My Favorite Holiday Gifts 2019, Part 2: Home Gifts

If there’s someone on your holiday gift list who loves receiving home gifts, you’re in the right place. Or if you’re planning to go to holiday parties in folks’ homes, you need to be prepared to take some hostess/host gifts. Either way, I’ve done lots of research, so you don’t have to. Need some ideas? Every year, I take great pride in finding gifts that are unique. Don’t get me wrong. Nobody loves a good candle more than I love a good candle, but I also love to give unique gifts.

So here we go…for your viewing pleasure…gifts for the home!

Neiman Marcus 2019 Holiday Platter. I’m a big fan of the Neiman Marcus annual holiday platter, and this is a repeat from last year’s list. In fact, it will be a repeat every year. I get one for myself every year, and I get some for friends too. At $40, it’s pretty inexpensive, and the platters are always beautiful and well-made. And don’t forget useful…I use them all the time! This year’s platter is red, my favorite color for the holidays! You can purchase online here. And when you order from Neiman Marcus for the holidays, I always recommend paying the extra for the beautiful gift wrap. It makes the gift a little more special.

Custom Family Portrait. Sounds expensive, right? Well, it doesn’t have to be. A friend gave me the cutest family portrait from Mrs. Best Co. shop on Etsy. Starting at  about $40, these cute, whimsical portraits are fun and memorable! Anyone would appreciate this thoughtful gift! If you know someone for whom you’d like to do this, start thinking about doing it now! You can purchase here.Look around on Etsy at different versions. There are more detailed family portraits that are more expensive, but this one is fun!il_fullxfull.1514771239_4aevTea/Dish towels. I love when someone gives me tea/dish towels. I love flour sack dish towels, and I love funny dish towels. And I especially love holiday themed dish towels, because it’s an easy way to “decorate” for the holidays. This year, I found some cute ones at Target. They’re inexpensive, and they’re festive. Some are Sugar Cookie-themed, while others are Hot Cocoa-themed or just general holiday themed. Purchase for $5.69 (for two!) here. Amazon has some great flour sack towels too. You can see those and purchase here.

Coffee Table Books. One of my best friends loves Coffee Table Books more than anything. She knows I’m talking about her. While I don’t love them as much as she does, I enjoy them too. There are some great ones out there. Chip and Joanna Gaines have the coffee table book, Homebody, in Target Stores now for 30 percent off! Get it here. I also came across a lovely coffee table book earlier this year by Shayla Copas; it’s called Four Seasons of Entertaining, and while I would never be able to put together the things she pulls together, the book is full of great ideas and it is absolutely gorgeous! I actually met the lovely author at a signing in our local Neiman Marcus, and she was perfectly charming. Purchase the book here.

Knit Throw. Last year, I was all about the faux fur throw, and I still love them. But this year, I’m all about the knitted throw…especially the ones that are extra chunky. I could make my own, but frankly, the yarn alone would cost me more than purchasing a throw in a store. I found one in Target last night that I absolutely loved, and it’s under $70. I also found one at Amazon for about the same price. Does anything seem more cozy than a chunky knit throw? And they look beautiful too! Get one at Amazon here.61J1XPV1RPL._SL1078_

Mario Luca Giusti Set of Double Old Fashioned Glasses. Acrylic, acrylic, acrylic. These double old fashioned glasses are fun…the colors are fun…and the fact that they are virtually unbreakable makes them even better! I have lots of friends who would love these. For just $72, you can get these for your friend or family member at Neiman Marcus. And don’t forget the pretty gift wrap! Purchase here

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Custom Home Portrait. I want this. I want this. I want this. I think people love having pictures of home. And this is another good, inexpensive gift option. I have found some places on Etsy that do home portraits for as little as $25! Yes! You read right: $25! It’s hard to find any gift for $25 these days. Of course, some home portraits are more “custom” than others, so prices can vary. The photo below is from Bailemor Studio on Etsy and priced at $29. Look at lots of different options on Etsy here.il_fullxfull.2024205616_cw36Letter board. This isn’t something I thought I would ever recommend, but I’ve seen how friends leave positive messages for their families…in their kitchens, mudroom, etc., so I think they’re fun! And I think kids and teens like them too. Wandering through Target last night, I came across a few, ranging in price from $12.99 to $29.99. Look closely to decide which one will suit your friend or family member best. What a fun, inexpensive gift! See Target’s offerings hereIMG_5131

Glass lantern. A friend gave me a glass lantern during the holidays last year, and though I had never thought about one before, I absolutely loved it! She had tied a beautiful holiday bow at the top, and I put a battery-operated candle in it…it made for a lovely holiday centerpiece in my dining room. Therefore, I’ve decided glass lanterns make great gifts. And the recipient can change the bow for different seasons. I have several favorites. See photos below.

