Senior Prom

Senior Prom.

It’s a tradition that has been popular in the United States since the 1930s. For those who didn’t know, “prom” is short for “promenade,” which is defined as “the formal, introductory parading of guests at a party,” according to mentalfloss.com. I know proms were definitely popular by the 1950s, because my own mother, whose nickname was “Doll” because she was so tiny, was a prom queen at her high school in Alabama. I remember my own high school proms in the 1980s with fond memories. And now, it’s time for our daughter to go to her senior prom.

Our daughter was lucky to even have a prom last year. The previous two years, prom was cancelled because of…you guessed it, COVID. But last year, when our daughter was a junior, our school made a real effort, even in the middle of a mask mandate, to make sure our kids had a prom. (If I ever complain about our school, I need to also remember how hard they tried to make things better for the kids during COVID.) It was outdoors. I didn’t get to see it in person, of course, because here in Charlotte, parents don’t go to the “lead out” like they do in some areas. I am actually glad about that…no offense to those who do…but I don’t feel like I have any business at my daughter’s prom. We go take photos at a club or someone’s house beforehand with a group, and groups of couples go to dinner before going to the actual prom. That’s the norm here, and that’s what they did last year. The kids were so excited to feel somewhat “normal” again last year, and our daughter and her beau had a great time and made lovely photos and lasting memories.

This year, things are much more normal. They are gathering for photos and dinner beforehand and going to an actual indoor prom! So exciting! I’m just thankful she is having a “normal” senior prom. She’ll make memories just like we did back in the 1980s…except there won’t be as much hairspray as there was in the 80s. They will take lots more photos than we did, because they have smartphones. They might even take some silly videos or make some TikToks. In fact, in 2022, the girls won’t have big hair, but the boys will. The dresses will be more revealing now than they were in the 80s…back when we covered our bodies in as much fabric as possible. I still don’t know how we got dates wearing all the baggy clothes we wore. Wow…it has been a long time since my senior prom. They will have fun, I’m sure, but really…the prom itself is just the excuse to get dressed up, get photos, and go to a party afterward, I think. They just enjoy being together…just like we did back in the 80s…so that’s still the same.

I hope they will remember to stop and take mental notes throughout the evening…just enjoy the moment. It’s a memorable occasion. Everyone who goes to prom remembers it. They might not remember lots of details, but everyone will remember who they went to prom with. They will remember what they wore. They might remember where they had dinner. They will even remember some funny things that happen. Because it’s an emotionally-charged night, it’s a memory that gets imbedded in their long-term memories. I’ve written before that I learned a lot about long-term and short-term memory when my husband had brain surgery. Big emotional events land in our long-term memory, because of the emotions attached to them. It’s why we remember where we were when someone dies. It’s why we remember where we were when we fell in love.

It’s not just a big night for the students, though. The senior prom marks the end of an era for parents too. Since my husband and I have just one child, this is the end of the high school line for us. And it’s the first time our daughter has ever trusted me to pick a dress for her. That’s a memory in itself!

I hope they all have a great time. I hope they all have a safe night and make good decisions. I hope they make some great memories to look back on when they’re my age. I hope they’ll enjoy this big event together, because these seniors will be going in different directions soon. Many of them have been in school together since they were four or five years old. Life is changing! Those little kindergarten students I remember from 2009 are finishing their stint at their independent school and moving on to college…many in different states!

Good times…senior prom.

Ready for the New Year?

Ready for the new year?

I don’t know that I’m ever actually ready for a new year, but most years, I am ready for New Year’s Day, and this year is no exception. I think different cultures have different traditions/superstitions for New Year’s Day, and growing up in the American South, I have a few of my own:

-“Rabbit! Rabbit!” I make sure to say this at some point on the first of every month, preferable first thing in the morning. But let’s face it, most mornings, when I first wake up, I don’t know what day it is! Lots of people say “Rabbit! Rabbit!” on the first day of every month for good luck. Apparently, rabbits are considered good luck. I tried to find an explanation online, and I found an NPR episode in which Martha Barnette, an etymology author, says the phrase dates back to at least the early 1900s. Some folks believe rabbits are good luck because of their fertility, which can be associated with new beginnings. Whatever. I just do it, because I’m always welcoming any good luck that comes my way! But it seems especially important on the first day of the year!

