Back Home Ballers

Back Home Ballers

When I was growing up, there were young people in and out of our house all the time. Likewise, when our daughter was growing up, we had young people in and out of our house all the time. And then, this past August, she went to college, and our house became a lot quieter. She came home once in September and once a few weeks ago, and we got to see one or two of her friends, but now that Thanksgiving is upon us, they’re all home from college, and there is so much activity! It has been like a revolving door of friends since she got home, and we couldn’t be happier! If you have seen the SNL video titled Back Home Ballers, you know where I stole my title. If you’re not familiar with it, you can see it here. And if you’re a parent of a college student, you get it. Your husband is probably the “valet,” carrying bags up and down the stairs. At our house, I’m the mom who just went to Costco (or Publix, in my case) in anticipation of the college student’s arrival…and hopefully, there are lots of friends dropping in too! And the students themselves? Well, they are just enjoying every minute of the attention and preferential treatment.

I remember my friend, Angela, visiting me at my mother’s house when I was in my forties. I had gone down to Alabama to visit with Mother for a few days, and lucky for me, Angela lived nearby. One particular trip, Angela came over, and we were playing “Heads Up” with our smartphones, laughing and poking fun at each other. We talked and laughed and talked and laughed some more. I remember Mother saying, “Having y’all together here makes me happy. Y’all bring fun energy into my house.” I heard her, but I didn’t fully understand what she was saying.

Now I get it.

Now I understand what mother was feeling. I feel energized with all these friends of our daughter in and out of the house. I’ve been to the grocery store four times in anticipation of their visits. Normally, I do not enjoy the grocery store, but this week, I have enjoyed every minute of it…practically skipping and dancing down the aisles! I have tried to purchase all their favorite comfort foods, because I want them to feel comfortable and a little nostalgic. We have a few more days before they all head back to college, so I hope to prepare a few more meals, snacks, and desserts before they leave. My refrigerator is still bursting at the seams, so they need to come over as often as possible to eat all that food! The benefit for me? While they hang out in my kitchen, laughing and talking, I absorb their fun, positive energy, and I get to laugh a lot! Good times.

Last night, in fact, a few friends were here, and we stayed up well into the night laughing and talking…even crying some too, but it was good crying. I have watched these young people grow up! Obviously, I have known my daughter her whole life, but I’ve known most of her friends since they were five or even before that! We go way back…lots of history there. Now they have new lives at their universities spread across the country, so there was lots to cover there too.

I have even been able to drive my daughter and some of her friends to the homes of other friends…and even pick them up late at night! Many of these college students are home without their cars, because they have to fly back and forth to their universities. Our daughter doesn’t have her car here, so I almost feel like I used to feel before she was old enough to drive! Yes, it was aggravating sometimes then, but now I’m the mom driving late at night with a big smile on my face! I’m just so happy! That is my life right now! It’s real, y’all.

And you know what? I’m loving every minute and trying to lock things into my long term memory!

*Feature photo from NBC’s SNL* I wish I had thought to get our daughter and a group of her friends to pose like this!

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Holiday Decorating for Our College Student

Holiday decorating for our college student.

She’s coming home Thursday…a whole week before Thanksgiving.

Sunday afternoon, I was texting with a friend in Mobile who sent me pictures of her wrapped Christmas gifts! Yes, I said wrapped Christmas gifts...lots of them! She is even in the process of decorating her tree! She has two sons in their early 20s, and she is way ahead of the holiday game! I am impressed, especially because I have done very little to prepare for the holidays. Don’t get me wrong. I’m shopping. I have purchased a few items…a couple of gifts and some stocking stuffers. I have a little bit of holiday travel planned. I’m trying to figure out everything else. But decorating? It’s mid-November! My holiday game just isn’t there yet.

But then I realized…our daughter is coming home from college later this week, and it might be fun for her to come home and find a festive atmosphere.

I’m not ready to start wrapping gifts. I’m not ready to put up the tree. But I started thinking about what I can do now to make it feel festive when she arrives home this week, and it occurred to me that I can, at the very least, get the dining room table set and decorated for the holidays. Sorry…I’m skipping right over Thanksgiving table decor and moving on into Christmas decor. It’s not like I have ever decorated for Thanksgiving before anyway. I’m a bit of a holiday decor minimalist…especially for anything besides Christmas, but by most standards, I’m pretty minimal at Christmas too.

So yesterday afternoon, I went up to the attic and brought down some of the decor…not much, but some. And I got busy removing the regular china from the dining room table and replacing it with Christmas china. Some of the silver needed polishing, so I did that too. I didn’t go so far as to start playing Christmas music while I worked, but I might have been singing my own version of some Christmas carols. The dogs didn’t howl as I sang, but they did run to the other room. My husband came home in the middle of my chaos. I felt sure he would ask why I was decorating before Thanksgiving, but nope…he just kept his head down and kept walking. He probably was afraid I would ask him to help! (I didn’t.)