Decorative Dragonfly (or Butterfly, Bee, or Ladybug). These are just little tchotchkes, but they’re fun, and I think they make lovely, thoughtful gifts for the right person. For example, I have a friend who loves dragonflies…they remind her of her daddy. Another friend loves ladybugs, because she feels like they are good luck. They would love these little brass tchotchkes, and at $35, these are a bargain gift. Get them at Neiman Marcus.

Louis Sherry Chocolates. I have loved Louis Sherry Chocolates since the first time I had them at the Sherry-Netherland Hotel in New York. They come in lovely tins, and the chocolates are unforgettable. I wrote a piece about them in September. You can see it here. These make great hostess gifts for the holidays, and this year, Louis Sherry is offering a limited edition Nutcracker tin. Get the 12-piece tin of chocolates for $35 at Neiman Marcus here.Or order directly from Louis Sherry, where they are priced at $40.nmhcnlx_mz.jpg
Mason Jar Indoor Flower Garden. I saw this on Uncommongoods.com and immediately ordered it for a friend who loves flowers as much as I do. Flowers are beautiful and brighten anyone’s day, but what’s even better? Edible flowers! Using just this kit and some water, the recipient can have a lovely windowsill garden! Priced at $20, it’s a lovely hostess gift or holiday gift for a friend or family member. Get it here.42998_1_640px

Anthropologie. This is a first. I normally don’t just list a store in my gift pieces, but Anthropologie has lots of little, unusual, home gifts. Some of my favorites are their Agate Cheese Boards and their bud vases. But I highly recommend you just go peruse the site…click here to see their home gifts.

The Buttercup. If you live in Charlotte or find yourself in the area, visit The Buttercup on Providence Road for more great home gifts. See the website here.

Corner Copia Gardens and Gifts. In Fairhope, Alabama, shop Corner Copia Gardens and Gifts for lots of great home/garden gifts. Located at 11983 E State Highway 104 in Fairhope.

And those are my selections/suggestions for HOME GIFTS for 2019. I hope you’ll find something that will help make your holiday gifting easier! If you’d like to see last year’s selections for more ideas, you can click here

    UP NEXT? GIFTS FOR TEENS/COLLEGE STUDENTS…COMING SOON!

 

My Favorite Holiday Gifts 2019, Part 1: Women’s Accessories (including shoes)

Halloween is officially over, so we can start thinking about Christmas. I know…Thanksgiving comes first, but I like to have all my shopping done before Thanksgiving, if at all possible. If you’ve always been a procrastinator, this could be the year you change the way you operate!

First, let me say I always recommend you shop local every opportunity you have. In Charlotte, there are lots of locally-owned shops and boutiques: The Buttercup, Boem, Capitol, Ivy and Leo, KK Bloom, Sloan, McKenzie Claire, Five One Five, Beads Inc, and more. In Memphis, for jewelry, shop Mednikow’s! In Fairhope, Alabama, shop Corner Copia Gardens and Gifts. And if you have other suggestions for local shops and boutiques in different cities, please leave the info in the comments!

In my opinion, gifting is difficult. I have friends and family I love, but I still have great difficulty finding the perfect gifts for them, so I’m compiling my lists for this year and sharing them with you!

On with the show…

WOMEN’S ACCESSORIES

  • Rebecca Minkoff  Julian backpack. I’ve never been a “backpack” kind of person, but this year, I have one on my list. I’ve always liked Rebecca Minkoff accessories. They’re not high end, but they’re great quality, and the leather is always super soft. The Julian backpack is offered in several different colors of leather, and it’s also offered in several colors/designs in nylon…and a leopard print calf-hair! I’m adding the black leather one ($295) to my Christmas list, but I also want the nylon camouflage ($145) one. If you have an Auburn, Florida, Tennessee, or Clemson fan on your shopping list, there’s also an orange nylon one on sale at Nordstrom right now for $74. Shop Rebecca Minkoff at Nordstrom here.

