A Whole Week Home From College

A whole week home from college.

In less than a week, our college student daughter is coming home…for a whole week! We haven’t seen her for seven days in a row since she left for college in August! We have seen her for a couple of days here and there…two football weekends, one day when my husband visited when he passed through town, and she has been home for two quick visits. But soon, she will be here for a whole week! In fact, she will be home for a little more than a week! And we can hardly wait.

Back in September, I booked her ticket on American Airlines to come home Saturday. But then, two days ago, she called me and said she wants to come home earlier. My first question? “Don’t you have class Friday?” She told me her Friday class has been canceled. I kept her on the phone while I looked at the American Airlines website. We discussed flight times and finally decided she could come home on an afternoon flight Thursday for only $99 more than we paid for the original ticket. Sold!

Seriously, y’all, I was so flattered that she wanted to spend more time with us. Anyone who has college-age kids will tell you it’s fun when they’re around again. I told her I was excited we are going to get to spend some extra time with her. And that’s when she said, “Oh, well, yes…but I’m going down to Columbia, South Carolina, with friends Saturday morning for the South Carolina game.”And that’s when I realized she isn’t coming home early to spend more time with us. She is coming home early to go to the University of South Carolina! I laughed out loud, because of course that’s what she wants to do!

I remember what it’s like to be 19, so I’m happy she gets to go visit friends in South Carolina with friends from home! I loved going to football games at different schools with friends when I was in college, so I get it. Will we, her parents, be offended when she wants to spend every evening with her friends? Nope, not one bit. In fact, I hope she will bring them here to gather at least once or twice. We love the energy they bring into our home, and I love preparing food for them…grilled cheese sandwiches, avocado toast, or even a late night breakfast.

But I also realize that, because she wants to go to South Carolina for a day or two, she is still coming home earlier than she originally was, and that’s a bonus for me and my husband! We are so excited! Of course, at the end of her stay, I’m sure I will be writing about how little time we actually got to spend with her! And that’s OK too, because we just want her to be happy and healthy. Spending time with her friends in Charlotte will be good for her. When she returns to Charlotte from South Carolina Saturday night, I will be here, ready to feed her (and friends) when she gets home.

Plus, I’m sure she will sleep a lot. Our daughter who has never been much of a sleeper will need to make up for lots of lost sleep while she is here. Sleeping in a twin bed in a dorm just isn’t the same as sleeping in a queen bed at home. I remember that too. There’s nothing quite like sleeping under your parents’ roof, with your dog in the bed like old times. She will sleep soundly knowing her daddy will bring her coffee in bed in the morning, and I will call her down for a hot breakfast shortly thereafter. Just like her last visit, we will have all her favorites at breakfast: scrambled eggs, grits, hashbrown casserole, bacon, biscuits, and Conecuh Sausage (again, if you’re not familiar with this, you want to try it. It’s from Alabama, but they carry the original sausage at most Publix stores. See the Conecuh Sausage website here). Some mornings, she might want avocado toast too. And she will get it if she wants it.

We are excited for her to arrive Thursday. My husband can hardly wait to go pick her up at the airport…a job he has already volunteered to do. I will ask her what she wants as her “welcome home” meal, and I will have that ready when she arrives. Of course, she’s likely to eat and run…or as my late friend, Wendy, would say, “chew and screw,” which means the same as eat and run. She was from Boston, and I don’t know if that’s what other people say there, but I think it sounds funny, so I say it occasionally.

Now, we just play the waiting game. My husband started his countdown today, telling me she will be home in just five days!

We are excited!

***Feature photo from Charlotte Business Journal***

When My Husband Leaves Town

When my husband leaves town.

My husband has been out of town for the past five nights. He is coming home today, and I am looking forward to his return. He will arrive in a couple of hours, and we will catch up on his trip. He will empty his suitcases (yes, plural…he’s a little high maintenance, but that’s a story for another day), and I will start more laundry. He will play with the dogs for a little while, because they will be thrilled that he is home. And then, I’m guessing he will turn on the television to catch up on what’s going on with the stockmarket today.

