Holiday Gifting 2021 (Part 3): College Students

Gifting for college students.

This is on my brain for a reason…our daughter is off to college next fall. This holiday season, we plan to start getting her prepared for dorm life. Yes, dorm life! I know all college students don’t live in dorms, so this list has lots of ideas for the college student who lives in a dorm and for the college student who doesn’t. I did a lot of research and gave it a lot of thought, and here are my gift suggestions:

  • She’s Birdie Personal Alarm. I saw this on Shark Tank, and it immediately made me think of my younger years. I remember being in college and having to park in a dark area in the parking lot at night…then jumping out of the car and running as fast as I could to my dorm. Even after college, I remember going out in Buckhead (Atlanta) with friends and walking to my car alone. It was scary. I wish I’d had a She’s Birdie Personal Alarm then. It’s a small keychain alarm that is equipped with a loud alarm and strobe lights. Walking from the library to the dorm at night? Hold the She’s Birdie alarm in your hand and simply press the button if you need the alarm. Priced at $29.99 on Amazon, it’s a bargain for some peace of mind. Our daughter will receive one of these for Christmas this year. And frankly, I will probably get one for myself too! To purchase, click here.
She’s Birdie personal alarm
  • Crunch Cup XL. I love this idea, and I think it’s perfect for the busy college student. It’s advertised as a portable cereal cup…no spoon, no bowl. “It’s cereal on the go.” Honestly, I think my daughter could use this right now, her senior year of high school. She will definitely find one of these under the tree this year. I don’t know that she will use it “on the go” in college, but I do think she will use it in her dorm room. Priced at $24.95 on Amazon, it comes in several different colors. See it here.
Crunch Cup XL
  • Games. Sure, college students need to study, but they need downtime too. When I was in college, we went out a lot at night, but on nights we stayed in, during study breaks, we enjoyed playing games. Our favorite then was Yahtzee, and we played it all the time! Now, there are lots of fun “card” games college students love to play, and they make great gifts. There’s one called Cards Against Humanity that’s especially popular. And there are others: For the Girls, We’re Not Really Strangers, Never Have I Ever, That’s What She Said…and more. You can find all of these on Amazon or in your local Target or Walmart in the games aisle. You can purchase Cards Against Humanity from Amazon for $25 here.
Cards Against Humanity
  • Giant Hoodie. This is a great gift for a college student…or anyone else on your list. I discovered the Giant Hoodie company a year or two ago, and I had to have some for myself. Now I give them as gifts all the time. My daughter loves hers. They’re big hoodies that are one size fits all, so you don’t have to worry about insulting someone by getting the wrong size. And for students living in dorms, they can just throw it on with some PJ pants or sweatpants for some cozy comfort that’s OK to wear out of the dorm too. You can purchase directly from the company or order through Amazon for $60. On Amazon, they offer the bleach dyed version, which is my favorite. The ones that aren’t bleach dyed are softer, but the bleach died ones have more body, in my opinion, so I prefer those. To purchase on Amazon, click here.
Giant Hoodie Bleach Dye Hoodie
  • Portable Charger. I know I put this on every list, but I believe everyone should have a good portable charger. Our family uses them all the time…when we’re traveling, at sporting events…any time we find ourselves running low on battery power with our cell phones. Many times, my daughter’s friends have had to borrow one. They’re handy when you don’t have access to a plug-in power cord (in class or in the library, maybe?). The Anker Power Core 10000 gets great reviews. It charges fast (full phone charge in about an hour!) and it lasts a long time. Prices start at $24.99 on Amazon for the black version, and it’s $31.99 for different colors. See it here.
Power Core 10000
  • Storage Ottoman. Don’t we all remember those tiny dorm rooms? Everyone needs more storage, and these cute ottomans serve several purposes, because they also have side pockets for your phone, tablet, or book. Even better, these are collapsible and fold away for easy storage when not in use. Priced at $24.95, they’re a bargain, and they come in two colors: purple (shown below) and khaki. See them at Amazon here.
Storage Ottoman
  • Inflatable Chair. OK, so it’s not necessarily practical for home use, but this can be great in a tiny dorm room, because they can be inflated when someone needs a chair and deflated when you don’t need it. I remember having friends visit in my dorm room, and I didn’t want them to have to sit on the floor, but I didn’t want them sitting on my bed either. This would have been perfect for me back in 1985! Priced at $41.95 on Amazon here. You might consider purchasing an electric air pump as well.
Inflatable Chair
  • Weighted Blanket. I’ve sung the praises of the weighted blanket before, and I continue…because they’re awesome. I often sleep with mine on my feet and legs, because somehow, it relaxes me. College students know a little something about stress, so why not help them with that by providing a weighted blanket? The most popular, highly rated brand (by Good Housekeeping) seems to be the Gravity Blanket. You can find them on Amazon here, priced from $79 to $199.
Gravity Blanket
  • Bedside Caddy. Lots of college students who live in dorms tend to raise their beds, so they have more room underneath. For those students, a bedside caddy can help keep frequently used items handy, so they don’t have to keep climbing (literally) in and out of bed. I spoke with a couple of current college students, and they both like the Zafit caddy from Amazon. Priced at just $7.99, it’s a steal! And students will definitely use it! See it here.
Zafit Bedside Caddy
  • Noise-Cancelling Headphones. Studying in a group-living situation can be difficult. There are distractions everywhere…lots of opportunities to abandon studying. And there is noise. Anyone who has ever lived in a dorm knows sometimes the noise is out of hand. That’s where noise-cancelling headphones can come in handy. They make a great gift. There are lots of different brands, but Anker SoundCore has them starting at $49 on Amazon…and they get great reviews! See them here.
Anker SoundCore Noise Cancelling Headphones
  • First Aid Kit. Every college student needs a good first aid kit, and according to Business Insider, the best one is the First Aid Only All-Purpose Essentials Soft-Sided First Aid Kit, which is available on Amazon right now for $20.01. It contains 298 pieces and includes Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen tablets, which are not included in many. Personally, I would add more analgesics, a Flonase, allergy meds, and some Neosporin to make it complete. Get it at Amazon here.
First Aid Only Kit
  • Nightlight and Alarm Clock. There’s nothing worse than getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and stubbing a toe, and it can happen easily in a tiny dorm room. We know students need alarm clocks, so why not get a cute one with a built-in night light and a bluetooth speaker, to boot?! The one that keeps showing up when I’m looking is made by WamGra and is available on Amazon for $38.99 here.

