Graduation Gift Ideas

It’s that time of year again! High school seniors all over the country are graduating, and that means we all need gift ideas. When searching for graduation gifts, remember that not all new graduates are going away to college. Some are joining the military. Some are going to college but living at home. Some are going to work. Some are taking a gap year to travel. And some still haven’t figured out what they want to do yet. Therefore, it’s important to tailor each gift to each graduate.

First, here’s what we all need to remember: Cash is king! Grads want cash! Some of them want cash to go on a trip after school gets out. Some want cash to take to college. Some need cash to put a down payment on an apartment or automobile. No matter how they use it…cash is still king. It was king when I graduated from high school in the 1980s, and in 2019, it still reigns supreme.

But if you have lots of gifts to give, you might rather get a meaningful gift instead of giving someone a small amount of cash. I’ve done some research, and here are some great gift ideas:

  • Weighted blanket. I know…I’ve sung the praises of the weighted blanket before, but I’m doing it again. College can be stressful. I always felt like I earned all the fun I had in college, because of the stress brought on by tests and exams. Weighted blankets are great for reducing anxiety. It’s like a big hug. On Amazon, they start at about $60. I have one made by Calming Comfort. I haven’t tried the others, but I love the one I have, and it is priced at about $129 on Amazon here.
  • First Aid Kit. I know it sounds corny, but everyone should have one. If the person for whom you are buying is planning to travel, you might opt for a waterproof travel version. Amazon has tons. I’m not even going to provide a link, because there are so many different types, but go to Amazon.com and search for what you need here.
  • Netflix Gift Card. Young people who are trying to find their way in the world need some downtime. Sure, they have their phones for communicating with friends, but it’s easy to lose track of time. With a Netflix gift card, they can watch a comforting episode of Friends or Fuller House, and when it’s over, they know it’s time to get back to studying. Purchase them in Walmart or Target for $10 and up.
  • Amazon Gift Card. This one comes in especially handy, because they can order whatever they need and have it delivered. Plus, if they get enough money on Amazon, they can purchase a Prime Membership for $119. That will bring them fast, free delivery on lots of items, and they can watch Amazon Prime TV shows and movies. Purchase here.
  • Target Gift Card. Because every college student arrives at college and realizes he/she needs a few more things, Target gift cards are perfect. You can purchase them online or in any Target store. They are perfect when they realize they took all the perfect decorating pieces but forgot to take soap and lotion. Maybe they need a mattress topper after discovering the dorm bed is not comfortable? They can get it all at Target!
  • Personalized items. Personalized stationery, personalized pillowcases, personalized slippers…all these make great gifts. When I went off to college, I had those plus a personalized bathrobe, a personalized shower caddy, a personalized towel wrap, personalized pictures frames, and lots of my friends had personalized sheets for their twin-sized dorm beds. Honestly, anything personalized is…well, personal. It means you actually thought of the graduate. I think a personalized bathrobe with a little cash stuck in the pocket makes a great gift. Maybe stick a fabric marker in the pocket too, so they can put their name in all their clothing. Lots of students take advantage of on-campus laundry services now, so it’s always good to have a name in items. Bed Bath & Beyond offers lots of the items listed here, and will personalize them for you too! They also offer gift cards….not a bad idea either.
  • Insider’s guide or journal. OK, stay with me here. I know some of them are going straight to college and not traveling any before they go. But they might not know about things to do in the area where they are going. I know a girl who is going to NYU in the fall, and I think giving her an insider’s guide to New York City would be great. I’m no “insider,” but if I can’t find the perfect book (in which I would slip some cash), I can get my friends who are insiders to put together some information! People really do enjoy sharing their secrets about cities. Child going to Emory? Give Atlanta info! Child going to Vanderbilt? Lots of good Nashville info out there! I know one who would love to know about all the best thrift stores, and I know the perfect person to compile the info! If not, maybe you give them a book in which they can write all the things they find themselves! And of course…stick some cash in it.

Whatever you do for the grad, it will be appreciated. I read somewhere recently that someone said, “Congratulations, grad! You’ve finished the easiest years of your life!” While that may be true for many of them, the best is yet to come for most of them.