After gathering everything, I realized I was missing several items…a couple of my red champagne flutes (broken last year) and some of the pieces for my “tablescape.” So I placed a couple of online orders for the things I need. I still improvised with what I have, replacing the red champagne flutes with regular crystal ones until I have all the red ones, and putting out as much of my “tablescape” as possible. Yes, I put “tablescape” in quotation marks, because I’m not much of a scaper. However, even with the minimal table decor I have now, the dining room will feel festive when our daughter walks in. ***For tablescape ideas, see links at the bottom of page***

I stopped short of dragging out any other Christmas decor.

My husband grows weary of holiday decor, so I don’t want to send his brain into Christmas overload too early in the season…or before the season even gets started! I did not put up the tree. I didn’t go out and put lights on the trees in the front yard. I didn’t put the garland on the stairs. I didn’t start baking cookies for Santa. However, I am still considering putting the bows on the front porch lanterns before our daughter arrives Thursday. I know she would love to see those when she arrives, but I’m feeling a little like I need to save that until after Thanksgiving. Otherwise, even I will be tired of looking at all of it before Christmas even gets here. Plus, I don’t want to send the neighbors into complete shock by decorating too early.

For now, I’m relatively happy with my dining room table. When I’m finished, will it look like I hired Martha Stewart? Nope. Not at all. Maybe it will look like I hired Martha’s friend, Snoop Dogg. I’m not knocking Snoop; I love him! Frankly, I’d love to have him decorate my house for the holidays! In fact, I think I’d prefer his decor over Martha’s.

And we will all feel festive as soon as our daughter walks through the door for her weeklong Thanksgiving break! Maybe she will want to help me with some holiday decor after she gets here!

Fo shizzle!

****Here are some websites for table decorating ideas:

Town and Country Magazine

Country Living

Jane at Home

And some fun ideas from Country Living

*Also, follow Shayla Copas on Instagram here for great ideas! Or order her book, Four Seasons of Entertaining, here.*

Holiday Gift #3 for 2022: Pajamas

Holiday gift #3 for 2022: pajamas.

Stick with me.These are not the pajamas your grandma gave you.

We get excited about pajamas at our house. Why? Because if we’re home and finished with everything we have to do for the day, we are in pajamas. Call me crazy, but when I am home, I like to be as comfortable as possible. If I get home at 4:00pm, and I know I won’t be going out again, I put on my pajamas. So don’t be surprised if you ring my doorbell at 5:30pm and I open the door wearing PJs.

Because I think lots of Americans spend lots of time in pajamas, I’m listing pajamas as my #3 holiday gift for 2022. I am all in with three brands: Bedhead, Roller Rabbit, and Vineyard Vines.

My personal favorite? Bedhead Pajamas.

I have been wearing Bedhead Pajamas for 20 years. Back when I first discovered them through a friend’s shop, I purchased poplin and flannel pajamas, but Bedhead seems to have evolved. They now sell wonderfully supple, soft, jersey-knit pajamas, and I can’t get enough of them. And they have PJs for the whole family! Something else great about them? On their website, they have lots of sale items, and I take full advantage of that. Don’t get me wrong; they are absolutely worth the full price, which ranges from $98 to $120 for men and women’s PJs. If you opt to purchase their latest and greatest styles/prints, you will be happy to pay the full price, because these PJs retain their shape and softness, and they are made to last.

But if you want to give some quality pajama gifts this holiday season without paying full price, check out their sales on the website, where you will find women’s and men’s PJs starting at just $39! My college-age daughter loves shorty pajamas, and several of their shorty sets are priced at $49. I should add they are all super cute too! Personally, I prefer their classic stretch jersey sleepshirts, some of which are offered for $39 on their sale page! I have three of them already, but I will be receiving some more for Christmas this year. In fact, they have already been purchased and wrapped…just for me! After I had my gallbladder removed earlier this year, I lived in my Bedhead PJs for several days. When friends visited after my surgery, I didn’t mind greeting them in my Bedhead PJs, because frankly, they are cuter than lots of my normal clothes!

And for men, the pricing is similar for regularly-priced sets and for sale-priced sets! They even offer PJs for kids, with normal priced items in the $40-$50 range, and sale-priced items starting at just $11!

You can see the Bedhead website here.

But I also recommend Roller Rabbit PJs. They also offer comfortable, well-made pajamas, and I have lots of friends who are big Roller Rabbit fans. My daughter loves their shorty sets too. And just like Bedhead, Roller Rabbit offers PJs for the whole family, priced in the same general range as Bedhead. My only issue with Roller Rabbit over the years has been availability. They are so popular that it can be difficult to find what you want in the sizes you want. It might just be that I don’t check the website often enough, but today, I had difficulty finding any shorty PJs in my daughter’s size. But if you can find the size you want, you can know they will be a hit with the gift recipient! I’d venture to say most of my daughter’s high school and college friends have Roller Rabbit PJs.

You can see the Roller Rabbit website here.

And last, but certainly not least, I recommend Vineyard Vines pajamas and loungewear. We were introduced to the brand’s PJ and loungewear offerings a few years ago by a friend who gave our daughter some of their lounge pants for Christmas. They were cute and comfy, and we were sold immediately! In fact, right after she received those, I had to go out and purchase a couple more pairs, so she could wear them every night! After that, I got some for me and some for my husband, and we still love them! We wear them as PJs but also as loungewear inside the house and outside when we are sitting by the firepit in the evening. Again, just like Bedhead and Roller Rabbit, they are well-made, comfortable, and they are offered in great patterns/prints.

