My Favorite Easter Gifts

I went to Target last night in search of items to put in my teenage daughter’s Easter basket. For the last few years, a friend of hers…we’ll call her Lu…has slept over at our house the night before Easter. It has become a tradition, and I love it! I get to put together two Easter baskets! This year, though, I get to put together three, because her friend from Ohio is flying in to spend the weekend with us too!

Last week, I did some shopping for them at a local store called Paper Skyscraper and got some really cute items there…Greenwich Trading Company soaps, bunny slippers, and more. I’ve also ordered some favorite childhood collectibles on eBay, but last night, I was on a candy mission.

Easter candy is the best. I know you’re thinking Valentine or Christmas candy might be better, but I’m telling you, Easter candy wins, hands down.

Every year, when they put the Easter candy out…right after Valentine’s Day…I purchase some Whoppers Mini Robin Eggs. I don’t eat Whoppers any other time of year, but at Easter, I want the Mini Robin Eggs. They make me think of my friend, Angela. We have been friends for 33 years, so we’ve made lots of crazy memories. In the early 2000s, when we were both married without children, I visited her around Easter one year, and we sat on the sofa in her den, laughing and eating Whoppers Mini Robin Eggs. We might have eaten them till we both felt sick. But the point is…I have to buy them every year, because they make me think of Angela and good times!

I have other favorites too, so whether she likes them or not, my daughter gets these candies every year:

  • Peeps. I think Peeps are the best-selling Easter candies. Some people absolutely love them. Me? Not so much. But the Easter Bunny put them in my basket every year anyway. As an adult, I’ve discovered they aren’t that bad, but still not my favorites to eat. They are, however, necessities for Easter baskets. It just wouldn’t be an Easter basket without Peeps. I feel pretty sure my daughter throws them away every year, but this year, she and her friends will be getting a Peeps candy/sock gift combo. So cute!s-l1600-2
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs. When I was a little girl, Daddy would give us our “allowance” on Saturday mornings and take us to the “candy store,” which was really a little, locally-owned convenience store called Murphy’s. Mr. and Mrs. Murphy were always there, and they were always kind to us. We would go in with our money and pick the candies we wanted. My favorite was Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I would pick up those first, before getting Now & Laters, Super Bubble Bubble Gum, a Three Musketeers Bar, Spree, a Blow Pop, and sometimes a Marathon Bar. But Reese’s were my favorite. Somehow, the Reese’s Peanut Butter eggs taste more like the peanut butter cups tasted when I was a child. Whether my daughter likes it or not, she’s getting those.9101dS1S5jL._SX522_
  • Pez. Come on…Easter baskets wouldn’t be complete without an Easter-themed Pez dispenser. Little chick? Little Lamb? Little Easter Bunny? Sold! Pez candies are OK tasting, but the real novelty is in the dispenser. easter-pez-127510-im1
  • Fun Dip. My daughter loved Fun Dip when she was little, and so did I. They make a “spring” edition….pastel colors. She’ll be getting some in her basket, and so will her friends!springtime-fun-dip-multi-pack-16ct-sold-out-2
  • Chocolate Bunny. I don’t care if it’s good chocolate or cheap chocolate. Because I always received a chocolate bunny in my Easter basket, my daughter and her friends get chocolate bunnies too. One year, my daughter left it on the dining room table…right where the sun shines through the window. I walked in later to find an unidentifiable chocolate creature that looked a little zombie-ish, because it had melted.Palmer-Hollow-Milk-Chocolate-Bunny
  • Chocolate Cross. It’s Easter, people. solid-chocolate-cross-2-5oz-milk-or-white-chocolate-22

And then, there are gifts of the non-candy variety:

  • Devotional Book or Bible. There are devotional books that contain daily or weekly devotionals. There are books that explain The Bible in plain speak. There are books of Bible stories for children…and frankly, I see no shame in reading those myself! When we were little, Mother would read to us nightly from a children’s book of Bible stories. Amazon offers lots of options for devotional books and Bibles. I found one for teenage girls here.51LHcMF7M7L._SX352_BO1,204,203,200_

Silver cross necklace. Nordstrom has a nice variety of cross necklaces…a meaningful gift to add to the Easter basket. You can see their selection here.