Nightlight Alarm Clock/Bluetooth speaker
  • Kanga Kase Mate. This is a late addition. I found this when I was researching gifts for men, and it occurred to me I needed to come back and add this to the list of gifts for college students. It’s not secret lots of students like to drink beer. Those same students need a cooler, and if they aren’t old enough to drink beer, they need a cooler for their soft drinks. This Kanga Kase Mate is iceless! It’s an insulated cooler that keeps your cold beer, well, cold. With prices starting at $39.99, it’s a deal. See the offerings at Kanga here.
  • Away Luggage and Baboon to the Moon. I’ve mentioned both of these in other holiday gift posts, but they need to be mentioned here too, since college students like to stay on the go. I see college students visiting their friends at different colleges all the time, and they need easy luggage. Away has well-built rollable luggage that carry a lifetime warranty. I have the original carry-on size, and it holds way more than I ever imagined it would. Add a mini go-bag from Baboon to the Moon (a crazy name for a really well-constructed, waterproof bag) and I can pack enough for five or even six days in just those two bags. See Away Luggage here, and Baboon to the Moon here.
  • Gift Cards. If you don’t know anything else about college students, you should know they love gift cards. They love gift cards from lots of different places, but here are the ones I recommend: Uber (for late-night rides home), Amazon (they also love Prime Memberships), ChickFilA, Starbucks, Domino’s Pizza, Best Buy, PostMates, GrubHub, Target, Walmart, Netflix, Hulu, Whole Foods, Publix, The Container Store, H&M, and any local eateries. You can buy different company gift cards in Target and probably in your local grocery store. Or purchase online from each company. Students will definitely use gift cards, and be generous if you can!
Gift cards
  • Cash. I know lots of people don’t like to give cash, but students love cold hard cash. Give a college student some cash, and watch a face light up! Or you can even send money via Venmo. I often give cash as gifts with a card that labels it as “walking around money,” or “WAM,” as my daddy used to call it. Everybody needs a little money in their pockets, and while etiquette might tell you cash is not the way to go, I can guarantee most college students are going to appreciate it.