-Black-eyed Peas. A few years ago, I returned home from vacation late on New Year’s Eve, and I had not had an opportunity to go to the grocery store to prepare for New Year’s Day. Lucky for me, I had a can of black-eyed peas in my pantry. I can’t imagine what made me purchase canned black-eyed peas, because I prefer to cook dried ones, but the canned variety will do in a pinch! In my family, and across the American South, it is believed that eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day brings good luck and prosperity. Even when I was a little girl and didn’t care for them, my parents made me eat a spoonful of black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day. According to Modern Farmer, black-eyed peas came to the US on slave ships, and slaves planted them in their gardens. The same source says the Union Army took everything edible when they raided the south, but they didn’t take black-eyed peas. They were looked at then as “poor people’s food,” but after the war, they became popular all across the south. Some people in the south believe they represent coins. And some southerners cook them in Hoppin’ John, a southern rice dish. Personally, I love them…especially on New Year’s Day. I purchased them early this year…dried ones that I will start cooking early on New Year’s Day, so we can enjoy them in the afternoon. As for a recipe, I don’t make Hoppin’ John. I just soak the peas before I boil them with Goya pork seasoning and salt. I throw in the spinach, and while I normally try to keep them healthier, I’ll likely throw in some pork for New Year’s Day.

Greens. In the south, when most people say they eat “greens” on New Year’s Day, I think they mean collard greens or turnip greens. Some folks mean cabbage. I’m the outlier…I eat spinach on New Year’s Day. It’s still a green, and it’s iron-rich. I just can’t bring myself to cook turnips, cabbage, or turnips in my house, because I remember how our house smelled when I was growing up and Mother cooked greens. Collard greens, turnip greens, and cabbage taste good, but they smell rancid when they’re cooking. I can’t do that to my family, so we have spinach. Of course, I’m the only one who eats regular sauteed spinach, so I have to mix the spinach with the black-eyed peas. Greens represent money. And who doesn’t want more money in the new year? This year, I might add some extra spinach, in fact! And remember the year I had canned black-eyed peas? I was also lucky enough to find canned turnip greens in my pantry (Glory brand is seasoned really well).

-Pork. I don’t care what kind of pork it is, everyone who doesn’t have a religious exemption should eat a bite of pork on New Year’s Day. All my life, I’ve believed eating pork on New Year’s Day brings good luck, because that’s all I’ve ever heard. I looked into the reasoning, and according to thespruceeats.com, it’s considered a sign of prosperity in some cultures because “pigs root forward.” I guess that means we will continue to move forward if we eat pork. When I was growing up, my mother would cook a ham. My family won’t eat a whole ham, so I just purchased a couple of ham steaks to prepare on New Year’s Day. I’ll throw some of it in the black-eyed peas for seasoning. As for the preparation of the ham steaks, I will just cook them on the stove top in a skillet with a little butter and seasoning.

Cornbread. My parents used to make thin, fried cornbread when I was growing up. I’d never be able to do it. There was skill involved, and it was delicious. My cousin, Patti, still makes it, but I need a special brand of fine cornmeal that I can’t find in Charlotte. I’ll get Patti to bring me some next time she comes to town. Interestingly, the fried breads are round, which would be great if I could make them, because round foods are considered good luck in some countries. We used to eat it till we just couldn’t eat any more. I’ll make cornbread, but it will be regular baked, buttermilk cornbread. Why cornbread? Apparently, because of the golden color, it represents gold. I see a theme here. Southerners seem to want luck and prosperity in the new year!

-Champagne (or prosecco). Yes, I have bubbly not just on New Year’s Eve, but also on New Year’s Day, because it’s a celebration, after all. I have always believed we should start the new year on the right foot…celebrating. And bubbly goes great with all the foods listed above. And if you don’t like the foods listed above, it’s a lot easier to wash them down with bubbly!

Clearly, my traditions, except “Rabbit! Rabbit!” are all based around food! The good news for me is that these are some of my very favorite foods. For my family, though, it’s not one of their favorite meals, so they’ll choke down a few bites. We’d normally have lots of leftovers, but my nephew and a friend are coming to town this year, so I know they’ll help me eat it. I’ll have some pickled onions on hand, too, because they go so well with all of these foods! My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

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.

I’m Proud of You, Mom

“I’m proud of you, Mom.”

Recently, I finished a big volunteer project…you know, I was working for free for weeks on end (months) when I could have been eating bonbons in the pool. It was a big project, no doubt…an athletic awards show for my teenage daughter’s school. I’m not complaining, of course. I worked with some awesome people and made some new friends. It was definitely a group effort, as lots of other parents and school staff pitched in. There were a few times I’m sure I was quite snippy with my family, because of the stress I was feeling, but we made it through!