There are other little things I put into the baskets on Easter, so I’m going to share some of those ideas too (some will appear in baskets this year):

  • Lip gloss
  • Hand lotion
  • Garden gnome (every…single…year)
  • Flower seeds or Grow Kit
  • Starbucks gift card
  • Other gift cards (Chick-Fil-A, Target, Smoothie King, etc.)
  • Good-smelling soaps. I purchased some made by Greenwich Trading Company.
  • Lacrosse and field hockey balls.
  • Decorative cross. Again, it’s Easter, and a decorative cross makes a lovely gift any time of year…to remember He is risen.

Happy Easter, friends! Christ died so we could have everlasting life, and on the third day, He arose. Let’s celebrate His resurrection.

 

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My Favorite Brunch Recipes

Recently, I wrote about my delay in closing my mother’s estate. She passed away in December 2017, and I am just now getting around to closing it. I’ve been delaying it, because it’s depressing to think about the finality of it, but I’ve decided to look at it as a positive. I am going to host a champagne brunch to celebrate the closing…something my mother would love.

I haven’t set the date yet, but as soon as I do, I will invite some friends over for brunch to celebrate with me. I’ve already been planning the menu with some of my favorite recipes. All the recipes listed can be found online; the links are included.

  • Ham-It-Up Egg Cups. hungry-girl.com. Low in calories and high in protein, these yummy egg cups are simple to make and look cute too! Plus, they promote portion control! Your guests will rave. Get the recipe at hungry-girl.com here.

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    Photo from hungry-girl.com

  • Hashbrown Casserole. Betty Crocker. I would go to any party if I knew hashbrown casserole was being served! This recipe is pretty easy and has a lot of flavor, but since it contains potatoes, sausage, and cheese, there is nothing low-calorie about it. Personally, I would count this as my splurge for the day and enjoy it! Get the recipe here.

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    Photo from bettycrocker.com

  •  Biscuits. Lots of southern ladies have their mother’s biscuit recipes, and they don’t share them. I have my mother’s buttermilk biscuit recipe, but it’s a no-share item. But if you want some good southern biscuits without having to start from scratch, Mary B’s Biscuits, from the Florida Panhandle, are delicious. You can find them in the freezer section of your grocery store.

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    Photo from homadefoods.com

  • Fruit. You must have fruit. It’s spring, and it’s nice to have one cold item, I prefer fresh cut fruit, but I think I will make the traditional Southern Fruit Salad for my brunch. It adds a different look, and even though I never ate it when my mother served it, there must be something good about it, because it used to show up on southern tables everywhere. If you’re not from the south, you might balk at it, but try it just once! Get the recipe from Southern Living here.

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    Photo from southernliving.com

  • Dessert. I love pound cake, and my cousin gave me my grandmother’s sour cream pound cake recipe a couple of years ago. I think it’s perfect for a spring brunch, and I will serve it with a macerated-berry topping from Martha Stewart. While I’m not willing to share my grandmother’s recipe, you can make a classic pound cake from the Martha Stewart website. The recipe is here. And the recipe for the macerated-berry topping is here.mld104160_0709_scan_001_horiz
  • Beverages: Coffee, Water, Prosecco, and Aperol Spritzes. Here’s how to make an Aperol Spritz: over ice, combine equal parts Aperol liqueur and Prosecco. Add a splash of club soda and an orange slice. Drink up!aperol

After we’ve dined and enjoyed our Aperol Spritzes, we’ll have some door prizes, because Mother loved to win prizes! I’m not going to divulge those secrets till afterward. We’ll also have some take-home party favors to talk about afterward.

Mama would be proud!

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Decide To Be Happy

Sometimes, life hands us lemons. We’ve all heard it…we need to make lemonade. My mother used to always say, “You have to decide to be happy.”