So get busy shopping now for those current or future college students! Our daughter will be getting several of the gifts listed above. All the gifts listed above are pretty easy to get right away, but I can’t promise they’ll be available as the holidays get closer!

Goodbye, Christmas Tree (and goodbye, 2020)

Goodbye, Christmas tree.

We took our Christmas tree down today, December 29. I know lots of people leave their trees up till the Epiphany, but we don’t. Usually, late on Christmas Day, my husband will turn to me and say, “Can’t we take down the tree now?” I always manage to get him to hold off till the 26th, but that’s usually his limit. I guess the pandemic is getting to him, because I didn’t even have to talk him into leaving it up this long this year. But today was the limit. This afternoon, while our teenage daughter was at work (she has a job!), we took the ornaments off the tree, and I wrapped them and packed them up. We worked together, and within an hour or two, our house no longer looked like Christmas.

There is one lone present left in the foyer where the tree used to be. We gave my husband a fire pit for Christmas, and we also got him a box of firewood. The firewood is still in the foyer, but I feel pretty sure he will move it to the storage room in the pool house tonight. While I know the Christmas season isn’t over, at our house, the decorations are gone. Of course, over the course of the next month, I will likely find little touches of Christmas here and there, but for the most part, the decorations are gone. I did leave my “Christmas llama” out just for a friend to find when she visits! It’s actually a little Christmas decoration that’s really an Airedale Terrier. I got it the Christmas after my Airedale, Annie, died…just to remind me of her every holiday season. But when my friend was visiting recently, she saw it and asked, “Is that a Christmas llama???” I laughed out loud…so now I’m leaving it out just for her.

Tomorrow is the third anniversary of my mother’s passing…a day I dread. We will tell stories about her tomorrow and have a Bailey’s and coffee in her memory. I think of her every single day, and honestly, I probably say something about her every day too, so she is definitely remembered. My friend, Jane, calls and texts me all the time with stories about my mother, and my brother and I talk about her too. She is remembered well, and she is still loved.

And then we roll right into New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. We will be home for New Year’s Eve…as usual. We will likely have a cocktail or two and watch a movie. This year, we probably won’t be asleep before midnight, because we have to stay up till our daughter is in for the night, but we will definitely be in our pajamas. I have already planned ahead for New Year’s Day. Today, I made some bean soup that includes black-eyed peas and pork. I’ll cook some collard greens on New Year’s Day, and hopefully, all those things will bring us good luck, good health, and lots of money in 2021!

On New Year’s Day, I will watch a lot of football, and I will go back through all the Christmas cards we received this year. I love getting Christmas cards every year. I admire the creativity of my friends and family. Thank you to everyone who sent us cards. One friend made beautiful homemade cards from leaves at her family farm. Another made a cute postcard with a photo of her sons posing with a cool truck…I love the postcard idea. My honorary niece, a new bride, sent a beautiful card with a wedding photo. Lots of friends sent pics of their kids; I love seeing them grow every year. And one friend sent a Happy New Year card that featured her dogs. That description, however, does not do it justice. I loved the front…her two dogs wearing Christmas hats, sitting on her porch…one in a red chair and one in front of what appears to be a Coca-Cola themed table…Christmas lights wrapping the banister…with the words, “well…THAT was CRAZY! Happy 2021 (finally)” Adorable. On the back? She quotes John McClane from Die Hard with, “Welcome to the party, pal.” And there’s a photo that was featured in newspapers and online news stories all over the country in the late summer and fall…a long line of people waiting to get into Gallette’s, our favorite college bar in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. News outlets all over the country picked up the photo while reporting about reckless college students during the coronavirus pandemic. What they didn’t know was that several of the folks in that photo were actually middle-aged alumni…including my friend (and other friends too)! She drew a big red arrow pointing to herself in the line, and to memorialize the year, she also featured a picture of a toilet-paper themed cake…definitely a sign of the times.