You can see the Vineyard Vines pajamas and loungewear offerings at their website here.

It’s a safe bet that pajamas and loungewear from any of these brands will make the folks on your Christmas list happy this year! Keep in mind that Christmas is 6 1/2 weeks from the date of publication (Nov 8). Get busy shopping for the best selection!

***Feature photo from BedheadPJs.com***

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Holiday Gift #2 for 2022

Holiday gift #2 for 2022.

Quick recap: my holiday gift #1 post featured bags by Baboon to the Moon. See the post here.

As the holidays approach, I’m taking stock of things I see and things I love…things I think will make the perfect Christmas or Hanukkah gifts. The second item I’m featuring this year is a fire pit from Solo Stove. I actually mentioned this item in a post last holiday season, but because we get so much joy from our Solo Stove fire pit, I’m featuring again this year. It would be a great gift for Dad or even for Mom, if she likes to spend time outdoors in the evening like I do. Or maybe you have a college student or other adult in your family who lives in a house and likes to entertain?

We have the Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0, which is their most popular size of fire pit. According to the website, it’s perfect for backyards, and I can attest to that fact. My husband and I have cocktails or coffee out on our patio…just the two of us or with friends…almost any night we are home, and in the fall, winter, and early spring the Bonfire 2.0 is the perfect smokeless fire pit to keep us warm. It is about 19.5 inches in diameter and heats about 5-6 people. We love the warmth and ambiance it offers when we are out there stargazing, and we love that, when our daughter is home, she and her friends enjoy gathering around it too.

With a chrome finish, the Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0 is attractive and useful. Plus, because it’s not too big, it’s easy to clean…easy to dump the ashes. Always wait till there is no sign of heat or fire before dumping the ashes. We usually wait till the next time we are ready to use the fire pit to empty the ashes. That way, we know we won’t be inadvertently starting a fire in the garbage can, in the yard, or anywhere else.

Is it actually smokeless? For the most part, yes. My husband would not want to use it if it created a smoky fire. He hates the smell of smoke more than anything. When I first purchased the Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0, he was skeptical. And when I first built a fire in it, it seemed like a fail. It was smoky…at first…but once the fire took hold, the fire pit did what it’s supposed to do, and we had a smoke-free fire. However, because my husband gets nervous about burning ashes flying through the air from wood fires, we went in a different direction and purchased Duraflame logs to burn in the fire pit. I was skeptical, but after I realized how easy they are to light, I was sold. And the fire with the Duraflame, because it doesn’t require smoky kindling, starts out smoke free.

Solo Stove makes several different sizes of fire pits, so if you think the Bonfire 2.0 is too large or too small, there are other sizes that could work for you. Their Ranger 2.0 fire pit is 15 inches in diameter, so it’s a little smaller, so it’s most portable. For a larger fire pit, they offer the Yukon 2.0, which has a 27-inch diameter, making it more easy to accommodate up to 13 people!

And if you’re wondering about pricing, the Ranger 2.0, at the time of writing, is on sale at the Solo Stove website for $199, a savings of $100 off the regular price. The Bonfire 2.0, the one we have, is on sale for $239, a savings of $160. And the Yukon 2.0 is on sale for $439, saving the purchaser over $300 off the original price. To see the website, click here.

Because we enjoy our Solo Stove fire pit so much, this gift goes in the category of “highly recommend.” You can’t go wrong with it, and if you do things the easy way, like we do, and get the Duraflame logs, it’s super easy to have instant warmth and ambiance on your patio any time you want it.

But I don’t know how long the sale will last, so if you’re considering it, go ahead and purchase it now! I believe the recipient will think it’s a great gift, and they will thank you for years to come!

Happy shopping!

Moms After Christmas Day

Moms after Christmas Day.

We made it! Moms of the world, we made it! We got through Christmas Day!

No, this doesn’t mean we don’t celebrate the real reason for the season. It doesn’t mean we aren’t grateful. It doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy the holidays. But moms, in most families, take on the lion’s share of the “burden” of making Christmas Day happen in our homes…and we wouldn’t have it any other way!

When our now-18-yr-old was ten years old, she came down with the flu on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. We were ice skating with friends, and suddenly, she wasn’t feeling well. We left immediately and went home, but when I discovered her fever kept going up after taking meds, I took her to Urgent Care just before they closed. She had flu. It was Christmas Eve. She still believed in Santa, and Santa (me) had some work to do that night!

I took her home and put her in my bed, and shortly thereafter, the nausea kicked in. We were up all night till about 6:30am, when she finally fell asleep and Santa (me) could jump into action. Fortunately, that year, I had prepared well ahead of time. I had wrapped all the Santa gifts in advance and put them in a giant black garbage bag in the game room upstairs. I sent my husband up to bring that down, and as soon as our daughter fell asleep (for a total of 30 minutes!), I dashed out to the living room and put the gifts out…just like Santa would do!