Every single day since I lost my mother in December of 2017, I remind myself that I have to decide to be happy. It’s not that I haven’t experienced any happiness, but sometimes, when I get sad about having lost her, it’s hard to bring myself out of it. And every time, I hear her say, “You have to decide to be happy.”

I try not to write about death and loss very often, because I know people don’t want to hear about it. I know it’s a downer. I know that sometimes, I feel better if I think of something happy. But right now, it’s OK if no one wants to hear about it. It’s OK if everybody skips over this, because right now, I need to write about it.

I’m in the process of closing out Mother’s estate. No, there were no loose ends to tie up. She made it as easy as possible. She had a will. She listed survivors on bank accounts. She didn’t have any debt. She made it easy. Maybe if she had made it complicated, I could have gotten angry with her and been in a bigger hurry to close everything, but nope…she made the division of assets easy. Yet, I still haven’t closed out the estate, and it’s time for me to do it. I should have done it six months ago, but it’s downright depressing.

In fact, I feel more sad now than I did immediately after her passing. Weird, I know, but I guess I feel like closing out the estate is like closing the final chapter on her life. There have been days that I knew would be difficult…my parents’ anniversary, Mother’s Day, her birthday, Christmas Eve (the anniversary of her hospitalization), Christmas Day, the anniversary of her death (December 30)…but I never expected this part to be so difficult. I thought it was completely transactional, and being a tough chick, I thought I’d be able to treat this as a transaction. But I can’t. I realize that now, because I’ve been delaying it…and I’ve been sad.

And I’ve been off my game. Sure, I’ve gone through the motions of regular life, but deep inside, I’ve been off my game since she took her last breath.

And now I’m faced with closing the book on the estate.

But something occurred to me today: Maybe…just maybe…it will be freeing. That’s all I can hope. Maybe I will feel a little sense of freedom, like a weight has been lifted, when I sign all the papers. Maybe closing the estate will actually make me feel better. We’ve all had times like that. We put something off because it’s scary, but once it happens, we feel a sense of relief or freedom. I have friends who put off signing divorce papers, because it was depressing, but once they did it, they felt like the albatross had been removed from their necks. Maybe the estate is my albatross? That sounds terrible. My mother would not like it that I referred to it that way, but she doesn’t get a vote in this.

After my daddy died, mother was talking with her doctor about anti-depressants, and she said, “My husband wouldn’t like it.” The doctor, very calmly, said, “Your husband’s not here anymore. He doesn’t get a vote in this.” And he was right! She knew it, and she actually laughed! For the record, she started taking the anti-depressant, and it made a big difference in her approach to life. Sure, she was still grieving Daddy, but the anti-depressant helped her decide to be happy.

As soon as I receive all the paperwork, I’ll sign off on closing the estate. In fact, I’m going to invite friends to a brunch at my house for that very day, so they can come over and drink some champagne with me to celebrate the closure…the freedom.

Mother would laugh about that, and she would be happy to know that it’s done.

I will decide to be happy…just in time for spring!

 

 

 

Shutterfly Engagement Party Ideas

Planning an engagement party this spring? Shutterfly can make it easier.

Before you plan the party, think about the effort that goes into planning the actual wedding. Then, take a deep breath and thank the Lord the engagement party is easier to plan! Unfortunately, though, we can’t just twinkle our noses or flip our ponytails and make a party happen…it takes thought, time, and planning.

There are lots of details, but one thing’s for sure…millenials love photo opportunities. With the invention of the smart phone, everyone takes photos of everything, and parties are special photo opportunities. They want them to be cute. They want them to be fun. And they want their pictures to be perfectly shareable…with their own hashtag, no less. Shutterfly can help.

In 2003, when I had a baby, I discovered Shutterfly.com was the perfect place to store and print my photos and photo gifts, and I haven’t stopped using them since. Shutterfly was great for my baby pictures, but recently, someone told me about something else they offer: printable engagement photo prop ideas and photo shoot tips. With this, the site offers lots of fun props and lots of fun ideas, as well, to turn your engagement party into the perfect photo op for friends and family. The printable props they offer come in a variety of styles, from vintage to fun to rustic…even fairytale style!