Oh, the places they’ll go!

 

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Party Prizes

A few weeks ago, I hosted a brunch at my home for a committee I chair at our daughter’s school.

It was on a Monday, so I had Sunday to prepare. I did the usual de-cluttering of the house, which my husband loves, and I started getting the food ready. I opted not to hire a caterer, but I did get the flowers done professionally by a local florist, The Blossom Shop, and they did a beautiful job.

Anyone who has ever attended a meeting led by me knows I love prizes. Doesn’t everyone love to be a winner? For the brunch, I opted to have bundtlets from Nothing Bundt Cakes for the party favors. If you’ve never had them, you should try them. We have a few stores here, so it’s easy to get them in Charlotte. But since I love prizes, we had a few giveaways too. I had ordered a few of my favorite things and wrapped them the night before.

Just because I think prizes are fun, I’m going to share some prize options, in case you plan to have a gathering of friends this summer:

  • Comfy. This lovely prize is one of my favorite things. It’s a giant, cozy, one-size-fits-all blanket sweatshirt. Yes, I have one, and I love it! Priced at about $35-39, you can purchase them online from Amazon here or in Target in the “as seen on TV” section. 
  • Burt’s Bees Soy Candles. Scented candles are great, but when they’re soy candles, you can use them to soften your skin too! People thought I was crazy when I said that, but it’s true! While it’s still warm (not hot) after burning the candle, stick your finger into the candle and scoop out a little to rub on your hands…making them super soft! These were just $5.99 at my local grocery store, but you can also order them on Amazon here.41Oj9-2vVEL
  • Hungry Girl Simply 6. This recipe book, by one of my favorite people, Lisa Lillien, is a great gift. It contains recipes, all with six ingredients or less, that are low in calories. Get it at Amazon here.51YV0FPDcCL._SX409_BO1,204,203,200_
  • Maybe You Touched Your Genitals Hand Sanitizer. It’s an old favorite. If you’ve read some of my old posts, you’re familiar with it. I know…it’s crude. But it’s funny. Admit it. It’s funny. Everybody needs a good laugh every now and then. I purchase it from Amazon.com.81GXntyinJL._SY679_
  • Poo-Pourri. Great stuff, no doubt, and it works. Ever seen the lengthy youtube commercial for it? See it here. The “commercial” is crude…not kidding…but if you have a sense of humor and can handle it, watch it. Get Poo-Pourri at Amazon here.
  • Blue Q Novelty Dish Towels. I find them at Paper Skyscraper in Charlotte, but you can order online. One friend went home with one yesterday that said, “Do one thing every day that scares your children.” You can order from Amazon here. Blue Q also makes cute oven mitts. I have one that says, “I’m Not Bossy. I’m the Boss.”81cmBO22V9L._SL1304_
  • Fred and Friends Good Measure Cocktail Pitcher. Another old favorite, this one was a popular prize at the brunch. It’s a pitcher with recipes for cocktails by the pitcher…pure genius. We’ll be using them out by our pool all summer. I used two of mine at the brunch, so everyone had seen them as I poured up Bellinis and Mimosas, but they had no idea one of them would be the proud owner of one. One lucky friend took one home! Get it at Amazon here.81-CmMZCBUL._SY879_
  • Whitman’s Sampler Spring Collection. I’m a sucker for a Whitman’s sampler…have been since childhood. I think folks of my generation see them and think of their grandparents or their own childhood. You can find it in your local grocery store, Target, or Walmart.1f74f0cb-0dd4-4927-90ae-12929f5aad37_1.09c7d23fd3a8fad06afa50f610b46b8c.jpeg
  • Anne Taintor Products. Anne Taintor products are fun. Get them at annetaintor.com.  From trays to napkins to kitchen towels…they’re fun. I have a coffee mug from Anne Taintor that proclaims, “I love not camping!” And there’s this fun one:55729_brag

There you have it. A few fun ideas for prizes or giveaways when you have a gathering of your girlfriends. Like I said…I love giving away prizes. And who doesn’t love being a winner?!