Yes, he will turn on the TV, because it’s not on. I turned on the TV in the livingroom two times while he was gone, because the dogs were confused at how quiet the house was. The first day I turned it on, I had it on Nickelodeon…yep, Henry Danger reruns all day long! Yesterday, I turned it on to an 80s music station, and I turned it up a little loud, because I was tired of hearing our Doberman whine. She whines, and it drives me insane. She was definitely missing her daddy. When my husband is home, the TVs in the bedroom and livingroom are on for background noise all day. It drives me insane, but it’s what he enjoys. He is definitely a creature of habit, and for a man who claims to like it “quiet” around him, he sure doesn’t mind listening to talking heads on TV all day.

But that’s just one thing that’s different when he’s not home. Another biggie? I leave the curtains closed in our bedroom 24/7, something that would drive him insane. Like I said, he is a creature of habit, and first thing every morning, he gets out of bed and opens all the curtains and shutters throughout the house…starting in our bedroom. In fact, on my side of the bed, there is a small window that faces east, and I have asked him a million times not to open those curtains, because that morning sun heats up the room. It’s like he’s deaf. He simply can’t leave them closed. Or maybe it’s just part of his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and his brain just won’t let him leave them closed. Many mornings, I follow behind him and close the curtains on that window. He even goes upstairs and opens the shutters in the rooms up there…and into the garage to open the shutters there. Whenever he is out of town, in fact, all the drapes and shutters, except the ones in the kitchen and keeping room, remain closed the entire time. It probably confuses the dogs too, now that I think about it, but at least I don’t have to deal with them standing in the bedroom window barking at everything they see outdoors. Plus, when the pool guy comes, I don’t feel like he’s looking in at me. He’s definitely not looking in at me, but I’d prefer to have the world not looking into my bedroom.

Another difference? I stay up as late as I want. My night owl tendencies drive him absolutely insane. I’ve told him many times, “I do my best work after 10pm!” I can clean a closet after 10pm like nobody’s business, but don’t ask me to do it during the day. I’m part vampire, I guess. But when he’s not home? I get to stay up as late as I want…and I do! Every night he was on this trip, I was up well past 1:00am, and several times, I was up past 3:00am. I still got up around 8:00am to feed the dogs and get the day started (with the curtains closed), but I enjoyed staying up late, and I enjoyed watching the movies I wanted to watch! I’m a weirdo (in lots of ways, I’m sure), because I like to watch certain movies on my laptop. I think I pay attention better, because there is nothing between me and the screen to distract my squirrel-chasing brain. He would never watch the movies I watched while he was gone: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Mansfield Park. (All these movies are based on Jane Austen novels and can be watched free with commercials on Amazon Prime or rented without commercials.) It’s a battle that’s simply not worth having. I wouldn’t even enjoy the movies if he were here…in my ear…telling me how boring they were. So I save those movies for when he’s not here.

Also, when he’s not home, I catch up on my phone calls. I was able to sit and talk with my friend, Kristi, in Florida, for hours Saturday. It was awesome! She and I have been friends since college. We have been through a lot together, so it’s always fun to catch up with her, but I can’t stay on the phone for hours when my husband is home! You and I both know husbands are like kids…if we get on the phone, they immediately need our attention!

So now he’s on his way home. He will be here in about an hour. I just finished the laundry, and as soon as he empties his suitcase, I will do his laundry from the trip. He will open all the curtains and shutters. We will sit down and talk. He will play with the dogs and turn on the TV. Life will be “normal” again. And tonight, we will start a fire in the firepit on the back patio and have cocktails while we look for satellites, planets, and constellations in the night sky like the nerds we are. As my friend, Richard, likes to say, “Nerd alert! Nerd alert!”

We will go to bed at a “reasonable” hour, and tomorrow, he will bring me coffee in bed. I’ve missed him.

For the Love of Tres Leches Cake

For the love of Tres Leches cake.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yelp’s Top Five Tres Leches Cakes in Charlotte:

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

Garage Coffee

Garage coffee.

No, it’s not a brand of coffee. Although, I think it could be a cool name for a brand of coffee.

Over the past couple of weeks, since Thanksgiving, I’ve become much more paranoid about COVID. My behavior reminds me of my junior year in college. Up till my junior year at The University of Alabama, I was willing to go out to bars with a fake ID. Back then, in Alabama, if you were caught by the Alcohol Beverage Control officers (ABC) underage in a bar, you were arrested and taken to jail. When I was a freshman and a sophomore, it was a risk I was willing to take. But when I became a junior, and I was so close to my 21st birthday, it wasn’t worth the risk. I stopped going out to bars. My thinking? “I’m so close to my 21st birthday…I can wait till then, because I’m afraid of getting in trouble…when I can just wait a little longer.” So I waited.

