.99 here. They also offer water filter bottles starting at $26! I love this brand.
  • Satin Hair Scrunchies. I can’t possibly be the only person whose hair breaks frequently from putting it in ponytails. Break no more…I now use satin hair scrunchies, which even smooth my hair while protecting it from breakage. And they look cute too! Get them here.
  • CBD roll-on. If you have someone on your list who needs a little help relaxing, CBD roll-ons can help. I did a little research and found Charlotte’s Web has one that is free of major allergens, doesn’t test on animals, and is paraben-free. It can be used on small areas like temples or wrists, and I’ve read lots of great reviews. Get it at Charlotte’s Web here.
  • No-Crack Hand Cream. My husband has used this for years. During winter, his hands get so dry they crack, but this stuff has helped immensely. Highly recommend for anyone on your list who has the same problem or for anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors during winter. It soothes and moisturizes. Get it at Duluth Trading here.
  • Lash Primer. For my birthday last year, Milani Lash Primer was included in a basket my daughter gave me. The first time I used it, I knew it was good stuff. I’ve tried other primers, but they haven’t worked as well as this one. I love it, and I tell everyone I know to get it. At 54, my lashes aren’t what they used to be, but this makes them look a lot better by making mascara go on more evenly and last longer. Get it at Ulta here.
  • Portable Charger. You’ve heard me preach about portable chargers for years, and I’m not stopping yet, because I am a believer in them. They’re great anytime you can’t plug in. Have kids going off to college? They can use these on planes to make sure their phones are always charged. I recommend the Anker PowerCore 26800, because it’s fast and recharges phones up to six times when it’s fully charged. Get it at Amazon here. I also recommend the ZeroLemon ToughJuice 2.0. It’s heavy, but I’ve had one for a long time, and it continuously gives me fast charges and lasts a long time. In fact, I used it on vacation last week for four days (off and on, but charging my phone overnight), and it never lost power. Get it at ZeroLemon for $49.99 here.
  • Phone Soap. And while you’re gifting phone appliances, think about Phone Soap for your family member who touches their phone a lot. Just think about how many germs you transfer from your hands to your phone…and then to your face every time you use it! Phone Soap is a device that sanitizes your phone while it charges. And it comes in difference colors! Get it for $79.95 at Amazon here. And don’t forget you get free shipping with Amazon Prime!
  • Anthropologie Monogram Pendant Necklace. This is a nice personal gift that fits perfectly into a stocking for the people who love pretty little necklaces. It’s delicate, and it’s personalized. Get it at Anthropologie for $38 here. It’s a bargain!
  • Poo-Pourri. Anybody who knows me knows I put Poo-Pourri in stockings at our house every year. I purchase different sizes for different needs, including purse-sizes that can travel with you. It’s a great invention. If you’re not familiar with it, you should be. To see a video commercial, click here. Yes, it’s crude, but it’s funny. I’ve purchased some of the Champagne and Rosé ones this year, and I also ordered some of their hand sanitizers, because I love the scent! To see everything Poo-Pourri has to offer, click here.
  • Keychain Tool. What’s more handy than a keychain tool? Think about all those times you needed a nail file, a pair of scissors, or even some pliers and didn’t have them handy. If you had a keychain tool from Leatherman, you’d always be prepared. Surely someone on your list would love to find this in their stocking! Get it here for under $30.
  • Breathalyzer. A breathalyzer comes in handy in lots of situations, and this one from BACtrack is professional grade. We have two of them at our house. It’s DOT and NHSAA approved. At $129.99, it’s not cheap, but it could save a life or be a good teaching tool. Maybe someone needs it to keep teenagers in check? Sometimes it’s just fun to see how fast your body has metabolized a drink or two. Get it here.
  • Adult Coloring Books. And when I say “adult,” I simply mean they are more detailed than kid coloring books. Sounds crazy I know, but coloring is very relaxing. Remember when you were a kid and could get lost in a coloring book? Well, it can happen for adults too. I’d love to find one or two in my Christmas stocking. Make sure you get some crayons or colored pencils to go with it. Get it here.
  • For girls/ladies: nail polish, fun socks, hair products, nail files, mints, toiletries.
  • For boys/men: razors, shaving cream, after shave, toiletries, nail files, fun socks.
Harry’s Razors
  • For kids: Card games like Uno, Spot it, Old Maid, Slap Jack, Go Fish… kids love finding games in their stockings. Just be prepared to play with them! Other great things for kids’ stockings: old school marbles, jacks, Legos, Polly Pocket, LOL Surprise Dolls, Barbie dolls, Barbie accessories, Little People, Matchbox cars, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, Crayola Bathtub Markers, coloring books, crayons, colored pencils, fidget toys, mittens, winter hats, even retro hand-held games like Electronic Quarterback. Remember that? You can find it on Amazon here.
  • Gift Cards. Think of the recipient and what he/she likes. Do they like fast food? Consider Chick-Fil-A, McDonald’s, Firehouse Subs, Five Guys, Subway, and even pizza places. Coffee? Get Starbucks, Caribou, Dunkin’ Donuts, or a local coffee shop. Do they like dine-in restaurants? Think of a few in your area. Do they enjoy movies? Most theaters offer gift cards. Even airlines and hotel chains offer gift cards.
ChickFila gift cards
  • Scratch-off lottery tickets. These are always in the stockings at our house, partly because you never know if you’ll win, but also because it adds a little more excitement to Christmas morning. Everybody at our house loves finding scratch-offs in their stockings.
NC Education Lottery Scratch Off
  • Candy! We always have candy in our stockings! Even when I was a kid, I loved dumping out my stocking on the floor and finding lots of candy! Now, it’s fun to add some retro favorites. My personal favorites? Zotz! I loved them as a kid, and I loved sharing them with my friend, Wendy, as an adult…she passed away in 2018, and every time I see Zotz, I think of her. You can find lots of retro assortments at Amazon here. Or from Mast General Store here.