You can see their printable engagement party photo props here.

 

And Shutterfly is great for even more for the engagement party. You’re going to need invitations. The bride and groom will send you the names and addresses of friends and family, but you’ll need to pick an invitation, have it printed, and send it out. Shutterfly offers lots of ideas for that, as well. They offer a wide array of engagement party invitations, some that include photos, but some that don’t, as well, making it easy for you to choose what you want and order them online.

You might even find some personalized party favors for your guests on the site. Shutterfly offers party favors starting at $5.00 for a personalized bottle opener…could be popular with the young couple’s friends!

But one of my favorite things offered by Shutterfly is their page dedicated to Ideas and Inspirations, which is dedicated to helping the consumer with party planning, decorating ideas, and more. You can see that page here. It even offers a wedding hashtag generator! Just enter the bride and groom’s names, and Shutterfly will generate hundreds of hashtag ideas for the wedding! That’s important to millennial when they share all their photos on social media. It’s pretty awesome! See the wedding hashtag generator here.

So, while it can be daunting to start preparing for and planning an engagement party, Shutterfly can make it a little easier. I’ll be using the site for any parties I plan…starting with a spring brunch at my home next month. I’m absolutely amazed at the ideas they offer.

Happy planning!

 

 

 

 

 

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Get Busy Living…

My friend, Mary Ann, called me one day this week and told me she had read about a little boy with a terminal illness who wanted to get his photo with “Welcome to…” signs of different states. It was important to him. Mary Ann, in her infinite wisdom, said, “Shouldn’t we all be doing that, anyway?” She didn’t mean we should all be taking photos with signs. She meant we should all be doing things we want to do...living our lives.

And she’s right. Mary Ann knows how abruptly a life can end. Her daddy was killed in a tragic automobile accident when he was in his 40s. I’m sure he had lots of things he still wanted to do.

My conversation with Mary Ann made me think of a line from The Shawshank Redemption, a movie starring Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins. The film is based on a Stephen King Novella, Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption, which I now need to read. The line? It is a line spoken by Tim Robbins’s character, Andy Dufresne, a banker who had incorrectly been found guilty of murdering his wife and was subsequently sentenced to prison:

Get busy living, or get busy dying.

My daddy loved that line. We took it for what it was: If you don’t get out and do the things you want to do now (live your life), then you will start to wither…mentally and physically.  We can make the time and energy to do the things we dream about, or we can sit around, letting time pass, till there’s no time or energy left to do it. We can choose to live life in a positive way…or not.

Think about that. What are some things you’ve always wanted to do? It can be something as simple as learning to knit…or something adventurous…or something to help the community.

Both my parents are gone now, but I feel like they did most of what they wanted to do in life. They encouraged me to live life to its fullest. Yes, they wanted me to be responsible, but I remember, when Daddy was dying, he told me, “Y’all need to enjoy your lives. You can’t take your money with you…enjoy it.” Both my parents always reminded us often that “life is not a dress rehearsal.”

Daddy didn’t mean we should get out there and waste money.  What he meant was that we need to use it to do some things we want to do. My parents were very conservative with their money. After Daddy died, Mother became even more conservative with her spending and investing. I would tell her, “Mother, spend it. Enjoy it!” And she would always tell me she wanted to save it for us. But she still did a lot of what she wanted.

Mother and Daddy took lots of trips together. They preferred the Caribbean for big trips, but they were happy to find a local sporting event to attend most of the time. Indoor track meet at the local coliseum? They were in! Baseball game? You bet! Daddy loved driving, so often they took road trips together too. And when I say he LOVED driving, I mean he LOVED it. Daddy started driving in 1952, and as an adult, he drove many times the miles most people drive in a lifetime. He died in 2006…54 years of driving, and he never had an accident.