FabFitFun Box. FabFitFun is a customized quarterly beauty/accessories box that is shipped directly to the recipient. FabFitFun boxes are shipped quarterly at $49/quarter, and they include full sizes of cosmetics, skincare, and other products lots of women love. It’s a surprise every quarter, and I have friends who look forward to their FabFitFun box as if Christmas happens four times a year! They sell gift cards on the website, so pick the amount you want to give, and it will make a fun holiday gift. Give $200, and your friend or family member can receive a full year (four quarterly boxes) of FabFitFun! See it here. Click on “gift” at the top of the website to order a gift card.fall-2019@2x.jpg

  • Rent the Runway Gift Card. I’ve been slow to jump on the Rent the Runway bandwagon. Rent the Runway is a rental site for women’s clothing and accessories. I have lots of friends who have turned to Rent the Runway when they needed a dress for a special occasion, and they’ve loved it. Again, I’ve been slow to jump on the bandwagon, because I’m short…and things don’t always fit me without alterations. Recently though, I had lunch with my cousin who told me she loves Rent the Runway and suggested I try it. So I did. And guess what? I’m totally hooked! You can rent individual pieces, or you can join with a membership. I decided to try the “unlimited” membership for a month or two, and I absolutely love it! I’m having clothes shipped to my house, and when I’m done, I ship them back for free! My wardrobe has taken a giant step up! The site offers customer reviews and even photos of different customers wearing different items. Therefore, I recommend giving your fashion-forward friend a gift card to Rent the Runway. She can decide if she wants to rent a few pieces, or if she wants a membership. See it here.
  • Faux Fur Pull-through Scarf. Nobody loves faux fur like I love faux fur. In fact, I spend way too much of my downtime searching “faux fur” on various websites, just to see what types of coats and accessories are out there! I’ve always been a fan of the faux fur pull-through scarf, and this year, I love the ones offered by Surrell at Neiman Marcus. Priced at $85, there are several different colors from which to choose, and they will keep your friend or family member fashionable and warm throughout the winter. My personal favorite is the wine-colored scarf. Get them at Neiman Marcus here. And if you order online, don’t forget to have them send it gift-wrapped. Neiman Marcus gift boxes with beautiful bows always look pretty under the tree. ASOS.com also offers a lot of faux fur accessories. One I love is made by River Island and is only $19! It’s a longline fur scarf in multicolor. You can see it here. And what an awesome price! You can see it here.Ugg slippers. I never met an Ugg slipper I didn’t like. My mother knew for the last few years of her life that she would be getting some Ugg slippers from me for Christmas. I just like Uggs. They keep my feet warm and cozy when I need them to, but when it’s hot, they don’t get hot…somehow! Honestly, I recommend any type of Ugg slipper. For the past few months, I’ve been wearing the Cozette slipper ($79.95), and frankly, I have a hard time keeping them away from my daughter. The Ugg Fluff Yeah slingback ($99.95) is cute too! But any kind of Ugg slipper is awesome! See them at Nordstrom here.

Animal Print Accessories. I’ve seen animal print accessories everywhere this fall, and I love them! I’ve always been a fan of an animal print. Animal print can add some spice to any outfit. If I’m just wearing jeans and a t-shirt, I might throw on a leopard print jacket. Have someone on your list who might like some animal-print added to their repertoire?  Give some cheetah print shoes/boots and/or a scarf! A zebra print cuff bracelet makes a nice accent piece and a great gift. An animal-print belt is a fun way to dress up an outfit. Maybe someone on your list would like one? You can find animal print accessories just about anywhere women’s accessories are sold. And Amazon has some great scarves at great prices too! Here are a few animal-print accessories I love:

Kendra Scott Mood Jewelry.This is a repeat from last year, but I think mood jewelry is so much fun…and it makes me think of my childhood in the 1970s, when mood rings were everywhere! Kendra Scott has a whole line of mood rings and mood charms, starting at $35. See them all here.