Here we are, in the middle of a pandemic, and we are being told the vaccine is just around the corner. I know there are lots of people who are not willing to get the vaccine, but I am. I’m ready to start living again, and the vaccine is the only way I know to do that. And we are being told it will be available relatively soon. Just like my junior year and my 21st birthday, I’m afraid to risk getting COVID (I’m over 50) when the vaccine is in sight. Actually, I don’t want to risk getting COVID at all, but especially now. Call me a “sheep” if you want. I don’t care. I’m not staying home because the government is telling me to. I don’t think our government should be telling us what to do. I think it should be our own choice, so I’m not a sheep…I’m making my own decision.

In November, I was not as afraid, and I went on vacation. Yes, I did. I will admit it, but I was as careful as one could possibly be, and frankly, COVID was out there, but it wasn’t as bad as it is now. I made my child (who went with me) quarantine for two weeks prior, and I quarantined for two weeks prior as well…no lunches with friends, no coffee with friends in my kitchen…nothing. I didn’t want to get to our destination and get sick while we were there. I don’t want to be hospitalized anywhere…especially in another city. When we went to the airport, we found seats to wait in a secluded area of the American Airlines Admirals Club. We threw up a prayer and wore our masks for the entire flight. We stayed the first few days in a bungalow on the beach and the next few days in a bungalow at a hotel…very little close contact with anyone…and never in a crowd the whole time we were there. We had a rental car, so we never had to use Uber. We went to restaurants, but we always dined outside…never near anyone else. And on the way home, we found seats in a secluded part of the Admirals Club again. We have TSA precheck, so we never stood in a crowded line.

Even with all those precautions, if I had a slight headache or coughed at all during the trip or over the week after we got home, I thought I had COVID, and I was scared. Do I think I would die with it? No. I like to think I’m healthy enough to survive it, but one never knows. I feel sure my teenage daughter would be fine, and I feel like my husband (also over 50) is healthy enough to survive, but do we want to push our luck? That’s a resounding NO.

And right after that Thanksgiving trip, COVID exploded. The number of daily cases is climbing rapidly. I have talked to several doctor friends who tell me it’s “foolish” to gather. So I’m not gathering. I’m barely leaving my house. In fact, last week, I left my house a total of five times. Three times to pick up lunch, once to the grocery store, and once to run in Michael’s Arts and Crafts to quickly grab some yarn to knit Christmas gifts.

I like to be out and about, so that tells you I’m taking this seriously. I’m not staying home because of Governor Roy Cooper’s latest stay-at-home order. I’m staying home, because it’s just not worth it to me to catch COVID now, knowing I will be able to get the vaccine soon. I do not want COVID…it’s as simple as that. Well, that plus the fact that both my grandmothers died on December 26 (different years), and my mother died on December 30, 2017. I don’t want to push my luck.

That brings me back to “garage coffee.” Because I like seeing my friends…and I love laughing with them…I’m now hosting “garage coffee” at my house. I move the cars out of the garage and invite a friend or two (no more than that) over for coffee, which I prepare indoors and bring out to the garage for them. I set up rocking lawn chairs and heaters at our feet (it’s really cold in Charlotte right now), and we chat while social-distancing. It’s not as much fun as going out to lunch, but it’s better than nothing. I’m expecting a friend to come over tomorrow for “garage coffee,” and I’ve decided to add some Christmas music for our visit. I’ll just use my phone and my daughter’s bluetooth speaker to create a Christmas mood. Maybe I’ll set up my lamp from A Christmas Story and some of my light-up Christmas lawn decor in the garage just to make it feel more festive. My husband will think I’m crazy, but that’s nothing new.

If you’d like to have garage coffee with friends at your house and need a good, inexpensive space heater to put at your feet but don’t want to fork out a lot of cash, I purchased two Comfort Zone Energy Save Personal Heater Fans for $24.99 each plus tax and shipping from Target. Shop it here.

That’s how I’m surviving mentally right now…garage coffee. And I thank the Lord that I have friends who are willing to participate. Otherwise, I’d be losing my mind right now.

Come on over for garage coffee!

Fluffernutter Sandwiches

Fluffernutter sandwiches…the glorious blend of peanut butter and Fluff brand marshmallow creme on white bread.