But isn’t it that way for most moms? At the holidays, we just have to find ways to make things happen. Burn the turkey? Pull out some frozen chicken pies from the freezer. Forgot to buy milk for a recipe? Call the neighbors and rush over with a cup to pour some from their refrigerator.

And invariably, we purchase and wrap all the gifts. I looked at all the beautifully-wrapped family gifts under our tree this year and realized I had wrapped every single one! Not only that, but I had also purchased every gift! I had spent countless hours shopping online and in local stores, trying to find the perfect gifts for friends and family. And the gifts were all neatly wrapped with beautiful handmade bows (I have a little talent) and placed carefully under the tree. Nope, there wasn’t a wrapped gift for me. My gift was the expensive vacation my daughter and I took right before Christmas…and it was the perfect gift for me. So every gift under the tree had been wrapped by me. And all those stocking stuffers that magically made it into the stockings? Also me. This year, somehow, I had been prepared. I had everything wrapped and ready to go a week before Christmas!

Of course, as things go, there were a few hiccups. I didn’t have time to go grocery shopping when we got back late on Christmas Eve, so on Christmas Day, we had refrigerator and cupboard surprises! Whatever was in there is what I prepared. Chicken/Bean Soup? Yum! Beer Bread? It was gone in two hours…the whole loaf! Chicken Pie from the freezer? Check! Grilled hot dogs? Yep. Chips and my fabulous Fiesta Party Dip? Everybody loved it!

There were gift hiccups too. Our daughter had opened all her wrapped gifts, and afterward, she asked, “I guess you didn’t get a chance to get the stuff from Lululemon?” Panic struck. Had I remembered? It didn’t really matter, because I know she isn’t “doing without,” but I needed to know what had happened! Had I completely forgotten? Or had I ordered it and forgotten what I had done with it? I thought I remembered ordering from Lululemon, so I said, “Let me check.” I grabbed my phone and checked my email, where I found that I had, indeed, ordered from Lululemon…and it had been delivered! I excused myself and went to the room where I had done all the gift wrapping. And there I found the package from Lululemon, still in the shipping package…just as it had arrived. I took it into the living room, where my family was waiting, and I acknowledged my error, but at least I had the goods from Lululemon! I wasn’t completely crazy! In a few minutes, our daughter asked about a necklace she had requested. Hmmm. I knew she had sent me a link. I checked the email again and found that, indeed, I had ordered the necklace. But as I read the email, I realized it wouldn’t arrive till January. Whew! In the overall scheme of things, though, the daughter would have been fine without the Lululemon stuff and the necklace. Her life wouldn’t be any different with or without them. She knows that. I’m sure she just kept expecting to find them, since she had sent me the links, just as I asked her to do. I was glad she had asked! And thankfully, at least I remembered to order them, even if I couldn’t remember what I had done with them!

Various friends dropped in throughout the day, and because I enjoy a good cocktail with friends, the Mimosas (prosecco or champagne + orange juice) and Poinsettias (prosecco or champagne + cranberry juice + a splash of Cointreau orange liqueur) started flowing pretty freely. I played bartender and brought out snacks while we all talked and laughed. We even played a silly game I found online called Merry Dissmas, and we laughed even more! And there’s nothing else I would have wanted to do. It was great fun.

Of course, between the cooking, laughing, talking, and game playing, just like most moms do, I picked up all the wrapping paper (with some help from the hubby and daughter). My husband flattened all the boxes and took them out to the garage. Since we had just returned from vacation twelve hours before we opened gifts, I unpacked suitcases and did a few loads of laundry. But I have to give my husband credit: he cleaned the kitchen really well.

And honestly, I love doing everything for Christmas Day. I love shopping. I love wrapping. I love trying to find something to please the recipients of the gifts. And just like most moms, I love doing everything I can do for my family. It’s part of what makes it a Merry Christmas for me. I hope I’ll get to keep shopping, wrapping, making bows, cooking, tending bar, and everything else for Christmas Day for many years to come.

It’s what moms do.

And on December 26, after Christmas Day is over, we rest…unless our kids are still small, and then there’s no rest for Mom.

You Look Like You’re Going to a Disco

“You look like you’re going to a disco.”

When you’re getting ready to go to a Christmas party, the last thing you want to hear your husband say is, “You look like you’re going to a disco.” OK, so I guess it could be worse. It happened recently. I was dressed and ready to go, and my husband of 21 years made that statement.

What do you think I did? No, I didn’t get mad. I didn’t cry (as if!). I didn’t pout. I laughed till tears were rolling down my face! It was funny! I took another look in the mirror and realized he was right…I did look like I was going to a disco…and I laughed some more. I actually liked the look, but it wasn’t right for a Christmas party.

Honestly, I haven’t had the disco look many times in my life. I was a teenager and went to college in the 1980s…the heyday of Laura Ashley, Gunne Sax, and gigantic clothing. Seriously, when we should have been showing off our cute figures, we were hiding them underneath gigantic clothes. I’ve written about it before here. The era had a real influence on me, I suppose. No, I don’t wear Laura Ashley or Gunne Sax in the 21st century, but I still dress pretty conservatively. Of course, now, at 54, I don’t have the figure I had at 18, 21, or even 24. Now, people are really glad they don’t see more of my skin! So no, the disco look has never been a big part of my life.