So as I welcome in 2021 and say goodbye (and good riddance) to 2020, I’m feeling some pressure to do a better job on my Christmas card in 2021. Ours featured a photo of our teenage daughter holding one of our dogs on the front. When I edited the photo, I had to put glasses on the dog, because in the original, she had what we refer to as “devil-dog eyes,” as they reflected the camera’s flash. It looked evil…not a good luck for a Christmas card…so I put red sunglasses on her after the fact. The glasses were not creative…just a necessity. But in 2021, I want to do better. I’m guessing I should start thinking about it now.

Of course, tonight, I’m tired from taking down the tree and carrying all that stuff upstairs. I won’t officially start thinking about next year’s card till January 2, but I’m open to suggestions! In the meantime, enjoy a safe New Year’s Eve!

Happy New Year! And bring on that vaccine!

I Won’t Get Jewelry for Valentine’s Day

I won’t get jewelry for Valentine’s Day.

That’s one thing I know for sure. My husband and I agreed a long time ago that Valentine’s Day isn’t a time for us to exchange big gifts. It’s a little celebration that means little gifts. In fact, if my husband got me jewelry for Valentine’s Day, I’d be a little upset with him. Long ago, my husband learned that I’d rather have a vacation than jewelry, so he just lets me plan my own vacations, and frankly, I think he loves that the pressure is off.

Every year, we also pretend “Cupid” came by our house on the eve of Valentine’s Day. Cupid always leaves a few little gifts for our daughter, who is now 16 and thinks the whole Cupid thing is ridiculous, but she likes the little treats anyway. Remember how I mentioned my teenage daughter’s eye rolls in my piece about work pants? Well, when we tell her Cupid visited (or the leprechaun visited on St. Patrick’s Day), we get one of those eye rolls.

Cupid is bringing bite-sized cupcakes from Baked by Melissa this year for the whole family! You might still have time to order if you do it quickly! Order here.

Since it’s getting a little late for ordering things for Valentine’s Day, here are some things you can get locally at the last minute:

  • Valentine card. I know, it sounds obvious, but lots of us forget to get or make an old-fashioned Valentine card. In fact, maybe I’ll make a card for my husband this year. I love a good craft. That doesn’t mean I’m always good at crafts, but it’s the thought that counts, right? Country Living has some great DIY card ideas here.
  • Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. Krispy Kreme has some heart shaped doughnuts with icing for Valentine’s Day this year, and my mouth waters just thinking about them. I was talking with a single friend yesterday and told her to go buy some Krispy Kreme Valentine doughnuts to celebrate her love for herself. In fact, I  might have to pick up a dozen for me too!
  • Dunkin’ Donuts. Dunkin’ Donuts also offers heart-shaped donuts for the special day. I love Dunkin’ Donuts too…and I’d love to get Medium Iced Coffee with cream and four Splendas with those Donuts!
  • Chick-Fil-A heart-shaped trays. Chicken is the new chocolate! ChickFilA got in on the Valentine’s Day game a couple of years ago, and this year, they are continuing the tradition. You can get ChickFilA Chicken Minis, nuggets, or their chocolate chunk cookies in a heart-shaped tray. I’d love for my husband to surprise me with breakfast in bed this weekend! What says “I love you” more than some Chick-Fil-A Chicken Minis served in a heart-shaped tray?! Hint hint, honey! You can read Chick-fil-A’s blog post about them here.
  • Papa John’s Pizza. Papa John’s will deliver a heart-shaped pizza right to your house! Right now, they have a special…a heart-shaped pizza plus a brownie for $16! That’s delicious and inexpensive! Order on the website here.
  • Olive Garden. I don’t even know the last time I stepped foot into an Olive Garden, but I do remember some yummy bread and salad from there. Well, they have a Valentine’s Day Dinner to Go for Two that starts at $35.99. For that price, you get breadsticks with a choice of soup or salad, a choice of dipping sauce, an entree for two (Chicken Alfredo or Five Cheese Ziti al forno), and a dessert to share. It’s actually a good deal and a good idea! You can order here.
  • Flowers. Sure, you can order from your local florist, which is always a great way to surprise your Valentine and a great way to support the local economy. But if you find yourself in a bind on Valentine’s Day, you might be able to find some beautiful fresh flowers in your local grocery store.
  • Any Favorite Bakery item. My husband has surprised me with some of my favorite bakery items for Valentine’s Day, and I’m always thrilled by that. One year, he brought me a patty cake sized chocolate cake with buttercream icing, and very little makes me happier than that.
  • Gift card/certificate. I have lots of friends who would love to receive a gift card or certificate for a mani/pedi or for a massage at a local spa. Or maybe your loved one would rather have a night out? You can give a restaurant gift card, and instead of going out on a very crowded Valentine’s Day that falls on a Friday this year, promise to go on another night!
  • Coffee in bed. Lots of people would love nothing more than a good cup of coffee served in bed first thing in the morning.
  • Bottle of Champagne. What’s more romantic than a bottle of Champagne? You can run into your local grocery store or wine store and grab it on the way home on Valentine’s Day!
  • Cheap Valentine’s Candy. Last year I wrote how one of my favorite Valentine’s gifts was a box of conversation hearts from someone I’d only gone out with once. It was perfectly simple and sweet. You can run into any local Target, Walmart, or grocery store and grab some different Valentine’s candies for you Valentine. I love Reese’s Peanut Butter Hearts myself.