My friends in New England have known about Fluffernutter sandwiches their whole lives, so they might be surprised to know people in other parts of the country have never heard of them. Well, I can’t speak for people in the midwest or west, but I know lots of people in the south are unaware of the Fluffernutter.

How do I know that? Well, after I posted about Fluff and Fluffernutters on my personal Facebook page this week, I got lots of comments from friends, saying they had never heard of the Fluff/peanut butter combination. One friend emailed me, saying, “I had no idea marshmallow fluff was such a thing! I’ve bought it for a recipe. But never just to eat!” Yet another friend asked me if Jet-Puffed brand marshmallow creme works the same. Short answer? No…it doesn’t spread the same way. Only Fluff will do.

Want the recipe? It’s simple. Spread peanut butter on one slice of bread (I always use white bread for Fluffernutters). Spread Fluff on another slice of bread. Put them together for a Fluffernutter! FYI: I don’t use as much peanut butter or Fluff as shown in the top photo, but maybe I should!

I learned about Fluff and Fluffernutters years ago, because I had the good fortune of meeting a friend who had grown up in the Boston area. She became one of my closest friends ever for lots of reasons, and yes, maybe the fact that she introduced me to Fluff made me love her even more! She loved Fluff and had been eating it since she was a little girl. In fact, she said that when she was a child, her grandmother would often make her Fluff sandwiches…sans peanut butter…because that’s what she liked! We would laugh when we talked about it, because she was basically eating a sugar sandwich. My daughter loves a Fluffernutter…even now that she’s in high school, I put them in her lunch every now and then.

If you’ve never tried a Fluffernutter sandwich, it’s high time you did. You will wonder how you managed to live so long without knowing about this glorious treat! I was probably close to 40 when my friend told me about it. In fact, I included it in a list of simple sandwiches in a post a couple of years ago. You can see that here. Peanut butter is good with lots of things…bananas, chocolate, apples…the list goes on and on. So should it be any surprise that combining it with marshmallow Fluff makes a great combo too? Trust me. Once you’ve learned this hack, you’ll never go back. I have a friend in Alabama who says she gained 20 pounds after I introduced her to Fluffernutters.

My Boston friend also introduced me to the deliciousness that is Dunkin Donuts iced coffee, because that’s something else New Englanders have known about since the beginning of time. Dunkin Donuts Iced Coffee is hard to beat. When our kids were little, we would vacation with my Boston friend in Maine every summer, and every day, we would get iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts. It’s a sweet memory. And try Dunkin Donuts iced coffee with your Fluffernutter…one sweet, joyful experience!

And recently I learned that some people toast their Fluffernutters! I had no idea that was a thing, but I’ll be trying that today too! How did I never think of that? Does anything sound more like comfort food than a toasted Fluffernutter?!?

So if you are a parent or grandparent who has never tried a Fluffernutter or served one up to your child or grandchild, now is the time. You can be a hero at home if you make them this treat! *Disclaimer: Of course, if they are allergic to any of the ingredients, do not serve it.* Kids gobble up this treat! I have a friend in Alabama who is a grandmother, and she questioned me about it after my Facebook post. I told her the grandkids will love it!

If you have trouble finding Fluff in your grocery store, you can order it from Amazon here. I recently ordered it after I couldn’t find it in grocery stores in Charlotte. I used to get it in Target, but I haven’t seen it there in a while. (There’s nothing wrong with Jet-Puffed, but it just doesn’t spread the same way.)

When you try it and love it, say a little prayer of thanks and tell God to give a thumbs up to my friend, Wendy, in Heaven. She passed away in June of 2018 after battling cancer for years. But I think of her every time I have a Fluffernutter or Dunkin Donuts Iced Coffee.

Bring on the Fluffernutter!

Please Drop In

Please drop in.

Maybe I should phrase that differently. Maybe I should say “please drop out.” What I mean is that we would love to have friends and family visit anytime, but only in the backyard. With the COVID pandemic, things have changed, and I don’t just let lots of folks in my house. But outside? All bets are off. If you’re in the area…or bored…or just looking for some company…come on over!

When I was growing up in different places in Alabama, folks used to drop in all the time. This was well before the era of the cellphone. Back in the 70s and 80s, if we were driving down the road and decided to drop in on some friends, we couldn’t just pick up a cell phone and call. I guess we could have gone to a payphone, but often that would have taken us out of our way. Drop-ins were common. Wanna stop in and see your friend? Turn into the driveway, and walk right up and ring the doorbell!