There are some ideas for stocking stuffers for 2021. Get busy shopping!

I Love Christmas Specials!

I love Christmas shows! I always have. When I was a little girl, I could hardly wait for “Christmas specials” to come on, and when they were over, I was sad. Back then, we couldn’t just record them and watch them whenever we wanted. If they came on at 7:30 one night and we didn’t get home in time, it was just tough luck till the next year. But times have changed! We can set our DVRs to watch what we want when we want…and we can even watch some things On Demand! I’m ready to watch!

Here are some of my favorites:

  • Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I love both versions, the old cartoon, and the 2000 live-action movie. I love everything about both movies, including the music, but I really love the liv-action movie. The sets and costumes are glorious. The characters are well-defined. And the story is golden, as it is based on the Dr. Seuss book. I could watch it several times a year. Jim Carrey is amazing as The Grinch. It comes on Thursday, December 2, on Freeform at 8:20pm. Set your DVR or tune in!
  • Frosty the Snowman. This animated Christmas special was made in 1969 by Rankin/Bass, the producers of lots of holiday specials back then. It was one of my favorites as a child, and it’s still one of my favorites. Anyone who has seen it wants a snowman to come to life in their neighborhood! See it Saturday, December 4, on Freeform, at 7:10pm, followed by my very favorite…
  • Ruldolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Produced in 1964, this stop-motion Christmas special has always been my personal favorite. I’ve written before about how watching this show transports me back in time, even at the ripe old age of 54. When I watch it, I feel the same way I felt as a little girl, lying in my pajamas on the floor of the family den, in front of our giant Zenith console TV. It comes on Saturday, December 4, on Freeform, at 7:45pm, right after Frosty the Snowman.
  • Love, Actually. Apparently, there is some debate about whether this movie is a holiday movie or not, but it counts in my book. This romantic drama follows nine intertwined stories of love. I love it; I had not seen it till a year or two ago, but it sucked me right in. Watch it or record it at 12:30pm on Tuesday, December 14, on Freeform.
  • Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town. Another of my childhood favorites, this one was produced in 1970 as a stop-motion TV special…another by Rankin/Bass. Narrated by Fred Astaire, this one follows the life of Kris Kringle, the man who becomes Santa Claus. It has lots of fun characters, including the frightening Burgermeister and Winter Warlock, but the story is lovely. Anyone who has seen it can still sing Put One Foot in Front of the Other, one of the songs sung by Kris Kringle and Winter Warlock. I loved it and looked forward to it as a kid every year. My mother used it as motivation for us to get ready for bed extra early. See it or record it Tuesday, December 21, at 1:00pm.
  • The Year Without a Santa Claus. This oft-forgotten stop-motion television special from 1974 is one of my favorites. In fact, my whole fifth grade class loved it so much that we produced a performance for the whole school. It features iconic characters like Heat Miser, Snow Miser, and of course, Santa Claus. It’s narrated by Shirley Booth, an actress who won the triple crown of acting: an Academy Award, two Emmy awards, and three Tony Awards, but I remember her as the title character in the sitcom, Hazel, which I watched in re-runs as a child. I can only find one airing of this special, on December 3, at 12:15am on AMC. With that time slot, you know it’s not the most popular Christmas special…but I promise it’s worth watching. You can also rent it on Amazon Prime.