But apparently, in 2021, when I was getting ready for a Christmas party, I dressed like I was going to a disco. Are there even discos anymore? I think the only “disco” I ever went to was in Acapulco, Mexico, in 1982. I was 14, and I was allowed in, so was it really a legit disco? The tour company we were with called it a “disco,” and it had flashing lights, music, and a dance floor, but I’m not sure it would qualify. I feel pretty sure I wore a blue dress…that’s about all I remember…that, and we watched the La Quebrada Cliff Divers from a balcony/patio on the back of the disco. The cliff divers in Acapulco were popular in the 1960s and 1970s; they were even featured regularly on sports television at the time. I was familiar with them before my trip to Acapulco, because my parents always had sports on TV at our house. Acapulco is not as safe as it was back then, but you can read more about the cliff divers here.

My disco ensemble for the Christmas party in 2021 was a cute black jumpsuit with a sparkly Christmas top underneath. Maybe it was the jumpsuit. Or maybe it was the sparkles. Whatever it was, my husband was right…I looked like I was going to a disco.

If you’re wondering, after I laughed till my stomach hurt at my husband’s assessment of my party ensemble, I changed. I decided to save my disco duds for a night out on the town…or maybe just a nice dinner out. I’ll be in California soon, so I will definitely have an opportunity to wear it there. No, not to a disco…to dinner. Anything goes in LA, so no one will care if I look like I’m going to a disco. Well, my daughter, who will be with me, might care, but she won’t have the final word.

Maybe I’ll play some Disco Duck by Rick Dees in the hotel room while I’m getting dressed. I learned last week that Rick Dees and I have a mutual friend! Who knew?! I bet he would appreciate my disco duds.

***To see a 1976 video of Rick Dees performing Disco Duck, click here.***

Facebook Memories: A Gift to Ourselves

Facebook Memories: A Gift to Ourselves.

I joined Facebook in 2009, because a friend from high school “invited” me to join. At the time, I didn’t think much of it. I friended a few people, and then I realized I needed to get my mother to join, because it was an easy way for me to share photos of my then-five-yr-old daughter. I had no idea what an effect it would have on life, in general.

Here is where I am the first to admit that Facebook can be a giant “time suck,” as one friend calls it. I choose to call it a “time bandit,” because it steals my time, and when I look up, I’ve lost minutes or even hours of my life…to Facebook.

At the same time, it’s a good thing. We get to communicate with friends from lots of different stages of our lives. I’ve mentioned before that Facebook connected me with a friend who lived across the street from me when I was a toddler. It connected me with kindergarten friends I never dreamed remembered me after I moved away in second grade. It connected me with friends from the school I started attending in second grade and left after fourth grade. And it connected me with friends from high school and college, jobs I had over the years, and new friends I’ve made along the way. It’s a gift.

But there’s one part of Facebook that I truly consider a gift: Facebook Memories. I love Facebook Memories. I love that, every day, I can open my Facebook account, click on “memories,” and I can see things I’ve posted from years past. Today, for example, when I opened my account, the first memory I came across from one year ago was a photo of a space heater. I had posted it, telling my friend I had purchased new heaters to put at our feet while we visited in the garage. Yep, it was a sign of the times…the pandemic forced me to visit with friends in the open garage. The next memory, also from 2020, was a photo of a Christmas gumdrop tree, something nostalgic from my childhood that was clearly nostalgic for other people too, judging by the comments. The next post? One of my favorites of all time: a video from my daughter’s eighth grade basketball season…a girl on the team hit a buzzer beater to win the game 33-31 (yes, 33-31, because it was middle school girls’ basketball, after all) and a celebration ensued! As I continued to scroll, I came across a photo of me with a group of friends at the Good Friends Luncheon in Charlotte in 2016…a great cause that raises funds to help kids and adults in need. From 2013, there is a photo of me and my cousin before the ACC Championship game here in Charlotte. His team, the Florida State Seminoles won that year…great memory! Below that are a few pics from church basketball league in 2012…our daughter was nine. And then there are photos from 2010, when I took our daughter and some of her friends to a Christmas party at the country club. Lots of great memories! And every one of them made me smile. A gift.

Later this month, I will get to “re-live” Christmas memories…pictures of the Christmas tree after “Santa has left the building,” photos of the joy on our daughter’s face on Christmas morning, pictures of vacations during the holidays, photos of gatherings with friends, and so much more.

Every day, after I scroll through my Facebook memories, I want more! But I always have to wait for the next day…and often, another gift…another great memory…another smile.

For all its faults, Facebook, used correctly, is a gift. I will keep adding memories to it for as long as I can! And hopefully, along the way, I will have at least one smile a day.

Mother/Daughter Popcorn Cakes

Mother/Daughter Popcorn Cakes.