A Weekend to Remember

Wow! I turned 52 on Memorial Day. While I have always loved my birthday, this one was extra special…and most memorable.

On Saturday, I flew to Los Angeles with a friend. She was my “plus one” for another friend’s wedding on Monday, because my husband needed to stay home to make sure our teenage daughter prepared for final exams at school.

We flew home Tuesday, but we still haven’t stopped talking about the wedding reception!  The bride is someone I met in LA a couple of years ago, and she is gorgeous on a regular day, but she was positively radiant on her wedding day, which also happened to be her birthday too! And I’m sure she will remember it for the rest of her life as well.

I remember when she got engaged. I remember she said these words to me, “I hope you’re ready for a big African wedding!” And honestly, I was flattered to be invited. She is a special lady who loves looking out for others and making other people happy. She is Nigerian, and her new husband is as well. Have you ever been to a Nigerian wedding? If you haven’t, you’re missing out. I can’t believe it took me 52 years to have that fabulous experience! There was so much to take in: the incredible handmade dresses of fine fabrics and beautiful colors; the culinary delights of the food; the African music we had never heard, but all the Nigerians knew every beat and every word; the exciting processions of both families and different groups associated with the bride and groom; the DJ who worked the crowd; the love of the families; the dancing! I could never write a description that would do it all justice, but I can say we met some lovely people and had an incredibly memorable experience. And I got to see my sweet friend get married. She and her new husband look so peacefully happy with each other.

Before the reception, I had wondered what food would be served. I was hoping I would get to have some Nigerian food, and I was not disappointed! For first course, we were offered an option of Peppered Goat Soup or Yam Porridge. I consulted with the bride’s cousin, who was seated next to me, and she steered us toward the Yam Porridge…spicy and mellow all in one bowl. It was fantastic, but I wanted to make sure I had room for the other courses, so I ate about 3/4 of the bowl. For the entree, we had a choice of five different things, and the cousin recommended the Fried Rice, Moi Moi, Assorted Meats and Plantains. I think Meg (my plus one) and I surprised the cousins by eating so well! The fried rice had a little kick to it, while the plantains added a little sweetness. And the meats…chicken and I think, goat ribs…incredible spices. We dined like queens!

If you ever watched The Wonder Years, you might remember the episode titled Birthday Boy, in which Paul (the main character’s best friend and neighbor) has his Bar Mitzvah on Kevin’s (the main character) birthday. I don’t remember everything about the episode, but I do remember Kevin was a little envious of Paul’s family traditions and history. Listening to Paul’s grandfather talk about his own Bar Mitzvah had Kevin wondering about his own family history…and I get it. Being at my friend’s big Nigerian wedding made me think of that episode of The Wonder Years. I found myself looking on in awe at how these lovely people had managed to hang on to Nigerian traditions in the United States. The people are American, but they remember their African heritage…and I loved every minute of it.

I will likely never have another experience like it. If it took me 52 years to be able to experience it once, it’s not likely I will get to do it again. But I will always remember it. I wish my daughter could have gone. I wish she could have experienced it. I learned a lot, and the bride’s cousins answered all my questions, even though it had to be difficult to hear me, since I can’t talk above a whisper with laryngitis. They were so kind and patient while I tried to ask my questions about details.

So yes, I had a happy birthday…it was fantastic. Most of all, I am grateful to my friend for inviting me to celebrate her new marriage with her…a happy birthday, indeed!

A Little Fever Won’t Keep Me Down

What is it about vacation that brings on sickness? I don’t mean getting sick on vacation; I mean getting sick right before vacation. It always happens to me. Always happens to me.

Tomorrow morning at 10:00, I’m getting on a flight to Los Angeles. Come Hell or high water, I’m getting on that plane. But for the past few days, I’ve noticed I’ve been “trying” to get sick. A few nights ago, I woke up in the middle of the night, and I couldn’t breathe through my nose. A little tissue and some Afrin helped that night. Same for the next night. Then yesterday, I woke up with a slight sore throat, and as the day progressed, my ears started to hurt. Ugh.