  • A Christmas Story. This movie about Ralphie wanting a Red Rider BB Gun for Christmas was produced in 1983 and has lots of memorable scenes. It has become one of my personal favorites, and I have the leg lamp to prove it! With so many memorable scenes, it’s hard to pick just one part I love…the Bumpus dogs, the leg lamp (Fra-gi-le!), the flat tire, the soap in the mouth, the tongue on the flagpole, the mean Santa, the bunny suit, the BB gun…it has become a classic. See it for 24 hours on Christmas Day on TBS, or you can watch it on Amazon Prime!
  • Elf. This movie, starring Will Ferrell, quickly became a favorite in households across the country. It’s cute. It’s quirky. It’s fun. See it on December 9 on Starz at 9:00pm. Or for a more fun experience, see it in local theaters on December 11 as a Sing and Cheer Along experience on the big screen! Check local Regal theaters. I’ll be seeing it at Regal Stonecrest in Charlotte at 1:00pm.
  • Miracle on 34th Street. I mean the original, which was released in 1947 and stars Natalie Wood and Maureen O’Hara. It won three Academy Awards and has become a classic…and a movie I never want to miss. You can see it on HBO Max or Hulu, or you can rent it on Amazon Prime. If you’ve never seen it, you need to sit down and watch it to get into the real spirit of the holiday.
  • It’s a Wonderful Life. When I was a teenager, I forced my whole family to sit down and watch this classic. My dad was not happy that it was on during a basketball game, but he humored me, and it became his very favorite Christmas movie. My mother and I always watched Christmas classics together, and this one was at the top of her list too. Watch it on Amazon Prime anytime for free with your Prime membership.
  • National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. This one is a little more bawdy…it is National Lampoon, after all, but it’s hilarious! No one loves the Griswold family and their crazy lives more than I do! Come on, Chevy Chase is brilliant in this movie! See it on AMC or record it Thursday, December 2, at 8:00pm.
  • Holiday Inn. My mother and I discovered this one late one night in the 1980s. Made in 1942, this musical stars Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, so you know there’s good singing and dancing. In fact, there’s a song in the movie about how each will win a woman’s heart with his singing or dancing. The plot? An inn in Connecticut becomes a nightclub for 15 holiday nights out of the year. The song, White Christmas, was first introduced in this film and won and Oscar. See it on Amazon Prime.
  • The Polar Express. This one is a favorite for lots of people, and that’s why I’m listing it. It’s not one of my favorites. I think it’s a little creepy…don’t give me flack for that. It’s dark, and the story is weird to me. But hey…to each his own. If you want to see it, check it out or record it on TNT on December 2, at 1:30pm.

The holidays are a fun time for television! You can get as nostalgic as you want…and I plan to be pretty darn nostalgic this year. In fact, I’m going to try to get my daughter to watch some of these movies with me this year, since she goes off to college in the fall.

***And I promise the Stocking Stuffers post will be published December 2!***