When I was growing up in different places in Alabama, Mother made sure we had some traditions. They might not have been the same traditions that everyone else had, but we had traditions. Sure, we decorated a Christmas tree every year…well, till we became teenagers and lost interest in it…leaving Mother to do that by herself. On Christmas Eve every year, we drove around town, wherever we lived, to look at Christmas lights. And every year, as we drove around on Christmas Eve, I worried that Santa would skip our house, because we weren’t tucked safely into our beds. I remember the anxiety I felt. And every year, we made certain foods. One thing we always made was what we called Marshmallow Cakes, but other people called them Popcorn Cakes.

As an adult, after I got married, I started making the Marshmallow/Popcorn cakes at my house. And after our daughter was born and got old enough to help, she helped me make them every Christmas. We kept one every year and gave others to friends and neighbors. It was just something fun to do, and the results were delicious: an ooey, gooey, crunchy, sweet and salty, colorful, fun treat. If you’ve never had a Marshmallow/Popcorn cake and are wondering about the ingredients, here are some: popcorn, butter, marshmallows, M&Ms, nuts of your choice, pretzels…in fact, you can add almost anything you want, but those are the things we use. You can see how to make them here.

Photo from cookiesandcups.com

I’ve loved them for years, and they are relatively easy to make, but occasionally, they can be a little messy. So this morning, when I was watching TV, I was thrilled to see a lovely mother-daughter team in Florida making Popcorn Cakes at their own company called Popilicious! And theirs are really pretty, because they drizzle them with frosting and sprinkles…something I never thought to do! You know what I did after I saw them…I had to check out their website. Turns out they have cakes, popcorn pops, popcorn Christmas trees, and popcorn bites! They even take custom orders for game days, birthdays, and events.

And guess what I did next! I placed an order for a few Popcorn Cakes and Popcorn Pops…and I can hardly wait for them to arrive. They will definitely be here in time for Christmas, and I will give them away to friends and neighbors. Well, I’ll give most of them away. I plan to keep one cake for my little family to enjoy with any guests we have over the holidays. And we plan to have lots of guests…feel free to drop in for some Popilicious Popcorn Cake!

So yes, I’m recommending Popilicious without having tried them yet. I like supporting mother-daughter businesses, so there’s that, but I also like the fact that something I used to make with my mother is readily available to those of you who have never had a marshmallow/popcorn cake. See their website here.

I’m still going to get out all the ingredients to make some of my own marshmallow/popcorn cakes with my daughter. Now that she’s 18 and very independent, it is especially fun to go back to some old traditions. It brings us together, and when we are working on something together in the kitchen, we get in some good talk time. So it’s really not about what we’re making as much as it’s about doing something together.

She will be off to college next fall, so I’m cherishing all these moments we have together. Yes, I expect her to come home at the holidays next year, but I know there is a big chance she will want to visit friends in different cities for part of the holidays too. That’s OK. We’ll still make a popcorn cake or two…and chat about anything and everything.

Holiday Gifting 2021 (Part 9): Hostess Gifts

Hostess gifts…another favorite gift category!

It’s party season! That means you’ll be on the search for good hostess gifts (which can also serve as great gifts for neighbors). Let’s take a look:

  • Neiman Marcus Holiday Platter. I have been a big fan of these for years, and if you look in my kitchen cupboard, you will learn that quickly. Because I love them so much and find them useful and decorative, they are my traditional gift for some family members and friends…and they make great hostess gifts too. This year’s holiday platter is a lovely shade of green and features a nutcracker. I can hardly wait to add one to my own collection. Priced right now at $30 (down from $40), they make great hostess gifts. Order now and take one to the hostess of the next party you attend! Purchase here.
  • Appoline Measuring Spoons. A fun, little, colorful gift that’s useful in any kitchen! Who wants boring measuring spoons when you can have these little cuties? Get the colorful set of four from Anthropologie for $18 here.
  • Mexican Hot Chocolate Set. From Verve Culture, a great hostess gift…a set for making authentic Mexican hot chocolate. The set includes two clay mugs, a whisk, Villa Real hot chocolate tablets, and recipes. Priced at $45 at The Grommet, it’s a little more expensive than some hostess gifts, but it’s fabulous and memorable. Your hostess will thank you! Purchase here.
  • Frosted Cup Set. I love receiving plastic frosted cups as hostess gifts! Swoozie’s in Charlotte and online has a great selection of different ones. They come in sets of ten cups for just $12.95, and they can be holiday-themed or just about anything else! Purchase them at Swoozie’s here.
  • Ghirardelli Premium Peppermint Hot Cocoa Mix. This comes in a two-pound bag that says right on the front “just add hot water for instant decadence”! Indeed! Where do I sign up?!? It’s fabulous, as most things from Ghirardelli are, and any hostess would love this gift. Priced at $22.99 on Amazon. The hostess and all her family members will love it! Package it in a gift bag with a lovely ribbon. Purchase here.
  • Wine Condoms. Yes, I just mentioned these in the stocking stuffers list, but what a fun hostess gift! The package contains six wine “condoms” you can slip over the top of the bottle to preserve the bottle for later. Priced at $14.99 on Amazon, this is a useful gift that will get some laughs! Purchase here.
  • Grecian Bust Pot. I love these planters, and I would love to find one in a gift bag after hosting a party! No, it’s not a hint. It’s just the truth. Made of hand-painted cement, they come in two sizes. The small is 6.5 inches tall, and the large is 10.75 inches tall. I think they make lovely gifts. Priced at $16.30 for the small and $30.80 for the large, the price point is perfect too! Purchase from Anthropologie here.
  • Eucalyptus blooms. Sounds crazy, but a friend told me someone gave her eucalyptus blooms recently, and she loves them! Your hostess can display them in her home for a pretty accent with a fresh scent, or she can hang them from a shower head in for a spa experience! For those of us who live in Charlotte, we can shop locally with Eucalyptus Blooms, a local company. For those who live elsewhere, you’re in luck too. They ship! See the website here.
  • Bath and Body Works. When my daughter was a little girl, she was obsessed with Bath and Body Works hand sanitizers, and that’s when I became familiar with their hand soaps. I had to kill a lot of time in our local store while she decided which hand sanitizers she wanted. They’re inexpensive ($7.50 for a single hand soap, or six hand soaps for $27.00) and come in lovely packaging. Plus, they smell really good! Someone gave me one last week as a hostess gift for a little party I hosted, and I love it! Purchase here.
  • Flour Sack Tea Towels. I love flour sack tea/kitchen towels. They’re soft. They get the job done. And they can add a little color to a kitchen! I’ve given them as hostess gifts in the past, and I’ve given them as party favors too. I found some on Amazon that are priced right at $18.99 for four towels measuring 28″ x 29″ each! You can gift all three or break up the set and just gift one. Either way, they’re nice, inexpensive gifts. Just tie a pretty Christmas ribbon around them! Or you can wrap a hand soap from Bath and Body Works in one and tie the whole thing with a pretty ribbon! Purchase here.
  • Terra Studios Art. Terra Studios is the home of the Bluebirds of Happiness I’ve written about before…small bluebird figurines that represent happiness, love, and hope. You can read what I’ve written here. But Terra doesn’t just make the Bluebirds! They have lots of different art pieces made of different media for sale on their website, and they make lovely hostess gifts! The prices are incredible, starting under $20, and I love browsing their site. Check out their offerings here.