Our daughter is finishing up her junior year at her much-loved independent school in Charlotte. She started there in transitional kindergarten, and now, we are entering the summer before her senior year. It’s hard to believe she’s going to be a senior. My husband and I are just enjoying the ride. We have loved every age as our daughter has grown. It hasn’t always been easy, but big picture…life with her is definitely an adventure. She is an only child, so she doesn’t get away with much. We don’t have any other kids distracting us. And I’ve always warned her that I’m likely to have done anything she tries to get away with. I’m likely to realize when she’s up to something. As I’ve always said, “You can’t bull***t a bullsh***er.” Forgive the language, but nothing seems to get the point across as well as that does. Has she always been perfect? No, but neither have we. All the little mistakes we make along the way (as teens and as parents) are part of who we are. I have a great relationship with my daughter. We talk. We hang out. We respect each other. Of course, there are times I embarrass her, but isn’t that just part of it?

Over the years, I have embarrassed her at least a million times. I’ve even written a piece before about the countless ways I embarrassed her on a trip to Boston a few years ago. I’ve grown accustomed to her sighs and groans when I do something that embarrasses her. Greet people we encounter? She’s embarrassed. Ask too many questions? She’s embarrassed. Wear something she doesn’t like? She’s embarrassed. Seriously, it’s not difficult to embarrass a teenager.

Last Tuesday, my big athletic awards show project finally ended. In normal times, the show is live in the auditorium at the school. Seniors and state championship teams are honored. Parents are in attendance. All those folks are shoved into the auditorium, shoulder-to-shoulder, but this year, we couldn’t do it that way. In fact, we had to come up with a “hybrid” plan to present to the administration. In the end, we pre-recorded the show and had a “screening party” for the seniors on the football field…with a gigantic, inflatable screen…drive-in movie style. Only seniors, coaches, and the parents of seniors were allowed to attend. Sadly, I think some people were upset they couldn’t go, but we couldn’t do more than was approved by the administrative team. However, anyone else who wanted to watch could simultaneously watch the “broadcast” from home online.

I was at the field for hours the day of the show…getting things ready beforehand, staying for the show, making sure everyone picked up their awards and got photos afterward, cleaning up. l didn’t even look at my phone for hours, but at 11pm, when I got into my car, I checked my phone and saw a text message from my daughter. Apparently, she had been watching the show at home. The text message, which she had sent at 9:38pm, said, “This is really good. I’m proud of you, Mom.” I was exhausted, but that message made it all worth it. Tears welled up in my eyes as I started the car, and before I drove away, I texted her back, “Sweetest message ever. Thank you.”

Who knows when I’ll hear/read those words from her again, but if I never hear/read them again, I will always remember that moment when I saw her text. I had complained and fretted about the preparation for that show, but those words in that text from my teenage daughter made it all worth it.

Be a Good Memory

Be a good memory.

Our daughter had her junior prom last weekend. Yep, even in the pandemic, her school found a way to pull it off. It was outside on one of the athletic fields, but in the pictures, it appears to have been beautiful. Lights were strung tent-style across the field, and a live band played in an area overlooking the field. The prom-goers all wore sneakers, and from what I’ve heard, everyone was pretty happy to be together at a real event.

If you have a teenager, you know they do things a little differently than we did back in the 1980s. Now, the girls gather at one place to get dressed together. And then they gather with their dates at a photo location…sometimes a park, country club, or someone’s really beautiful yard. Parents gather to take photos, and then the prom-goers go to dinner somewhere before going to the actual prom. In truth, the actual prom seems to be the least exciting part of the evening. That’s not a slam on our school. I hear it from kids everywhere…all over the country. They say the prom is the reason for getting dressed up, but the fun part is the before and after.

Because, yes…there’s an “after.”

This year, some of our daughter’s friends and their dates came to our house after prom to hang out in the game room together. When I told my husband we would be hosting, he was not a happy man. He is a man who likes his routine, and that includes going to bed before midnight. He actually said to me, “They’ll be gone before midnight, right?” Ummm…no. I had to explain to him that, no, on prom night, all bets are off on curfew. Again, he was not happy. Clearly, he doesn’t remember his youth as well as I remember mine. I suggested he go to a hotel, and he looked at me like I had fourteen eyes.

Lucky for me, later that day, we saw one of our neighbors, a mother of four. She has three grown children (all out of college, and two of them are married) and a fourteen-yr-old. She has seen it all. And for years, teenagers were in and out of her house at all hours of the day and night. My husband was standing there when I told the neighbor about his apprehension about the party, and she had the perfect response. She said, “We used to host those parties when our kids were in high school, and now I love it when I’m at weddings and baby showers for their friends, and the friends say to me, ‘My best memories from high school were at your house.'” I turned to my husband and said, “See? We want to be a good memory for these kids!”