I remember, when I was a little girl living in Brewton, Alabama, my mother had a good friend named Martha. We lived on the outskirts of town, but Martha lived right in the middle of town…on the main drag…in a big, beautiful, historic home. We visited often, because she had kids our age. One day, when I was probably five or six, I had a baby tooth that was ready to fall out. It was even starting to hurt…it needed to come out. We were driving down Belleville Avenue, the road where Martha’s house was, and Mother said, “Let’s stop and let Martha pull it. She’s really good at pulling teeth.” And without calling ahead, we drove into the driveway, right up to the porte-corchere on the side of the house, like we owned the place. Mama knocked on the door, and Martha let us into her kitchen, which I thought was beautiful, because it had yellow gingham wallpaper. Martha stood me on a chair in her kitchen and pulled that tooth right out. I can still see in my mind exactly where I was standing.

Another time, Mother was going to drop in on Martha, but when she approached the driveway in her car, she didn’t see Martha’s car in the driveway. Instead of stopping, she kept driving. Later, when they were talking on the phone, Mother told her, “I was going to drop in to your house today, but when I got there, your car wasn’t there.” Martha replied, “Well, did you come to see me or my damn car?!? I was home! You should have stopped.” Mother laughed. In fact, that was a story Mother told for years afterward.

When we lived in Spanish Fort, Alabama, all the neighborhood kids dropped in all the time, and Mother’s friends would often show up on the doorstep. They would sit in the kitchen and drink coffee. And sometimes they talked for hours…solving all the world’s problems, I’m sure. Or maybe just talking about soap operas.

I vividly remember neighborhood moms standing around talking in the driveway. Back then, everybody didn’t have a garage with a garage door opener. We didn’t drive right into our garages when we got home from somewhere. We got out in the driveway, and if our neighbors were outside, everybody stood around and talked for a while. I think our garages/garage door openers put an end to that for a lot of people. Fortunately, in my neighborhood, we’ll see our neighbors out walking and pull our car over to chat. But that doesn’t happen everywhere.

When we were teenagers in the 80s, it was like we had a revolving door…neighborhood kids and teenagers in and out all the time.

Drop-ins used to be part of life. But no more. Now, everybody calls ahead, so we don’t have any pleasant surprises when friends show up unexpectedly.

I’m ready to change that. I’m telling my friends, “Drop in!”  Ring the doorbell when you get here, and if we’re home, I’ll motion for you to walk around the side of the house to the backyard, where we can sit by the pool and have a cocktail. If you want to bring lunch, that’s OK too! Chances are, I’ll be here, since I’ve become accustomed to spending more time at home with this pandemic happening. Of course, it’s hit or miss on whether I’ll still be in my pajamas, but if you don’t mind, I don’t mind! Maybe I’ll even share some cucumbers or tomatoes from my garden!

 

My Birthday

My birthday.

Today is my birthday. Everyone who knows me knows I love my birthday in a crazy way. I can’t help it. It’s my day, and I love it.

My daughter is fully aware of how much I love my birthday. She woke up this morning and texted me before I was even awake. Apparently my husband took coffee up to her before bringing me coffee this morning…to give me a few extra minutes of sleep. His bringing me coffee is not a birthday thing; I’m fortunate that he brings me coffee in bed every day, which makes every day feel like a birthday, I guess. But today really is my birthday.

When my daughter texted me from upstairs this morning, she said, “Happy Birthday to the best mom ever!” I replied, “Thank you! I love you!” She replied, “Love you more!” I responded with “You have no idea how much I love you. One day, when you have a child of your own, you will understand.” And that’s the absolute truth. I always knew my mother and daddy loved me, but once I had my own child, I fully understood the depth of their love for me. So when she says “love you more,” I always think, “Just you wait till you have your own child.” Always.

Birthdays are funny like that. I love celebrating, but I also love reflecting on previous birthdays.