They also helped others…quietly. They didn’t want accolades for their acts of kindness. Many times I knew Mother to take care of an ailing neighbor…for months! They both gave away money to individuals or families who, they said, “needed it more than we do.”

Mother and Daddy enjoyed their lives. Sure, their experiences were different than mine, but they were of a different generation. I’m sure our daughter’s life experience will be different than mine. Heck, my brother is just 17 months younger than I am, and his life experience is different than mine, because we have different interests.

But here’s one thing I know for sure: I live my life. I’m not sitting around waiting for life to happen to me…I’m making life happen. I’m trying to spend time with people I love. I’m trying to make the world a little better. I am trying to create lasting memories with our daughter and with my husband. I am trying to do the things I want to do, and I am enjoying the ride.

So…get busy living, or get busy dying.

 

 

In a Pickle

Last month, I was scrolling through Instagram, and Hungry Girl (@hungrygirl) Lisa Lillien had posted a photo of a pickle bouquet. Yes, a pickle bouquet. Apparently, she got the idea from Grillo’s Pickles (@grillospickles)…a Valentine’s Day bouquet made of pickles. I thought it was funny and innovative. There’s no way I would do it, because the pickles would dry out, but I do love pickles. But it could be a fun green gift on St. Patrick’s Day.

Anybody who loves pickles as much as I do knows they are a good low calorie snack. Sure, lots of them are high in sodium, but they sure are tasty! When I snack on pickles, I just make sure I drink a lot of water too. I eat pickles all the time…every day. Feeling a little hungry in the afternoon? I grab a pickle.

But different people like different pickles, so I’m going to share my personal favorites.

Grillo’s. Since they were the originator of the pickle bouquet, I felt it would only be fair to include them in the list. The problem was that I had never tried Grillo’s Pickles before, so I went online to find out where to buy them, and I was able to pick up a jar at my local Harris Teeter grocery store in Charlotte. One thing you need to know is that Grillo’s are made from a 100-yr-old family recipe, and they are made in Boston.  I had a friend (may she rest in peace) who grew up in the Boston area, and she was a fantastic cook…recipes passed down through her Italian family. I knew they would be good even before I tried them, and Grillo’s Pickles Italian Style Dill Spears do not disappoint! They’re crisp and tart…exactly what a pickle should be! And they might be the only pickle company with a Patrick Ewing shoe called “The Pickle.” See their website here.

Wickles. My neighbor in Charlotte introduced me to Wickles years ago. They originated in Dadeville, Alabama, and they are the product of a 90-yr-old recipe. Their original pickles are my favorite. And I should tell you they are named Wickles because they are “wickedly delicious pickles.” They’re sweet. They’re spicy. And they have the perfect amount of crunch. They’re great on sandwiches and in recipes, but my favorite way to eat them? Right out of the jar! Is it bad to eat an entire jar in one sitting? I’m asking for a friend. See their website here.

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Boar’s Head Dill Spears. Yesterday, I went to the grocery store, and while I was standing at the deli case, I noticed a jar of Boar’s Head Dill Spears in the refrigerator case. The packaging was appealing, so I picked it up to look through the jar. Dill and some veggies at the bottom made me curious, so I purchased them. When I got home, I stuck a spaghetti squash in the oven, and I decided to try the Boar’s Head Dill Spears…right out of the jar. I will be going back to the grocery store today to get more! They are sour, but not too sour. They have a nice garlicky, dill flavor, and they are crisp! There’s nothing worse than a limp pickle. I found myself going back for pickle after pickle throughout the afternoon. Two thumbs up for Boar’s Head Dill Spears. See their website here.

Oh Snap! I discovered Oh Snap! Pickling Company last year in my local Target store. I was looking for sandwich meat and the Oh Snap! package caught my eye, so I grabbed two of them. Oh Snap! offers pickled carrots, pickled peppers, pickled beans, and yes…pickled cucumbers. They are sold in individual serving size packages. I tried the Dilly Bites and Hottie Bites…eating them right out of the bag. They’re cold, crisp, and delicious. The Hottie Bites are a little too hot for me, but I’m sure my friend, Mary Ann, who loves nuclear-level spicy food will like them. The Dilly Bites are perfect for me…tangy with a  little kick. I keep them in my refrigerator for quick snacks. See their website here.