What could he say to that? It was at that moment that he agreed it was OK to have them over after prom. After some prodding by me, he also decided it would be a good idea for him to check into a local hotel for the night. If he had stayed home, he would have been “in my ear” the whole time, trying to get me to go check on the kids every half hour. I was not going to do that…no way, no how.

Prom night came, and our daughter went over to a friend’s house to get dressed with friends. Later, I rode to the friend’s house with another mom to take pictures of all the prom couples. After getting some pics, we all left, and they had dinner before going to prom. By the time they arrived at our house after prom at around 11pm, I had pizzas, cheesy bread sticks, and desserts waiting for them in the game room. All went well. I cooked breakfast for them in the wee hours of the morning, and I finally got to bed around 4am…but I was happy.

The next day, after everyone left, my husband returned home from the hotel, asking how the night had gone. I told him all about it, and I thanked him for letting the kids come to our house. I thanked him for letting our house “be a good memory” for these kids.

I hope that one day, when I’m attending the weddings and baby showers of these same kids, they will turn to me and say, “Some of our best memories from high school are from your house.”

For the Love of Tres Leches Cake

For the love of Tres Leches cake.

I wish I could remember my first very bite of Tres Leches cake. I can’t. But I remember my last bite of Tres Leches cake, and I look forward to the next one! If you’re not familiar with Tres Leches cake, you should be. It’s also referred to by some people as “milk cake,” because as the Spanish name suggests, it is made with three milks. It’s a sponge cake that is soaked in three kinds of milk: evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water. It’s popular in Latin America, and I have seen lots of different versions of it. I don’t know if it varies geographically, but I have seen it with cinnamon added to the top, with caramel added to the top, and sometimes, with fruit added. My favorite? Plain old Tres Leches…and give me a good cup of coffee to go with it.

Tres Leches cake is very popular in Mexico, Cuba, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Puerto Rico. If you can find authentic Cuban or Mexican restaurants in your area, you might be able to find Tres Leches cake there. I just got back from a trip to Miami for spring break, and while I was there, I had Tres Leches a couple of times at a couple of different restaurants. I definitely miss that part of Miami! Surprisingly, I have just discovered I can get Tres Leches cake in my local Publix grocery store here in Charlotte! Wanna know the real surprise? It is actually good…really, really good! OK, if you live near a Publix, you know they do almost everything well. I have never been disappointed when I have ordered from their deli or bakery. Why would I be surprised their Tres Leches cake is good?

Publix sells it in a little plastic clamshell container. I could hardly wait to get home with it. When I did, I I had to serve it to myself the way it has been served to me in in Cuban restaurants…I poured the milk mixture around it on the serving plate, just so it could soak up a little more milk.

The first time I ever had Tres Leches served with the milk actually puddled around it was at a Cuban restaurant in West Palm Beach earlier this year. My friend, Linda, has a place in Vero Beach, and when I told her I’d be driving through the West Palm area, she told me I absolutely had to stop at a restaurant on Old Dixie Highway called Havana. She said, “When you step inside, you’ll expect Ricky Ricardo to come walking from around the corner.” (If you’re offended by that, please stop following me. She meant it felt like an authentic Cuban experience.) I loved Desi Arnaz (apparently, a lot of women did), and I appreciate everything about Latin culture, so I was excited. I’ve written before about this restaurant, and I think I said then that the Tres Leches cake there is what dreams are made of. No joke. I might need to go back to West Palm just for that cake…puddled in sweetened condensed milk…and accompanied by a cup of cafe Cubano…that’s Cuban coffee. If you’ve never had that…it’s another experience…frothy azucar and crema (sugar and cream). It was the perfect accompaniment to the best Tres Leches cake I have ever had.

So with my Publix cake, I truly think I improved it by pouring the condensed milk around it. It made it feel more authentic to me, and it was delicious. I should also mention here that I don’t like cinnamon and caramel on my Tres Leches cake. When we were in Miami last week, I asked a Cuban gentleman about that, and he turned up his nose at it too. Apparently, he thinks cinnamon and caramel have no place in the Tres Leches world. We are on the same page. I was glad to know I wasn’t the only one who doesn’t like that added touch.

I’m sure there are places in Charlotte to find better Tres Leches cake. I just need to get out and search for them. (I’ve included the top five from Yelp in a list below at the bottom of this page.) Till then, I’ll stick with the Publix Tres Leches, and I’ll keep soaking it in sweetened condensed milk on my own. Give me a call, and you can come over and have some too! I’ll get some coffee ready too, but it won’t be Cubano. I don’t know how to make it.