So if you think you’ll be attending some holiday parties this year, start shopping for hostess gifts now. If you take any of the above, your hostess will love it!

Holiday Gifting (Part 8): Stocking Stuffers!

Holiday Gifting (Part 8): Stocking Stuffers!

This is my very favorite part of holiday shopping. Stocking stuffers are all about fun little surprises, and I love finding all the fun little surprises I can find! Without further ado…here are the finds of 2021:

  • Thrive Causemetics. For the teen daughters or ladies on your holiday list, Thrive Causemetics’ Brilliant Eye Brightener could be the perfect stocking stuffer. I purchased several of these when I saw them advertised on Facebook a year ago, and I love them! I’ve always been a person who had trouble with eye makeup…I’m just not a gifted makeup artist. But this Eye Brightener makes it look like I know what I’m doing! The Muna shade is my favorite for shadowing, but I love the Mieko shade for the upper part of my lid and for highlighting around my eyes. Priced at $24 each or get a set of two for $40…the lady on your list will love these! In fact, I’m ordering some for my Christmas stocking now. See them here.
  • Touchscreen Gloves. These are not a new thing, but not a lot of us have them. If it gets cold enough to wear gloves, the last thing someone wants to do is take them off to text or even answer a call. Purchase these at Amazon starting at $10.99 here. And remember, if you have a Prime membership, you get free shipping.
  • Wine Condoms. Funny name for a great product. Any wine drinkers on your list would love to find these in their stockings, and it’s almost guaranteed they will use them. Watch Mom’s face when she pulls this box of six wine “condoms” out of her stocking! They can be used to save any bottle of wine by simply tearing open the package and slipping it over the top of the bottle. Six to a pack for $14.97 at Amazon here.
  • Lifestraw Personal Water Filter. I have been a believer in the Lifestraw Personal Water Filter since I saw Kristen Hampton demonstrate it on her Kristen Hampton Good News Facebook page.
    She was standing in muddy water and actually drank it through this straw! According to their website, the straw protects against bacteria, parasites, microplastics, dirt, sand and cloudiness. I purchased one for a friend’s daughter who was traveling to Cuba on a mission trip a couple of years ago, and they would be great for outdoor adventures. Right now, you can get them for just $12.99 here. They also offer water filter bottles starting at $26! I love this brand.
  • Satin Hair Scrunchies. I can’t possibly be the only person whose hair breaks frequently from putting it in ponytails. Break no more…I now use satin hair scrunchies, which even smooth my hair while protecting it from breakage. And they look cute too! Get them here.
  • CBD roll-on. If you have someone on your list who needs a little help relaxing, CBD roll-ons can help. I did a little research and found Charlotte’s Web has one that is free of major allergens, doesn’t test on animals, and is paraben-free. It can be used on small areas like temples or wrists, and I’ve read lots of great reviews. Get it at Charlotte’s Web here.
  • No-Crack Hand Cream. My husband has used this for years. During winter, his hands get so dry they crack, but this stuff has helped immensely. Highly recommend for anyone on your list who has the same problem or for anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors during winter. It soothes and moisturizes. Get it at Duluth Trading here.
  • Lash Primer. For my birthday last year, Milani Lash Primer was included in a basket my daughter gave me. The first time I used it, I knew it was good stuff. I’ve tried other primers, but they haven’t worked as well as this one. I love it, and I tell everyone I know to get it. At 54, my lashes aren’t what they used to be, but this makes them look a lot better by making mascara go on more evenly and last longer. Get it at Ulta here.
  • Portable Charger. You’ve heard me preach about portable chargers for years, and I’m not stopping yet, because I am a believer in them. They’re great anytime you can’t plug in. Have kids going off to college? They can use these on planes to make sure their phones are always charged. I recommend the Anker PowerCore 26800, because it’s fast and recharges phones up to six times when it’s fully charged. Get it at Amazon here. I also recommend the ZeroLemon ToughJuice 2.0. It’s heavy, but I’ve had one for a long time, and it continuously gives me fast charges and lasts a long time. In fact, I used it on vacation last week for four days (off and on, but charging my phone overnight), and it never lost power. Get it at ZeroLemon for $49.99 here.