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    Kendra Scott Leah Ring, Gold, Moonstone, $75, Kendrascott.com
  • Big O Key Rings. Another item that is back from the 70s and 80s is the big, circular key ring. My mother had one back in the day. It was easy to find the giant key ring in her handbag, but if she didn’t want to carry a bag, she could wear her keys on her wrist. My daughter recently got her driver’s license, and as soon as she did, she wanted one of these key rings. Priced at $54.95 at Swoozie’s, they come in a variety of colors and patterns, and they make a great gift. Get them here.
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    Big O Key Ring, Swoozies.com

  • Big O Clear Bracelet Bag. These make great gifts for folks who love to go to sporting events. At most arenas and stadiums now, large handbags are not permitted, but clear bags are. This small bags will carry identification, credit cards, lipgloss…all the essentials, and you still stay hands free by slipping the ring over your wrist! Get this for the woman who loves sports! Made of leather and PVC, this item is priced at $75.95. You can get it here.
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    Big O Clear Bracelet Bag, Swoozies.com

  • Longchamp XL Le Pliage Travel Bag. I like to travel. And I like to shop. When I was younger, I would often go shopping on trips, and when it was time to fly home, I couldn’t get everything into my luggage without a major struggle. Those days are gone. Now, I just pack my Longchamp Weekender into my checked bag, so when it’s time to come home, I can put all my new stuff in the Weekender as a carry on, or I can even check it with no problem. Priced at $155, it’s a bargain. Purchase direct from Longchamp here.
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    Longchamp XL Travel Bag, $155

  • Brooches. I know, your first thought it, “Brooches?!? That’s something my mother/grandmother wore!” Well, they’re back. Someone gave me a lovely bee brooch as a gift last year, and I’ve been obsessed with brooches since. I have found lovely brooches in lots of different places and in lots of different price ranges. What’s so great about a brooch? Well, you can add it to a jacket, dress, blouse, or sweater, and immediately, you’ve added a little something special to your ensemble.  Here are some I love: There are lots more suggestions I could make, but these are a good solid start for accessories for women for Holiday 2019. Over the next few weeks, I’ll list gifts in different categories: men, teens/college students, home, travel, stocking stuffers, and more! Stay tuned! And if you have any gift suggestions, please share!

***To see last year’s list of women’s accessories gifts, click here. You might find more inspiration!***

I Visited A Cult

Oh, yes, I did.

I visited the international training center of a cult, and on the surface, everything looked great.

But I’m going to try to refer to it as a “community” instead of a “cult.” I won’t say which “community” it was, but my 21-year-old nephew came into town with a friend over the weekend, and on Friday night, he announced to me that they wanted to visit a cult (he used the word “cult”) on Saturday…and he wanted me to go with them. I had questions, of course. “You don’t want to join the cult, right?” “Why do you want to go?” “How far away is it?” “Is it scary?”

He showed me the group’s website. It looked pretty benign, And it said they welcome visitors, so I agreed to go, and we made plans to leave the next day. I should mention my husband thinks we are all nuts.

Early Saturday afternoon, we got into the SUV and drove over an hour to the address listed on the website. We were excited to see what we would find! Upon arrival, we drove into the parking lot at the front of the group of houses and got out. We walked around looking for people, but all we saw were sheep out front eating hay. One of the sheep had a penchant for magnolia leaves, so we watched them for a while and discussed what we should do.

Ultimately, we decided to go to another road and approach from the back. When we drove into a back parking lot, we saw a woman stick her head around a fence. I asked my nephew’s friend to put down her passenger-side window, and in my best sweet southern voice, I said, “Hey! We read on your website that y’all welcome visitors! We’re just curious and would like to find out what y’all are all about!” Once she decided we were friendly, she offered to show us around. She explained we weren’t seeing many people because Saturday is the Sabbath, and most people were resting.

We followed her into the dining hall/meeting room, which was lovely…clean and nicely decorated. We ran into a couple more friendly people inside who readily introduced themselves. From there, she showed us the barn area, where they had goats and cows. And after that, we walked over to one of the community’s houses, where members of the “community” had gathered outside for music. We were offered tea, and we all took a cup. I thought it was delicious, and my nephew did too, but I noticed his friend was holding hers…not drinking it. I knew she was thinking about Jonestown, so I took the tea off her hands and drank it myself.

We were welcomed with open arms by everyone gathered outside, and we asked any questions we could think of. Are people free to come and go as they please? Yes. If someone leaves the community, are they shunned? No. Do y’all drink alcohol? No. What are your beliefs? How do you support yourselves? I wanted my nephew to ask if they used cannabis, but none of us had the nerve to ask that. I thought I smelled it wafting out of a house at one point, but I couldn’t be sure. And this group believes everyone should work together for the greater good of the community. Every person contributes by working…like bees in a hive. Children are educated onsite. We weren’t bashful…we asked questions. We didn’t ask in a threatening way…we asked in a curious way, which is exactly what we were…curious.