***If you’d like to visit Havana Restaurant in West Palm Beach, it’s located at 6801 S. Dixie Highway. The takeout window is open 24 hours! Yes, 24 hours! But the dining room opens at 5pm daily. You can check out the menu on their website here.***

Yelp’s Top Five Tres Leches Cakes in Charlotte:

  1. Manolo’s Bakery, 4405 Central Avenue, Suite O
  2. Suarez Bakery, 4245 Park Road
  3. Suarez Bakery and Barra, 1115 N Brevard St in Optimist Hall
  4. La Poblanita Mexican Restaurant and Candy Store, 1925 Westinghouse Blvd
  5. Odalys Bakery, 6407 South Blvd

Whew! We Made It!

Whew! We made it!

While it seems everyone is feeling like they “made it” through 2020, I’m feeling that and breathing a sigh of relief that I made it through the month of December. Sounds crazy, right?

Here’s what you don’t know: both my grandmothers died on December 26…in different years, but still, same day. Eerie, right? And then, my mother fell ill on Christmas Eve three years ago, in 2017, and was taken to the hospital. She lived a few hundred miles away from me, so I made it to her bedside the next day, Christmas Day. She wasn’t in great shape when I got there, but she was awake and communicative. My friend, Angela, brought me Christmas dinner to the hospital from her family’s gathering. I knew Mother was sick, but I didn’t realize just how sick she was till the doctor told me the next day that she was just getting worse. I understood what he was saying. I’d been through this before with my dad.

And then I realized it was December 26. I remember asking the doctor, “Is she likely to die today?” I explained to him that I was asking, because both my grandmothers had died on December 26, and if my mother died on that day, I would be curled up in the fetal position in my closet every year on that day. Call me selfish for thinking that way, but I’m just being honest. If every woman in my family died on the same day, I would be terrified every year as December 26 approached. Did I want to lose my mother? No way! I’d always known I had the best mother in the whole world, and I certainly didn’t want to lose her, but I really didn’t want to lose her that day.

Mother passed on December 30, 2017. She made it past the 26th, so now that day doesn’t scare me quite so much…but now I’m just terrified of the whole month of December. Does that mean I’m superstitious? Generally, I don’t think of myself as a superstitious person, but when I think about some of the silly things I do…maybe I am superstitious.

There are the New Year’s Day superstitions. Yes, every year, I eat black-eyed peas, greens of some kind, and pork of some kind. That comes from my parents. Every year, on New Year’s Day, we were required to eat at least one teeny tiny bite of each of those things. Black-eyed peas for prosperity. Greens are for wealth and health. Pork, from what I understand, is based on the fact that pigs root forward while foraging…by eating it we are embracing the challenges and adventures of the coming year. I’ve now learned I should also eat round cakes, pastries, or cookies…the round shape signifies that the old year has come to a close, and we have a promising new year. I’ve never done that, but I guess I’ll be making some cookies today. There are more superstitions for the new year, but those are mine…and now, of course, I’ve added the cookies. Ugh.

Other superstitions I’ve had in my life? When I’m driving and I drive under a yellow light, I “kiss the roof.” By kissing my fingers and quickly touching the ceiling inside the car, I’m supposed to make it through safely. When I was a kid, if we drove past a cemetery, we would hold our breath. We also didn’t step on cracks in the sidewalk, walk under ladders, or open an umbrella in the house…all bad luck. If a black cat crosses my path, I always say, “Damn that cat.” Supposedly, saying that will do away with the curse the cat put on you by crossing your path. Drive over railroad tracks? Lift your feet so you don’t have bad luck! I also use “knock wood” a lot…when I make a positive statement, I knock wood to avoid tempting fate or jinxing myself. I’ve been known to cross my fingers for luck, but generally speaking, I find that prayer works better. See a penny on the ground? “Find a penny, pick it up. All day long, you’ll have good luck!” Someone around me sneezes? I always say “bless you,” unless it’s a Spanish-speaking friend, to whom I say “Salud!” That’s supposed to keep their soul from escaping with the sneeze. (After a certain age, women aren’t worrying about their souls escaping when they sneeze…they’re worrying about pee escaping their bladders!) And here’s another one: don’t put your handbag on the floor…your money will go down.

So looking at that, I guess I am superstitious, even though I shouldn’t be. I’ve found several Bible verses that warn us against superstition, including 2 Kings 21:6, which says “And he burned his son as an offering and used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger.”

I guess that means I shouldn’t be worried about the month of December, and I shouldn’t feel the need to eat black-eyed peas, greens, and pork on New Year’s Day. I will try not to worry in December and say lots of prayers asking for help with that. But honestly, I just like black-eyed peas, greens, and pork, so I’ll keep eating those on New Year’s Day and any other chance I get!