It’s just two days away, so we’re down to the wire for Valentine’s Day gifts. Hopefully, you got a few ideas here. Personally, I’d love to wake up with coffee and Chick-Fil-A Chicken Minis in bed, followed by the special Valentine lunch from Olive Garden with a bottle of Champagne, and maybe order a heart-shaped pizza from Papa John’s before having every possible heart-shaped doughnut in town for dessert! Oh, and I’d need some iced coffee somewhere in there too.

Hoping you have a Happy Valentine’s Day!

What Do You Do With Christmas Cards?

A friend asked me recently what I do with my Christmas cards when the holidays are over. She said she had been admonished by friends after she told them she throws them away. And I started thinking: what do other people do with their holiday cards after the new year rolls in?

I posted the question on my personal Facebook page and got lots of interesting answers. I had no idea people got so creative with their cards! At our house, as cards come in, we put them on our Christmas tree. That way, we get to see them all the time, and anyone who visits can see them too. Just in case you want to ask…the placement is totally random. But when we take down our tree, I take one more look at the cards before disposing of them. When my mother was alive, I would put them all in a Ziploc bag and show them to her when I visited her during the holidays. But since she passed away, my husband would kill me for keeping extra stuff around!

As your holiday greetings arrive this year, put some thought into what you might do with them. Here are some things my own friends do with their holiday photo cards:

  • BOXES/TRUNKS. Several people said they have every holiday photo card they have ever received. Seriously?!?! I came across one from a few years ago when I was getting the ornaments out of the bin. It was the two lovely daughters of a neighbor…I’m talking to you, Jennie from the block. But that’s the only old card I’ve found. I think I probably have a Ziploc bag or two stashed somewhere, but we likely won’t find them till we clean out the house to sell it…who knows when that will be?!
  • PHONE CONTACT. Three very creative friends said they use the Christmas card photos as the contact photo for the person in their phone. They take a picture of it, save it in their contacts, and then they dispose of the actual card after the holidays.
  • PHOTO ALBUM. Several friends said they put the photo cards from family and/or close friends in a photo album, so they can see how they change over the years. That’s actually a lovely idea…too bad I didn’t think of it twenty years ago!
  • LAMINATED PLACE MATS. Yet another friend said that when her kids were little, they would cut the pictures out of the cards and make laminated placemats for Valentines Day! Wow! But then they threw them away after that.
  • BIBLE. Another lovely idea? Place the photo cards in places throughout your Bible. Then when you come to that picture during the year, pray for that family. Wow…that one is impressive too. Afterward, she throws them away.
  • SENIOR CITIZENS’ CHURCH GROUP. My friend, Linda, keeps them in a red and green bow basket till the next year, and she enjoys looking at them as she addresses the next year’s cards. After that…she donates them to the senior citizens’ group at her church, where they are used for craft projects. As she said, “They are born again!”
  • HOLE PUNCH/CLIP/RING. A couple of people said they hole punch them, and put them on a clip/ring…keeping them on the coffee table as a conversation piece. One of them keeps them on the ring for eternity, and the other throws them away after the holidays.
  • ST JUDE’S RANCH. One friend suggested sending them to St Jude’s Ranch’s Recycled Card Program. They are not able to use all greeting cards, but you can read at their link to see what they are able to accept. Great idea! See the link here. 
  • ORNAMENTS. One person said she has a friend who cuts the photos out and attaches them to cardboard ornaments to regift to the original sender! That’s a great one too!
  • SEND BACK. And here’s another idea I like: one friend said she has a friend who keeps all the cards for a year, and the next year, she sends them back to the original sender with a little handwritten note. I like that idea too!