  • Phone Soap. And while you’re gifting phone appliances, think about Phone Soap for your family member who touches their phone a lot. Just think about how many germs you transfer from your hands to your phone…and then to your face every time you use it! Phone Soap is a device that sanitizes your phone while it charges. And it comes in difference colors! Get it for $79.95 at Amazon here. And don’t forget you get free shipping with Amazon Prime!
  • Anthropologie Monogram Pendant Necklace. This is a nice personal gift that fits perfectly into a stocking for the people who love pretty little necklaces. It’s delicate, and it’s personalized. Get it at Anthropologie for $38 here. It’s a bargain!
  • Poo-Pourri. Anybody who knows me knows I put Poo-Pourri in stockings at our house every year. I purchase different sizes for different needs, including purse-sizes that can travel with you. It’s a great invention. If you’re not familiar with it, you should be. To see a video commercial, click here. Yes, it’s crude, but it’s funny. I’ve purchased some of the Champagne and Rosé ones this year, and I also ordered some of their hand sanitizers, because I love the scent! To see everything Poo-Pourri has to offer, click here.
  • Keychain Tool. What’s more handy than a keychain tool? Think about all those times you needed a nail file, a pair of scissors, or even some pliers and didn’t have them handy. If you had a keychain tool from Leatherman, you’d always be prepared. Surely someone on your list would love to find this in their stocking! Get it here for under $30.
  • Breathalyzer. A breathalyzer comes in handy in lots of situations, and this one from BACtrack is professional grade. We have two of them at our house. It’s DOT and NHSAA approved. At $129.99, it’s not cheap, but it could save a life or be a good teaching tool. Maybe someone needs it to keep teenagers in check? Sometimes it’s just fun to see how fast your body has metabolized a drink or two. Get it here.
  • Adult Coloring Books. And when I say “adult,” I simply mean they are more detailed than kid coloring books. Sounds crazy I know, but coloring is very relaxing. Remember when you were a kid and could get lost in a coloring book? Well, it can happen for adults too. I’d love to find one or two in my Christmas stocking. Make sure you get some crayons or colored pencils to go with it. Get it here.
  • For girls/ladies: nail polish, fun socks, hair products, nail files, mints, toiletries.
  • For boys/men: razors, shaving cream, after shave, toiletries, nail files, fun socks.
Harry’s Razors
  • For kids: Card games like Uno, Spot it, Old Maid, Slap Jack, Go Fish… kids love finding games in their stockings. Just be prepared to play with them! Other great things for kids’ stockings: old school marbles, jacks, Legos, Polly Pocket, LOL Surprise Dolls, Barbie dolls, Barbie accessories, Little People, Matchbox cars, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, Crayola Bathtub Markers, coloring books, crayons, colored pencils, fidget toys, mittens, winter hats, even retro hand-held games like Electronic Quarterback. Remember that? You can find it on Amazon here.
  • Gift Cards. Think of the recipient and what he/she likes. Do they like fast food? Consider Chick-Fil-A, McDonald’s, Firehouse Subs, Five Guys, Subway, and even pizza places. Coffee? Get Starbucks, Caribou, Dunkin’ Donuts, or a local coffee shop. Do they like dine-in restaurants? Think of a few in your area. Do they enjoy movies? Most theaters offer gift cards. Even airlines and hotel chains offer gift cards.
ChickFila gift cards
  • Scratch-off lottery tickets. These are always in the stockings at our house, partly because you never know if you’ll win, but also because it adds a little more excitement to Christmas morning. Everybody at our house loves finding scratch-offs in their stockings.
NC Education Lottery Scratch Off
  • Candy! We always have candy in our stockings! Even when I was a kid, I loved dumping out my stocking on the floor and finding lots of candy! Now, it’s fun to add some retro favorites. My personal favorites? Zotz! I loved them as a kid, and I loved sharing them with my friend, Wendy, as an adult…she passed away in 2018, and every time I see Zotz, I think of her. You can find lots of retro assortments at Amazon here. Or from Mast General Store here.

There are some ideas for stocking stuffers for 2021. Get busy shopping!