This year, when I finally went to the grocery store, they were out of black-eyed peas, so I had to buy a mixture of dried beans/peas for soup. It contains black-eyed peas, so we are covered. I threw in a little spinach, some fatback, and some ham, so we’re covered, but I’m also going to have collard greens. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the ingredients to make cornbread, so we’ll be missing out on that.

All this is my long way of saying, “Welcome, January!” and “Happy New Year!”

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!

Virtual Christmas Cheer!

Virtual Christmas Cheer!

Flat Rock Playhouse, the State Theater of North Carolina, can lift your holiday spirits with a virtual Christmas show!

I’m no theatre critic. I don’t know my way around a stage, and I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, but I know entertainment when I see it/hear it, and Flat Rock Playhouse brings it! This year, they are staging A Flat Rock Playhouse Christmas virtually. Yes, you can watch it from the comfort of your own home, while wearing your own pajamas and drinking your own eggnog…all by purchasing a link to the show for just $50 here. Think about that…your whole family can enjoy the show for $50. Make it a family night!

I became familiar with Flat Rock Playhouse several years ago when my friend, Linda Edwards, suggested I come see her in a show there. I knew Linda was a talented singer, but wow! She’s an incredible stage actress too! She has performed in theaters all over the world, and Flat Rock Playhouse is fortunate she is a regular there.

In all honestly, I haven’t seen this year’s version of A Flat Rock Playhouse Christmas yet, but I feel safe recommending it, because the playhouse has never disappointed me. I’ll be watching the show this evening on my computer, but I saw it a few years ago and loved it. I don’t know if they use the same songs in each production of the show, but I know they do a fantastic job. I left the theater that year feeling full of Christmas cheer. There were uplifting songs, and there were songs that touched my heart…and it felt like Christmas. I had so hoped COVID would have been cleared up by now, so I could see this show live, but obviously, that was wishful thinking.

The show has received glowing reviews. The Times-News in Hendersonville featured a review by Steve Wong you can read here. In his review, Mr. Wong writes, “It probably took a miracle on Greenville Highway to pull off this first-time virtual production, but like it always does, Flat Rock Playhouse did it with good taste, talent, spirit and technology.” He praises the production’s creativity in filming the scenes in the yard of the playhouse and on the streets of Hendersonville in “purposefully ironic” casual clothing “as they sing and dance in the warmth of a late-fall day in Western North Carolina,” adding that when they are not wearing face masks, they are “all smiles and in step.”

Wong also praises individual performances, especially my friend, Linda Edwards, calling her “a veteran performer with a killer singing voice” and “a masterful standout.” I’m not surprised, of course. I’ve seen her perform lots of times, and she is always a standout, no doubt. A consummate professional, she takes my breath away every times she sings. She works hard, and it shows. I can hardly wait to see her virtual performance in this show.

This has been a tough year for us all, but Flat Rock Playhouse has worked hard to continue to present several productions…some at a drive-in theater, and this one, virtually. These folks are working hard for the money, and I commend them for doing everything they can to continue to produce outstanding shows. Support the State Theater of North Carolina by purchasing your link to A Flat Rock Playhouse Christmas here. Even though I’m saving it to watch tonight, I know I’m in for a treat. I will have my popcorn ready!

Get in the Christmas spirit with Flat Rock Playhouse!

*Featured photo from flatrockplayhouse.org*

Stocking Stuffers 2020

Stocking stuffers 2020.

When I was a kid in Brewton, Alabama, we didn’t have a fireplace. There was no place to hang the stockings “by the chimney with care.” So we taped them to a door in the living room. Yep. Kids will be kids, and we wanted to hang our furry stockings that had our names spelled across the top in glitter, so we taped them to a door.

Most of the childhood Christmas Eves I remember were in the 1970s, and back then, I remember people mostly getting candy in their stockings. We would usually get lots of candy…no gifts…just candy. The gifts from Santa were spread all over the living room, unwrapped. Our gifts from our parents were wrapped and placed under the tree, but Santa didn’t wrap at our house.

When our daughter was little, Santa didn’t wrap at our house either. But after she had been in school a couple of years, she learned Santa wrapped gifts at other people’s houses and asked why he didn’t wrap her gifts. I told her to mail him a letter asking him to wrap her gifts. She sent the letter, and the gifts have always been wrapped since.