So go ahead and start thinking now about what you’re going to do with all those cards as they’re coming in this year! I will still display ours on our Christmas tree throughout the season, just as I always do. When Christmas is over, I will gather them up and put them in a Ziploc bag till I decide what I want to do. I might actually keep them this year and make ornaments for my friends/family for next year. That’s ambitious, though, so don’t be surprised if I don’t pull it off!

Christmas Card Photos

Have you finished your holiday shopping? How about your holiday travel plans? Have you locked in your airline reservations? What about hotels? And just when you think you have everything done, you remember you have to do holiday cards! Try finding a picture of the whole family together…good luck finding one where everyone is behaving nicely.

Yesterday, I said to my husband, “We need to get a photo for our Christmas cards.” He asked, “Can’t we just do a card with no picture this year?”

And you know the top of my head almost blew off before I calmly said, “No. Our card always has a picture on it.” He replied, “Well, maybe this year we change it up.” Nope. Nope. And nope.

So last night, I sat down and starting scrolling through the pictures on my cellphone, trying to find one that would work. I could find pictures of my daughter and me. I found pictures of my husband and my daughter. I found pictures of me and my husband. But finding a pic of all three of us? That’s tough.

I decided to get creative. Since I couldn’t find a good picture of all three of us, I decided I would create one! I found a picture of Velma, Daphne, and Shaggy from one of the Scooby Doo movies, and I superimposed our faces onto their bodies. Yes, I let my daughter be Daphne, and I became Velma, while my husband was Shaggy. I laughed till I cried thinking of my husband dressing and acting like Shaggy. And my daughter walked in while I was laughing by myself. She looked at me like I’m a weirdo…the same way she always looks at me, because she’s a teenager…and asked, “What are you doing?!” I said, “Working on our Christmas card picture.” And I showed her my creation. She was not amused.

So I tried something else and put our faces on Carly, Sam, and Freddie from iCarly. It had the show’s logo across the top, and I kept Spencer in the photo too. If you’re familiar with Nickelodeon’s iCarly, you know the characters. If you’re not familiar with the show, you can see info here. When I showed that picture to my daughter, she let me know I was taking things too far, “Mom, no. Just no.” Seriously, though, her reaction made me really want to use that one on the card.

But after that, I tried a different approach. I found a picture I liked of me and my daughter, and I added my husband’s face to it…like he is sticking his head into the picture from the side. When I showed it to the daughter, she laughed and said, “Add the dogs too!” So I did. It was a joke, but then, I kind of liked it, and the daughter liked it too. But the husband absolutely did not approve. In fact, he went back to “can’t we have a card with no picture?” I told him that indeed, he could, if he were married to someone else, but I love photo cards! And he said, “Let’s take a picture of the three of us this weekend though, and we can do that.” He has no idea how hard it is to get all three of us together…showered….dressed….and photo ready…at the same time.

So at some point this weekend, we will try to get a picture of the three of us. It won’t be professional, but maybe we will pull it off. If not, folks will be receiving a card with the picture of me, the daughter, the husband’s face Photoshopped in, and the dogs Photoshopped in too! I know…if you’re on our list, you’re hoping for the Photoshop picture!

***Once we find an acceptable picture, we will upload it to Shutterfly.com to make our cards. You can see Shutterfly card options here.***