Today, I woke up feeling about the same, but after having an early birthday lunch with friends and a quick trip to Target, I realized I was feeling a little worse. I found a thermometer in my house, which is not an easy thing to do, because my daughter and husband tend to misplace them, but this time, it was exactly where it should have been…in the kitchen drawer. Doesn’t everyone have one of those kitchen drawers? It has paper clips, safety pins, tape, and yes…it’s supposed to have at least one thermometer. And this time I was especially lucky…the thermometer was there, and the battery in it wasn’t even dead! So I checked my temperature, and just as I suspected, I had a low-grade fever, which I probably still have, because I haven’t taken any medication yet. I’ve been staying hydrated, but waiting to take meds.

The fact that I haven’t taken meds stresses out my husband. “Have you taken anything yet?” “When are you going to take something?” I promise, I’m not sitting around complaining. He just sees me sitting in my bathrobe and remembers I’m not feeling well. I explained to him that I wanted to keep the fever for a little while to give it the opportunity to fight the germ I have. He thinks I’m nuts. Well, he always thinks I’m nuts, but he even gave me one of those “you’re nuts” looks. So right now, I’m taking an Advil Cold & Sinus tablet, because I need to feel well enough to get packed for my trip tomorrow. I’m giving it about 45 minutes to start working, and then I will get busy packing.

Tonight, I’ll take some NyQuil, you know, the “night time, sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, stuffy head, fever, so you can rest” medicine. I know it won’t cure me, but it usually does what the old commercials said it would do.

And tomorrow, I’ll get on that plane. Oh, I’m going. I’ve been looking forward to my friend’s “big, African wedding” for months (she is from Nigeria!), and there is no way I am going to miss it. Before you freak out and say I’ll be sharing germs with everyone on the flight, settle down. It’s a cold. I don’t have measles. I don’t have flu. I don’t have tuberculosis. It’s a common cold. The wedding isn’t till Monday, so by then, I should be good as new. Sure, it has me feeling pretty bad today, but I won’t let a cold keep me down. No sir…not gonna happen.

This is one of those many times I’m thankful we live in an airline hub city. Nonstop flights sure are easier than connections. I know…connecting is no big deal, but as my daughter pointed out after we cleared customs/immigration in Charlotte after a flight home from Mexico in March, “all those other people have another flight before they get home, and we get to go home now!” There’s something great about living in a hub city. Thank you, American Airlines, for being here. So tomorrow, I’ll get on that American Airlines plane and sleep as much as I can on the way to LA. We will get there, and just like always, I’ll hit the ground running.

I don’t have time to be sick. Did I mention Memorial Day is also my 52nd birthday and the bride’s birthday? Yep…she’s getting married on Monday on our birthdays. It should be a fabulous, memorable birthday. Happy Birthday to me!

And when I get home, my daughter will have three more days of final exams at school before SCHOOL’S OUT FOR SUMMER!

Fur Babies and Weddings

Ask young ladies what kind of wedding they dream about, and their answers will be all over the board.

My husband and I got married almost 19 years ago. We had a small wedding, at my insistence. My husband wanted a bigger shindig, but I didn’t. If I’d had my way, we would have been married by my friend’s dad, who was a Presbyterian minister, very quietly. Or we’d have been married by another friend’s dad, who at the time, was a Probate Judge. The groom would not hear of it. No way. So, we compromised and had a small wedding in the Presbyterian church…mostly family and a few friends…at 11:00 in the morning. We served brunch afterward and had Mimosas. And we are just as married as folks who have a million dollar extravaganza.

But I think I’m in the minority here. It seems so many brides want it all…the big church wedding, the expensive wedding dress, the huge reception. Or their mothers want it for them. Just watch Say Yes to the Dress, and you’ll see examples of brides who want it all, and you’ll see examples of moms who want it all. (I’m already bribing my daughter to elope when the time comes.)

There are people who have children and want to incorporate them into their weddings, and there’s a lot of information all over the internet about ways to do that.

And then…there are brides and grooms who want to find creative ways to incorporate their dogs into their weddings, but how?

How does one find creative ways to incorporate dogs into weddings?