As for the stockings at our house, we get more than candy these days. We usually get lots of little gifts. I think I know some ideas Santa has for this year, and I’m sharing them with you here. You can read my posts about stocking stuffers from 2019 (two different posts) by clicking here and here. And here are some new ideas for 2020:

***First, I encourage you to shop local for stocking stuffers. In Charlotte, some great places to check for stocking stuffers are Paper Skyscraper on East Blvd, The Buttercup on Providence Road, and The Mole Hole on Colony Road. It’s important we support our local businesses this year.***

-Face Masks. I know. We are all weary of the COVID pandemic, but if we have to wear face masks, we can at least make them fun! The Buttercup in Charlotte offers a great selection of masks that are functional and fashionable. Visit the store at 343 Providence Road, or shop their website here. In Gainesville and Ocala, Florida, there’s a cute gift shop called Agapanthus that has a crazy cool selection you can purchase online too. See their selection here.

-Portable charger/power bank. If you have someone in your family who flies frequently (in normal non-COVID times) or spends a lot of time outdoors but needs their phone…a portable charger/power bank could be a fantastic stocking stuffer. I remember when they used to be expensive, but now you can get good chargers for less than $30! In fact, I recently flew to California, and I purchased a new portable charger from Amazon. Called the PowerADD Pilot 4GS 12000mAh, I got it for just $22.99 with free delivery because of my Amazon Prime membership. It comes in five colors, and it charged my phone several times before it needed to be recharged. They also make a 20000mAh model, and it’s just $27.59. See them on Amazon here.

Photo from Amazon.com

-More Fun Socks. Yes, I know I listed fun socks last year, but the ones I’m endorsing this year are different than those…but those are still great too. I mentioned Agapanthus in Gainesville and Ocala earlier…well, they have some socks that will make super stocking stuffers! Theirs start at $10.99, and they have a cute selection of holiday-themed socks, Florida socks, and other socks for men and women. Order here.

Photo from shopagapanthus.com

-Cinnabon Signature Frosting Pint. Who knew?!? A friend told me Cinnabon offers this pint of their signature frosting at the holidays for only $7! You know you’ve walked through your local mall and inhaled the deliciousness that is Cinnabon. I have always said I think they have a diffuser full of the aroma sending it out to draw people into Cinnabon. And frankly, whatever it is…it works. Cinnabon is delicious. If you have a Cinnabon lover in your home, this could be a great stocking stuffer! You can get them from by going to your local Cinnabon or through DoorDash or Grubhub.

-Magnetic Eyelashes. Yep. False eyelashes are back, and while some have the patience to sit in a salon to get them, others of us need an easier way to get them. Enter magnetic lashes. I’ve used them. I don’t know if the brand matters, but you can read reviews on Ulta.com or Amazon.com to decide which one sounds best to you!

Lucky Fortune Blind Collectible Bracelets. These cute bracelets come hidden in fortune cookies. Inside each cookie is a surprise bracelet and a fortune. With over 100 bracelets in the offering, there are lots of surprises! These would be great for ages 5 to 15. To add a little fun to it, the packaging is a take-out box! Order a four pack for $10.29 at Amazon with your Prime account and get free shipping. Purchase here.

Photo from Amazon.com

-Hungry Girl Your Daily Bright Boost. Hungry Girl Lisa Lillien devised the formula for this drink mix with the help of the folks at eBoost. With its citrus flavor, vitamins/minerals, and 110mg of natural caffeine, it’s a great way to start the day…or even as an afternoon pick-me-up. Counting calories? No worries! This is from Hungry Girl, the queen of low-cal ideas. This is a great stocking stuffer for teens and adults. It comes in boxes of 15 packets for $24.99, or subscribe and get it for $19.99. You’re likely spending way more than that on coffee, but this actually has nutritional value. Get it here.

Photo from Hungry Girl

-Duncan Imperial YoYo. I remember when Duncan YoYos were advertised on TV during Saturday morning cartoons…back when Saturday morning cartoons were a thing. Remember those all those commercials aimed at kids? I think they had some sort of YoYo champions on the ads, because those kids could do tricks I could never do. I don’t even know if kids today know what a YoYo is, so it’s time for them to learn. Mine teenage daughter will get one of these. Purchase at Amazon here.

Photo from Amazon.com

-Playing Cards. I know. Sounds basic, right? But individuals and families can get hours of fun from a deck of playing cards. Wanna step it up a notch? Get some playing cards featuring the logo of the defunct TransWorld Airways, TWA. The old TWA terminal at JFK Airport in New York has been refurbished and opened as a TWA-themed hotel, and you can order playing cards for $10 from the hotel website. Purchase here.