We left after a couple of hours thinking, “This isn’t a cult at all! They’re just a religious commune!” Everyone was so friendly. They were very reserved, but they were friendly. We had no reason to believe they were anything but good folks.

And then, after we got home, we googled the name of their “community,” and that’s when things got weird!

Unbeknownst to us, just last week, the FBI had released from their vault information from a 2013 investigation into this particular group. At the top of the report, it says, “Open investigation based on allegations that children are being sexually exploited.” And somehow, we decided to visit right after the report was released from the vault? We had no idea! In the report, there is testimony from former members of the community with allegations of child labor, sexual abuse, sexual orgies, and drug use. That led us to look at other websites, where we found allegations of community members being held against their will…and more. And honestly, it frightened us. Is any of the “testimony” true? I don’t know, but it was enough to make my hair stand on end.

And it made me a little sad. I thought of the sweet people we had met. Most of them were friendly, but some of them were looking at us wide-eyed, and one of them appeared a little unstable, but we chalked it up to dementia. But after reading everything, I couldn’t help but wonder if some of the wide-eyed ones were desperate to leave. Were they unhappy? Were they being abused? Did they want us to take them with us? Did they want to pass us notes asking us to send help? Of course, that’s all my imagination. No one, at any time, indicated they were unhappy. In fact, most of them appeared very happy.

In hindsight, I’m glad we didn’t google the community before we went, because we never would have gone. I believe there are some good people in that group. Are there bad folks? I don’t know. But I’m guessing that will be my only visit to their commune. We went unannounced, but didn’t see anything suspicious. Of course, my nephew’s friend pointed out that we were really only shown the animals and the interior of one building, which was almost unoccupied at the time, so there wasn’t much opportunity for us to see anything nefarious.

Giving them the benefit of the doubt, they seemed like nice people. Of course, someone else pointed out to me that “of course they were nice! They wanted y’all to join!” Yeah…they probably didn’t want me. I’m way beyond child-bearing years, and I’m sure they could take one look at me and tell I’m way too high maintenance. My nephew, on the other hand, is low maintenance, strong, hardworking, good-looking, musically talented, and artistic. Any cult would love to have him. His friend is pretty and outgoing…they’d love to have a young lady join up, I’m sure. But I would have been a total drain on their system.

And in their defense, the FBI closed the 2013 investigation. Since I never read anything about any arrests, and they didn’t invade the place like they did with David Koresh and the Branch Davidians, I’m guessing they didn’t uncover enough evidence to support the allegations.

Either way, we got out unscathed. If anyone ever tries to hold me at a commune, they will run me off as soon as they figure out I don’t even know how to mop very well!

On our way home, I thought of how happy my parents would be that my nephew was hanging out with me in North Carolina. And I wished I could call them to tell them about the experience…they would have loved hearing about it.

 

Where Are The Killer Bees?!?

In the 1970s, the fear was real.

If you were alive then, you know it’s true. You likely had some fear of killer bees, quicksand, and UFOs. Thanks to movies and TV, we heard about them all the time.

UFOs are featured on an episode of The Brady Bunch…Peter and Bobby think they see a UFO, only to find out it’s a hoax carried out by oldest brother, Greg. See a clip here from the episode titled Out of This World. We saw quicksand on Gilligan’s Island and lots of other shows. See a clip from a quicksand episode of Gilligan’s Island called Man With a Net  here. And killer bees? Movies about killer bees were rampant in the 1970s…The Savage Bees, The Swarm...we were scared.

When I was seven, I attended a high school bonfire with a neighborhood friend and her family. She had older siblings, so she got to go to all the cool stuff. I remember the excitement around it. I thought the bonfire was amazing…right up until panic set in. It seemed like everyone got scared, but it might have just been the little kids. Somehow, we thought a UFO was in the area. I think someone saw a helicopter and thought it was an alien spaceship. Kids started running in all directions. We ran to my friend’s mother’s car…and we talked about it at school for weeks. I don’t know how likely it was that an alien spaceship wanted to investigate kids and teenagers in Brewton, Alabama, but my 7-year-old self was convinced they wanted me. Our fears were fed by movies like Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Escape to Witch Mountain (which starred a young Kim Richards of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills). Call me crazy, but I still think aliens from far away lands might be watching us. I’m always watching for flying saucers in the sky. If there is ever a UFO in my area…and if I’m awake…I’m going to be the one who sees it.