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Mt. Olive Simply Relish Deli Style Dill. My mother loved sweet relish in her salads…potato salad, chicken salad…always sweet relish. But as an adult, I wanted dill relish in mine. For years, I used Mt. Olive Dill Relish in all my salads. It’s made in North Carolina, and it tastes good, so I was making good salads and supporting the state economy. But then one day, I was in my local grocery store and ran across Mt. Olive Simply Relish Deli Style Dill. When I got to the register with it, the lady who was checking me out asked if I had ever tried it before. I told her I hadn’t. She said, “You will never use another relish after you use this.” And she was right! While the original dill relish is good, this is perfect for salads. It adds more flavor and crunch. Highly recommend! See their website here.

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So if you’re looking for a gift idea for someone who loves St. Patrick’s Day, a green pickle bouquet could be the ticket! Or maybe The Pickle shoe? I kinda dig the shoe.

Eat more pickles!

***Next time: Get Busy Living***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Old Stuff And Banana Cream Pie?

If you didn’t know, today is National Old Stuff Day and National Banana Cream Pie day. Which one sounds better to you? The great thing is you don’t have to pick…I plan to observe both.

National Old Stuff Day comes at a perfect time for me. I’ve been listing things to sell on Ebay all week. Sure, I could sell it on Poshmark.com or The Real Real, but I already know how to list on Ebay, and frankly, I’m too old (Get it? National Old Stuff Day?) to learn how to list on another site. Some of my friends list on Facebook sell sites and have folks pick up their purchases from their homes…no thanks…I don’t want strangers showing up on my front porch. I think people believe shipping with online sites is complicated, but it’s not. The post office will deliver packing supplies to your home, or you can run into your local office and pick them up…for free!

If you’ve never shopped Ebay, Poshmark, or The Real Real, it’s high time you checked them out. I’ve loved Ebay for years, and I’ve gotten some great buys on some fabulous high end items. And Poshmark…I’ve purchased some awesome pre-owned designer things there too. There’s no shame in buying pre-owned. Whenever I get a compliment on something I got for a steal on Ebay or Poshmark, I say “thank you” and smile even bigger! Knowing I didn’t pay an arm and a leg for it makes me especially happy!

So I’ll be celebrating National Old Stuff Day by listing more things on Ebay. It’s a great way to get a little extra WAM (Walking Around Money). Anything of any value that we don’t use anymore gets listed on Ebay, and it adds up! I paid for a big vacation last year with my Ebay “earnings,” even though I’m really selling things at a loss, technically…I got my use out of them. And sometimes, it’s possible to sell things for more than you paid for them…especially if you purchased them on Ebay and resell them after you use them…or if you get a good bargain on something and resell it.

Banana Cream Pie Day sounds delicious, but I won’t be eating a banana cream pie. You know what they say…”A moment on the lips; a lifetime on the hips.” I’ll celebrate Banana Cream Pie Day by eating Dannon Light & Fit Greek Yogurt in Banana Cream flavor. It’s delicious! My daughter loves it, and my husband was surprised at how good it is…and only 80 calories in every 5.3 ounce serving. I top mine with a dollop of Redi-Whip to make it seem even more like dessert. You can purchase it in the dairy section of most grocery stores.

If you’re wondering how I know what National Day it is, you can find out too by clicking here on the National Day Calendar website. We have some good National Days coming up too…Fat Tuesday being a biggie. So today, do some online (or in-store) thrift shopping to celebrate National Old Stuff Day. Or maybe purge some old things from closets and donate them to a local charity. Or even prefabricate them into something else! But whatever you decide to do, enjoy some Banana Cream yogurt too!

Now, if I could just find a low-calorie King Cake for celebrating Fat Tuesday…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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