Recently, a friend told me her daughter wants to have her beautiful, well-trained Golden Retriever as a part of her upcoming wedding. The dog, Binky, has been a part of the bride’s life since she graduated from college six years ago, and the bride wants her there. Binky has been with her through thick and thin for six years.

But the bride works long hours and has very little time to investigate ways to have her dog be a part of the big event. She asked her mother to handle everything about the wedding…including how to have the dog there for the preparation, the ceremony, and for photos.

Fortunately for my friend, I knew where she could find good ideas. 

There’s a website called Personal Creations. You can see the website here. Most people think of Personal Creations when they are looking personalized gifts, because they offer lots of personalized gifts for lots of different people and occasions. What people don’t know is that they also have a blog, which you can access here.  On the blog, you can find lots of great information and printables for different holidays, and it was there I found something titled How to Incorporate Dogs Into Your Wedding. I told my friend about it, and she called me a little while later, thanking me…she had found everything she needed right there!

You can see How to Incorporate Dogs Into Your Wedding here.

This brilliant blog post offers ideas for having your dog as a part of the “getting ready for the big day” process. Want your dog to take part in walking down the aisle? You’ll find ideas for that as well. You’ll also find ideas for getting your dog color-coordinated with your ceremony and ways to capture the moment with your pooch in photographs. The paws-ibilities are endless!  I won’t spoil it for you, but click on over there for great info.

I’ve saved the information, even though my daughter is just a teenager. If she decides, one day many moons from now, that she wants to have her furry friend (and I mean a dog, not a hirsute friend) as part of her ceremony, I’ll have the perfect information for her. For us, that day is a long way off, but it doesn’t hurt to have the information filed away just in case!

My friend whose daughter will be getting married soon was grateful for the info, and she is using three of the ideas from the site. After you’ve read the blog, you might want to shop around for some great personalized gift ideas on Personal Creations too!

 

 

 

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It’s Wedding Time!

In less than two weeks, my friend, Meg, and I are going to a wedding in California together. A friend of mine is getting married. My husband needs to stay home with our daughter while she studies for final exams, so I asked Meg to be my “plus one.” We are excited. The bride will be beautiful, of course, because she is beautiful.

But before the fun begins, Meg and I have been searching for the perfect dresses to wear. It’s a formal event, so we need floor-length dresses. I didn’t say we need “gowns,” because that sounds way too dramatic for me. When I think of a “gown,” I think of a giant, billowy dress with beading all over it. I’m not doing that, and Meg’s not either. Also, we don’t want to look like the “mother-of-the-bride.” We are simply doing floor-length. But we need transitional dresses, because the wedding is early afternoon, and the reception is late afternoon into the evening. Maybe some people will go back to their hotels or homes and change between the service and the reception, but Meg and I won’t have time. Therefore, our dresses need to be OK for the early service and the later reception. Whew!

I found two dresses that will work for me.

Here’s what I have learned from this process: it’s hard to find a floor-length dress you like, but it is especially difficult to find one that will go from day to evening, but you can find them! Here are some suggestions:

  • If you’re short like me (5’2″), you might be able to find some beautiful midi-length dresses that will work as floor-length on you, and you might not have to get them altered. The two dresses I think will work are both supposed to be midi-length for “normal” people, but on me, it’s floor-length!
  • Check local boutiques. Sometimes, they offer a better selection than the big box stores, because they are more specialized. Sales associates are likely to be able to pull some dresses that might work for you.
  • Department stores are good places to look, too, though, and often have in-house alterations departments that can do it all. You can check these websites online: Belk.com, Neimanmarcus.com, Nordstrom.com, Bloomingdales.com, and there are some great discount sites like Nordstromrack.com, Lastcall.com, and Saksoff5th.com. If you have a Nordstrom Rack, Saks Off 5th, or Last Call store in your area, you might find a great designer dress at a rock bottom price. I have found two in Saks Off 5th in the past.
  • Another great resource? Ebay! If you know which brands usually work for you, it can be easy to find something on Ebay. For example, I know how Diane Von Furstenberg fits me, so I can feel pretty safe about ordering DVF on Ebay, even though I can’t try it on and sometimes can’t return it. However, I am very careful about how much I will pay for items on Ebay. And here’s another secret: I’ve purchased lots of things on Ebay before wearing them for an event…and then I resell them after I am done with them!
  • Rent the Runway is an online site that offers designer dresses for rent, so you pay a fraction of the cost to wear it for an event and then return it! I have friends who use it regularly and swear by it. You can see the website here.
  • Years ago, when I lived in Mobile, I rented a dress from a local place for a Mardi Gras ball. Everything worked out great, so I recommended it to all my friends then. It has been 20 years since, so I don’t remember the name of the place, or I would recommend it now. But in Charlotte, we have a dress-rental shop called Dressed. I haven’t been there, but you can see their website here.
  • Amazon Prime now offers a service called Prime Wardrobe. You can order some of their clothing items through the program, and they will send them for you to try on. If you like them, you keep them, and they charge your credit card. If you don’t like them, you have seven days to return them free of charge! I’ve used it several times and love it! If you’re a Prime member, it’s included with your membership!

So do not fret if you need the perfect dress for an occasion. You will find something, even it if seems like an impossible task. Try some of the options listed above. If you’re looking to keep costs down, check out local boutique sales or even thrift stores. Try some of the discount designer sites, or check out the rental sites and stores. I’ve dug deep to help you find options, and I’m saving all this information for my future needs. With wedding season quickly approaching, you might find this information helpful.

I will post pics of us at the wedding on Memorial Day, which is also the brides birthday…and mine too!

 

 

 

 

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Happy Mother’s Day

To all you mothers out there…Happy Mother’s Day!

Mother’s Day has taken on a whole new meaning since my mother died in December 2017. I miss my mother, just like anyone who has lost their mom. Today, I will tell stories about her, and I will drink a toast to her at brunch, but I won’t be sad. I am happy, because I had a wonderful mother.

My little family will go to brunch, just like we always do on Mother’s Day. My husband sent me flowers yesterday, and I sent myself some Baked by Melissa mini cupcakes…any excuse for some Baked by Melissa mini cupcakes! If you’ve never tried them, you need to try them. You can see the website here. Mine arrived on Friday. I ordered 50 minis. My husband was with me when I opened the box, and he was waiting to see who sent them. When I looked at the card, it simply said, “Happy Mother’s Day.” He looked at me and asked, “Who do you think sent them?” I laughed and said, “I sent them to myself!” He wasn’t surprised; he just shook his head and walked out of the room. And when he did, I strategically hid mini cupcakes in the refrigerator, so I can have them all to myself! Here’s a picture to show you how quickly they are disappearing:

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Of course, we don’t have to get gifts to make us feel special on Mother’s Day.All I want is to share a big hug with my daughter, and I’ll give her a little gift, just like Mama used to always do. She always said she should give us gifts on Mother’s Day, because she was so happy to be our mother. That’s exactly how I feel about my daughter. I absolutely love being her mother. Is it all fun and games? No. But it’s all love, for sure.

Recently, I found a necklace of Mother’s. Somehow, I didn’t even know I had it, but I found it last Sunday as I was getting ready to go hear my friend, Linda, singing in a concert. It’s a gold chain with a little blush-colored egg, and a tiny cardinal is peeking out of the egg. I’ll wear it to brunch today. So while Mama won’t be with me in person, but she’ll be with me in spirit.

One thing I know for sure is that my mama loved me. All my life, I thought I knew how much she loved me, but I didn’t really know till I was 36 years old. When I became a mother, I realized just how much my mother had loved me my whole life. I remember telling her then, “I always knew you loved me, and I always thought I understood how much, but now that I have my own child, I really know how much you love me.”

If you still have your mother on this Mother’s Day, give her a big hug, or at least a meaningful phone call if you’re far away, and tell her you love her. If you don’t have your mother, honor her memory by telling at least one memorable story about her. And if you are a mother, give your babies (no matter how big or old they are) a big hug.

Happy Mother’s Day, you mothers!

 

 

 

 

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