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I spent my entire childhood worrying about quicksand. Like I said, it was featured in cartoons and television shows. I remember seeing it on Gilligan’s Island; Johnny Quest; Scooby Doo; Batman; Fantasy Island; The Six Million Dollar Man; Tarzan; The Dukes of Hazard; and more. It was everywhere on television, and we watched a lot of television as kids. That was our screen time. We saw quicksand so often on television that we thought it must be everywhere. In Alabama, back then, we still had woods where we could roam. I didn’t roam as much as my brother did, but when I did, if I found myself stepping into thick mud, I was immediately convinced it was quicksand. My friend, Mary Ann, says she used to poke the ground with a big stick in front of her to make sure it wasn’t quicksand. It seemed that any time quicksand was featured on TV, the victim sank completely, drowning in it or they sank up to his/her neck…except for one dead arm sticking out. For years, I thought that anyone who died in quicksand left one arm sticking up out of it. Yet, I’ve never seen quicksand. I’ve seen a warning sign for it near the Battleship USS Alabama, in Mobile, but I don’t know if it’s still there. So where did all the quicksand go?!?! Why don’t we hear about it anymore?

As for killer bees…well, that fear was absolutely real. They were on every kid’s mind in the south. Heck, we already had fire ants before everyone else, and those were scary enough. But killer bees?!?!? Those were like flying fire ants! I remember watching a made-for-TV movie called The Savage Bees in 1976. It was about a ship that arrived in New Orleans with a dead crew….killer bees. That television movie just made it more real for me. New Orleans was just a couple of hours way from where I lived in Spanish Fort, Alabama! What if killer bees came in on a ship from another country? It was almost enough to make a kid afraid to go outside, because if killer bees were in the area, there was no escaping them, according to the TV movie. If they wanted you, they would get you…through cracks under doors and vents to get into your house. I don’t remember all the details, but I know a lady drove an “airtight” VW Beetle into the Superdome with a swarm of bees all over it. She drove onto the field, and when the temperature reached a certain point (49 degrees?), the bees died…saving the city of New Orleans and the rest of the US from the savage bees.

Movies and TV loved trying to scare us in the 1970s. Maybe you remember Skylab falling. Remember Jaws? Weren’t we all afraid to go into the water? Heck…I’m still afraid! Or who remembers Squirm? It was released in 1976. It was a movie about worms attacking people. I was in fourth grade when it was released. I didn’t get to see it, because it was rated R, but my friend, Greg Wilson, got to see it. I remember when he came to school talking about it, and we all gathered around to hear about it. He’s fearless now, and I guess his parents knew he was fearless then.

Anytime I mention quicksand, UFOs, or killer bees to a friend or family member who was alive in the 1970s, we laugh…it becomes a funny conversation. And then, we always talk about how we never hear about those things anymore.

Maybe I should be reminding folks to be careful…watch for quicksand under your feet; watch for UFOs in the sky; and drive an airtight VW Beetle to avoid the killer bees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunflowers

Sunflowers look like happy faces. The young ones all face the same direction…toward the sun (to read why, click here). It’s not sunflower season, but pictures of them can sure brighten a dreary, winter day. They were my daddy’s favorite flower and by default, they became my mother’s favorite too. Bees love them too. Big fields of them cause people to stop on the sides of highways for photos. Because they were my parents’ favorite, they became my favorite too.

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This month is my parents’ 57th wedding anniversary (February 18), but they aren’t here to celebrate. That’s why sunflowers are featured in the Facebook cover photo. I took that picture last summer when my friend, Meg, and I drove up to Flat Rock to see our friend, Linda, perform the role of Ursula in The Little Mermaid. We stopped right on the side of the highway and took a bunch of photos.IMG_8684

Mother died December 30. It wasn’t really expected, but not entirely unexpected either. She had been in failing health for some time, but I didn’t see it coming. We talked every day, and even before Thanksgiving, she started saying, “Always remember I love you.” I thought she was just being sentimental, but in reality, she knew she was dying. Denial was strong for me. Looking back, I should have known, but I didn’t.  She mothered me for 50 years, and she was “Mama” to anyone who needed her. Fortunately, I was with her when she passed. There was no doubt she knew I loved her, and I knew she loved me. That’s all that matters.