Last year on this day, I was in Los Angeles with my friend, Meg. My “birthday twin,” Chiko, was getting married on our shared birthday. Chiko and I call ourselves “birthday twins,” because we share a birthday. No, we aren’t the same age. In fact, she is far younger than I am. She is also far taller, and she is drop-dead gorgeous. Add in the fact that I’m from Alabama, and she is from Nigeria, and we are some interesting “twins.” She is, quite possibly, one of the kindest people…and funniest people… I’ve ever known. I was fortunate to be invited to her wedding, and I took my friend, Meg, as my “plus one.” My teenage daughter had final exams, and my husband stayed home with her. It was a glorious wedding/reception, and Chiko was the most beautiful bride! I’ve written about it before, because a Nigerian wedding is a real event! Wow! And the food! We made new friends and tried new foods…a most memorable wedding and memorable birthday.

This year is a much quieter birthday, partly because of the pandemic, and partly because it’s raining all day in Charlotte. I’m perfectly happy with a quiet birthday. My daughter eventually came downstairs this morning and snuggled in bed with me, and I told her, “This right here is the perfect birthday gift…just getting to be with you.” And it made me think of my mother. It sounded like something she would have said. I’ve been a mother for 16 years, so now I fully understand why my mother felt that way…because she loved me more than I ever could have imagined.

So I’ll enjoy a quiet birthday with my little family. It’s also National Sunscreen Day, but we definitely don’t need sunscreen in Charlotte today, since there’s not a chance the clouds are going to lift. We’ll stay in and be quiet today, but that doesn’t mean I can’t keep celebrating for at least a week (or a month)! I’ll need that sunscreen soon!

Happy Birthday to me!

 

Portion-Controlled Desserts? Yes, Please!

Portion-controlled desserts? Yes, please!

If you’re anything like me, you have difficulty knowing what a real “serving” of cake is. Big slice? Little slice? What is the perfect slice? And then…how do I keep myself from eating more than I should?

Hungry Girl to the rescue!

Everybody knows I love Hungry Girl. Not familiar with Hungry Girl? I’m happy to introduce you! When you get to the website, sign up for daily emails, click that you heard about them from a Hungry Girl Ambassador (me!), and enter my name (Kelly Mattei). I’ve loved Hungry Girl for years, and I’ve promoted Hungry Girl for years, but now they know I’m promoting them! I don’t promote anything I don’t believe in, so you can bet your sweet bippy I believe in Hungry Girl.

On to the good stuff…

One of my favorite finds on the Hungry Girl website? Portion-controlled desserts…specifically, single serving desserts in mugs and cups. Sounds awesome, right?!? That’s because they are awesome!

I’ve made a couple of them, and my teenage daughter loves them as much as I do! They are all super simple and fast!

Here are some of my favorites!

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake Mug. My mother used to make Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes all the time when I was growing up. There was always at least one at every family gathering, and they disappeared fast! This Hungry Girl version is simple and easy, and the recipe makes two portions, each containing 201 calories. Not bad for a yummy and beautiful dessert! It’s a favorite at our house. I’ve made it when friends have come over for coffee, and it’s always a hit! Did I mention it’s beautiful too?! Get the recipe here.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake Mug

Red Hot Apple Pie in a Cup. Another “easy as pie” recipe from Hungry Girl, this one is fun for kids too! (Do not let children make this unaccompanied. The pie is HOT when it comes out of the microwave!) It has candy and graham crackers in it! ‘Nuff said! And fruit! It has fruit! At only 140 calories per serving, it makes for a great dessert the whole family will love! I think it even sounds good for a snow day. My daughter loves to have friends over for snow days, and I love to feed them! Get the recipe here.

Red Hot Apple Pie in a Cup

Chocolate Cake Mugs for Two. Who doesn’t love chocolate cake?! This one comes in at 199 calories per serving, and the serving size is not in question, because it’s cooked in the perfect portion! This is another one that sounds good for a snow day or for friends who come over for coffee. The ingredient list is short, and most of the ingredients are likely on hand all the time. Make yourself happy with a little chocolate cake! Hungry Girl tells you how this age-old treat without overdoing it! Get the recipe here.

Chocolate Cake Mugs for Two

This is just a sampling of what Hungry Girl offers in portion-controlled dessert recipes. Seriously, try them. Anyone can make them…even those “kitchen challenged” friends of mine. You can see more portion-controlled desserts from Hungry Girl here.

We are hoping for a little snow in Charlotte over the next couple of days, so I’m going to the store and stocking up on ingredients for these gems tonight! All kids who love to sled are welcome to join in the fun…and eat some yummy desserts too! Moms…come on over for coffee, and I will share desserts with you too!