Photo from TWAhotel.com

-Cheeky Lip Balm. A friend introduced me to these recently. Eclair Lips offers lots of lip balms, but their “Cheeky” line is my favorite. With cheeky names like “Kiss 2020 Goodbye” and “Better Than a Lump of Coal,” these are fun additions to Christmas stockings, and they provide great lip protection for the winter months! Get them at Eclair Lips here.

-Goli ACV Gummies. My husband and I both love these. Do they actually provide any nutritional benefit? I don’t know, but we like them as treats twice a day. I feel like they probably aid my digestion, but I haven’t done any scientific studies…because I’m not a scientist. I had always heard apple cider vinegar had health benefits, but I could never choke it down unless I mixed it with apple juice…lots of sugar and calories in apple juice. These dummies make it easy to get my ACV. Order from Goli here or from Amazon here.

-Jiffy Pop. If you’ve never made Jiffy Pop popcorn, it’s high time you did. When I was a kid, Jiffy Pop was all the rage, and honestly, it’s a lot more fun than microwave popcorn. It’s fun item to drop into everyone’s Christmas stockings…and pop it up on Christmas morning! It had a slogan at one time say it’s “as much fun to make as it is to eat!” We love popcorn at our house, so I know this will be a hit. Purchase at Amazon here.

-Hand sanitizer. I know you’re tired of hearing about hand sanitizer, but hear me out. Everyone knows I love PooPourri toilet sprays, but does everyone know I also love PooPourri hand sanitizers? Did you even know they make them??? Well, they do, and they come in pretty little bottles and have a lovely scent. They are my favorite hand sanitizers, and I just found out they also have sanitizing wipes! I highly recommend PooPourri sanitizers, and they make cute stocking stuffers. Get them here.

Photo from Poopourri.com

Silicone Tea Infuser. Have a hot tea drinker in your family? People who love their tea love their tea. You can help them enjoy their tea with a cute manatee-shaped infuser, the Fred & Friends Manatea Silicone Tea Infuser. Heck I might take up tea drinking, just so I can use one of these! It might seem strange at first, but they can hang this cute little infuser over the edge of their cup or mug, and it won’t let leaves leak out. And who doesn’t love a manatee? But that’s not all they offer! The same company offers a flamingo infuser, an elephant infuser, and a sloth infuser. Order from Amazon here.

Photo from Amazon.com

-School Spirit Morse Code Necklaces. These are so cute! The Buttercup in Charlotte has a selection of necklaces, offered in college colors, with the name of the school or the school’s battle cry (“Roll Tide” anyone?) in morse code. These would be great stocking stuffers for high school seniors, college students, or anyone who loves their college. Priced at $50, these will be well-received. To purchase, visit the store at 343 Providence Road or purchase online here.

-Patchology Eye Gels. Priced at $18 for three pairs of gels, these are a fun, glittery stocking stuffer. They claim to decrease dark circles, combat hyper pigmentation, and brighten skin tone. I hope they do, but they also just feel good on the eyes! Since they are “gently cooling,” I believe they likely reduce puffiness around the eyes. Who wouldn’t love that? Get them at Neiman Marcus here.

Photo from Neimanmarcus.com

-Dazey Coconut and CBD Bath Soak. What sounds better than a hot bath when you need to relax? Add in some coconut and CBD bath soak, and it sounds perfect! Sign me up! Drop this in someone’s Christmas stocking, and you’re giving the gift of relaxation! Get this at Nordstrom for $12 here.

Photo from Nordstrom.com

-Wearable Nail Polish Holder. Lots of people are spending less time at the nail salon during this pandemic, so they’re doing their nails at home. This little wearable nail polish holder from Tweexy, which is worn like a ring, keeps the nail polish bottle in close reach. Genius! Get it at Amazon for $9.99 here.

-Monocular. Sounds weird, I know, but it’s a great gift for outdoorsmen, birdwatchers, and sports fans. Easier to handle than binoculars, a monocular will fit perfectly into a Christmas stocking! I checked on the top-rated ones, and the one I found had the best rating was the Hawke Endurance 8X42 Monocular. It’s a little pricey at just over $100, but it’s waterproof and gets great reviews. And because of that, it’s sold out at a lot of places, but I found it at OpticsPlanet.com for $105. There are less expensive monoculars on Amazon, such as the Starscope…so look around before you buy. My husband is getting one of these. Order from Optics Planet here.

Photo from Optics Planet

-Tabletop Football. Remember the old days when we made paper footballs and played tabletop football using our hands as goalposts? Well, this set from Rhode Island Novelty provides pre-made footballs and plastic goalposts, so there is no question about whether the goal posts were moved. Get it at Amazon for $5.99 here.

So there you have it…my picks for stocking stuffers in 2020. I’ll have one of each, please!