FullSizeRender-27When my daddy died in October 2006, we had time to prepare and time to have those long, meaningful conversations. He had been diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer in February of that year, so we knew. We spent lots of time reminiscing with him and making jokes, because if we didn’t laugh, we would cry. He helped us get out of jams our whole lives, but we couldn’t get him out of this jam. Since our daughter was not quite three, she wasn’t enrolled in real school yet, so our little family moved down to our little condo on the bay near my parents’ house in Alabama for the last couple months of his life. We are grateful for that time together.

My husband and I got married in August of 2000, and the next spring, I planted sunflowers all over our backyard, half expecting them to survive. Surprisingly, those sunflowers grew to be the biggest I’ve ever seen! The blooms were way bigger than my head, and I have a big head. Some of the stalks were thicker than my arm, and lots of them grew to be ten feet tall…or more! When it was time, I stood on a step stool and still had trouble reaching some of the blooms to cut them.

Mother and Daddy were proud. Sunflowers are pretty easy to grow, but I had worked hard fertilizing them, staking them, and watering them. Unfortunately, we didn’t have cell phone cameras then. I did take some pictures, and they’re in the house somewhere, but I have no idea where. After that year, I never planted sunflowers again; I developed a fear that I would stick my hands in the soil and pull out a snake.

This spring, however, I plan to honor my parents by planting OUR favorites, sunflowers, in my backyard again. I’m going to overcome my fear of snakes and plant those flowers so Mother and Daddy can look down and smile.

If you want to grow your own, they’re pretty hardy flowers. You can order seeds here. There are probably more varieties than you know. The year I had all my sunflowers, I planted the seeds in trays and transferred them when they were a few inches tall, but I’ve heard people say it’s just as easy to grow them straight from the soil.

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I think the sunflowers Meg and I ran across were just west of Shelby on the south side of Highway 74. Another friend, Carolyn, tells me there is a big field of sunflowers on Hallsboro Road near Hallsboro, NC.

***Read about other sunflower fields at the bottom of the page.***

So this summer, when you see a field of sunflowers on the side of the road, I hope you’ll stop and take pictures. I’ll stop at every sunflower field I see, and I’ll be thinking of Mother and Daddy.

If you know of any sunflower fields anywhere in the US, please share the location in the comments. And please remember to invite your friends to follow Kelly Mattei’s Favorite Things on Facebook.

In the meantime, keep facing the sun…

 

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Sunflower field locations 

ALABAMA

*According to Country Living’s website, there has been a sunflower field in Autauga County, Alabama, in 2016, at the intersection of Highway 14 and Highway 33. Click here to go to their website and see an aerial video (by Alabama Aerial Photography) of the field. It’s incredible! I’m hoping it’s an annual planting.

*In Summerdale, Alabama, Alligator Alley has had a field in years past. This is located in Baldwin County, about 30 miles north of Gulf Shores, AL. It’s a small field, but easily accessible to visitors of Alligator Alley. Learn more about Alligator Alley here.

*I’ve seen photos of a sunflower field at Cornfield County Farms, just north of Montgomery, Alabama, in Elmore County. See more about that here.

GEORGIA

*The Anderson’s Sunflowers are located on Shiloh Road, in Cumming, Georgia, just north of Atlanta. You can see their Facebook page here.

NORTH CAROLINA:

*The previously mentioned flowers on Highway 74, west of Shelby; and the field in Hallsboro.

*Visit The Biltmore in Asheville between July and September, and you can see their sunflowers by the road to Antler Hill Village. See more about that here.

PENNSYLVANIA

*According to Heraldmailmedia.com, there has been an annual field in Marion, Pennsylvania, at Lesher’s Poultry Farm. Read more about that here.

SOUTH CAROLINA

*The Draper Wildlife Management area in Western York County, SC. Click here for more info. I visited this one with my friend, Jenn, and our girls a few years ago. When we went, they were smaller sunflowers, but beautiful, nonetheless.

VIRGINIA

*Burnside Farms in Haymarket, Virginia, hosts the Summer of Sunflowers. You can find out more about that here.

SUNFLOWER FESTIVALS

*There are sunflower festivals all over the world! Maybe my friend, Mary Ann, will road trip with me to a Sunflower Festival this summer. To find more info about those, click here. 

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