*Please let me know when you try these recipes! I love to get feedback!*

***All photos courtesy of hungry-girl.com***

 

 

 

I Won’t Get Jewelry for Valentine’s Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hoping you have a Happy Valentine’s Day!

You’re Wearing Work Pants?!?

***Before reading, please know I’m not complaining about my teenage daughter. I do not feel like she is taking advantage of me. I feel like she is a normal, healthy teenager who is trying to find her independence. It’s what teenagers do. It’s funny. Teenagers are hilarious to those of us who remember what it was like to be a teenager, and even though I’m 52, I remember it well! Teenage girls are funny creatures who think they know everything…right up until they figure out they don’t know everything. We all parent differently, and I choose to parent with laughter. I have rules, and generally speaking, she follows them.***

“You’re wearing work pants?!?!” Yes, my teenage daughter asked me this in her school cafeteria yesterday, because what do teenagers do when they’re not critiquing their mothers’ fashion choices? Isn’t that why we put in so much time feeding them, sleep training them, kissing their booboos, and helping them figure out life…so they can find fault with our wardrobes?!

I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for years, but I have volunteered at her school since 2008. She is used to seeing me there in jeans or slightly more fashionable clothing, but yesterday, she saw me in the school cafeteria in what she referred to as “work pants.” And there’s a reason I was wearing those “work pants”: I was working.

Recently, I started doing a little substitute work in the library at her school, which means I am actually on the payroll. Dressing for the payroll is a little different than dressing when you’re working for free. You can’t wear jeans. You have to look somewhat professional.  Most adults would not have looked at me and thought “work pants.” I was wearing black wide-leg pants (or slacks) and a blouse I thought was really cute…collared with stripes and a tie-waist. And heels. I wore heeled booties. I didn’t look like an old-fashioned “school marm.” And I didn’t look like I was going to repair her car. I didn’t look like I was going out to take someone’s temperature or represent someone in court. But apparently, I looked like I was at work, and she felt the need to call me out on it. It’s something she’s not accustomed to…and it surprised her!

I have written before about how my daughter is definitely a teenager now. Seriously, I’ve told y’all how she rolls her eyes when I sneeze…or talk…or breathe. And now…she doesn’t like my “work pants.” Or maybe she thought I was cooler than that. Y’all, having a teenager definitely keeps you humble. If you have children…especially girls…under age 12, enjoy it. Hug them. Feel free to sneeze, talk, breathe…because soon they will be critiquing your wardrobe.

A friend came over for coffee this morning, and we compared notes on our teenagers. Thank God we have each other, or we could really start to feel bad about ourselves! We could actually start to believe we always wear the wrong thing, say the wrong thing, and even walk “wrong.” And maybe we do, but we went 50 years without people feeling the need to tell us that…and then we had teenagers. My friend didn’t seem to mind that when she arrived at my house for coffee this morning, I was wearing blue pajama pants with pink flamingos all over them and a gigantic black hoodie with “Rollin’ with the homies” emblazoned across the front. She didn’t even care that I hadn’t brushed my hair yet! My friend saw me dressed like that and with bed head, no less, and she still loves me! But my daughter? She doesn’t approve of the “work pants.”

So at the end of the day, I took a few minutes to explain to my teenage daughter that I can’t go to work in the library wearing yoga pants or jeans. I can’t go in wearing a hoodie with “Rollin’ with the homies” across the front of it…and a picture of a pug smoking a cigarette on the back of the hoodie…I should mention that. It’s my favorite hoodie, and honestly, it’s the article of clothing that should really embarrass her!

Most of the time, though, she is kind and funny, and I love spending time with her. She loves getting my insight and feedback, and most of the time, she listens. She even thanks me for things I do on a regular basis. She’s a keeper.

It’s hard to believe in just 2 1/2 short years, that teenager will be going off to college…”good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.” And then, one day, she will likely graduate from college and have her first “real” job. I hope I’m visiting her on the first day she goes to work, so I can make fun of her “work pants.” She will have long forgotten poking fun at my clothing choice, so I will catch her off guard just before she walks out the door. I’ll stroll over to her, wearing my very comfy PJs and bathrobe and drinking my morning coffee, and I’ll say, “You’re wearing work pants?” I will then bid her “good day” and remind her that I’ll be sitting around in my PJs drinking coffee, watching The Price is Right, while she’s out working in her “work pants.”