Graduation Gift Ideas

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, the places they’ll go!

 

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My Favorite Holiday Gifts 2018, Part 7: Teens/College Students

Everyone knows how difficult it is to find the perfect gift for a teenager or college student. After talking with a few of them, I’ve compiled some gift ideas at a lot of different price points that I hope will help. So, here we go: gifts for TEENS AND COLLEGE STUDENTS.

College Sweatshirts/Hoodies. My teenage daughter, who is a freshman in high school, and her friends love college sweatshirts, and it doesn’t really matter which college it is! Of course, most teens have favorites colleges, but the teens I know wear hoodies from schools all over the country! Sometimes, I see a college hoodie on sale somewhere, and I buy it, just because it will fit her. I regularly check Fanatics.com to see what they have, but I’m sure there are other sites too. Prices at Fanatics.com for men’s college hoodies (it’s what they prefer) start under $15. Check out their offerings here.

 

Lululemon Leggings. Teens and college-age girls love these things. Heck, moms love them too! They’re pricey, but they will be very well-received, because students can live in these things! It’s a constant request at my house. Whenever our daughter gets some extra money in her hand, she loves to spend it at Lululemon. She has learned, though, to buy them when they’re on sale. They’re shorts are popular too. And their sports bras…apparently, the best ever made. Prices for full-length leggings start at $98, but there are usually some on sale.

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Customized Starbucks Cup. We all know teens and students love their Starbucks. Mine doesn’t even drink coffee, but she loves those frappucino drinks. They also love things with their names on them. Things aren’t like they were when we were young, when almost everybody could find their names on those pre-personalized bicycle tags or stickers: Kelly, Jennifer, Mary, Joe, Michael…you get the point. Now, names are more unique. CoffeeTime Designs on Etsy offers personalized cups for hot drinks here at $7.99.  Funkytime Weddings offers cold drink personalized cups here for $11.47.

 

Keurig.For those college students or even high school students who like coffee, Keurig makes an awesome single-cup coffee maker, and it’s priced at just $49.96 at Walmart. It comes in several different colors. You can pick it up in the store or order online here. Just make sure you order some K-cups from Amazon or pick them up in your local store.

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Mini Fridge or Portable Fridge. Everyone knows teen boys and men can eat a lot. Teen boys eat all the time. They need a fresh supply of food and beverage on hand, whether they live at home or in a dorm. Girls love to keep their favorite cold beverages (and sometimes snacks) on hand. These two fridges are great for boys and girls, and both can be purchased at Walmart. One is a portable fridge that holds up to 12 cans ($49.99). Plug it into your car or home outlet. Great for tailgating! The second is a true mini fridge ($79.99)…perfect for a teen’s TV room, bedroom, or dorm room. Purchase here.

 

Long Distance Friendship Lamp. These are just awesomeness. Purchase one for yourself and one for your best friend or loved one who lives far away. Or maybe give two to your college student, so she can give one to a faraway friend. When you touch the lamp to adjust the hue in your home, it adjusts your friend’s lamp as well, letting them know you’re thinking of them! I love it, because I think it’s important for us to let folks know when we think of them. Priced from $85 to $170 at Uncommongoods.com here.

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Portable Lap Desk. You can go to Amazon and find lots of different lap desks, no doubt. And I’m not hooked on one particular one, but I do believe teens want one that’s big enough to hold a laptop computer. When I was in college, lap desks were frequent gifts between friends, and we used them…a lot. Lap desks are great for middle school, high school, and college students. Personally, I could see my teen sitting in the swivel chair mentioned below…with a lap board, doing homework in her room. Pictured below is one that starts at $17.32, purchased through Amazon Prime. You can purchase it here.

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Sports Blankets. Everybody needs a good blanket sometimes. For the young sports fans, blankets emblazoned with their team logo are great gifts. My daughter has an Atlanta Falcons blanket we use all the time…in the car, at sporting events, just hanging out at home. Whether your sports fan loves college or NFL football, baseball, or basketball, there are lots of different team blankets at Fanatics.com. With prices starting under $20 for some blankets, it makes a great gift for them at a great price for you! Check them out here.

Faux Fur Throws. For the teens/college students in your family who would rather stay warm without thinking about sports, West Elm has a wide assortment of faux fur throws starting at just $49. They’re beautiful, soft, and warm! Check them out here.

 

Weighted Blanket. A-maz-ing. While we are talking about blankets, these are good for stressed out high school and college students. Weighted blankets have been proven to help users sleep. The weight of the blanket has a calming effect. Students are known to have a little stress in their lives…exams. This could change their lives. There are lots of different ones out there, but the only one I’ve ever used is the Calming Comfort Weighted blanket, which you can purchase here. Prices start at $129. I’m getting one for my daughter for Christmas. Other brands can be purchased through Amazon.com.

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Personalized Stationery. Everybody needs it, and lots of us love it. I have a friend from college, Lori, who recently opened her own Etsy stationery shop called Proper ID Please. She has personalized notecards in 94 different designs. Each set contains 12 notecards, and they are priced at $20 per set. She can have them ready to ship in 3-5 days, but get your order in early for best selection! Order here.

LL Bean Boots. Honestly, these are classics. They never go out of style. LL Bean Boots were great when I was in high school 30+ years ago, and they’re still great. But order as soon as possible, because they make them to order, and sometimes, there’s a backlog. They’re great for men/women/boys/girls…everyone on your list. Prices start at $100, so they’re not cheap, but they are well-made and can be worn forever. See them here.175064_1914_41

Patagonia Black Hole Duffle. I discovered this awesome bag last summer when my daughter went to Iceland with a group. The most popular one is their 60L bag that sells for $129. It’s durable and roomy, and it’s water repellant. Lots of mesh pockets help keep packing organized. This is the best in the business. Great for outdoor travel, and it’s a great carryon too. Shop it here.

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Longchamp Bags. You’ve seen these in other lists, but I can’t stress enough how useful they are! Teens and college students love these, because they are lightweight, functional, and durable. They come in lots of shapes and sizes, so check think about function: shopping? overnight? weekend? And the colors! They come in so many colors! Shop them at Nordstrom here.

 

Spikeball Set. Apparently, this is a popular competitive game that was featured on Shark Tank, and students love it. I haven’t seen it in person yet, but several people have told me how much their teens love it. Activity and competition are good ways to work off stress, so if you have a stressed-out student on your hands, this could be a good distraction. When I was in college, my friend, Angela, and I played Yahtzee for stress relief. This would have been fun too. Priced at $59.99 on Amazon, it includes free shipping for Prime members. See it here.

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Magnetic Dart Board. Back in the day, we just used pointy darts. I’m sure my mother reminded us regularly, “You’ll put an eye out.” Just like Spikeball, darts are a good stress reliever. These aren’t pointy, though. These are magnetic, removing the risk of putting out an eye (for the most part). Amazon has these priced at $29.98, which is a bargain. Order here.

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Hammock (and stand). For the past few years, teens have loved ENO hammocks. Prices for them on Amazon.com start at $27.99. (Click here.)These hammocks are lightweight and easy to hang. My daughter and her friends often hang theirs in trees around the park in our neighborhood and hang out. But I you don’t have trees around your house, you can purchase a stand for the ENO, and if you purchase one made by ENO, they are priced at about $249. (Click here.)But if you’d like to get a hammock chair with stand for less, you can get it from Wayfair here for $111.99, including the stand.

 

Shower Caddy. Y’all remember living in a dorm…the small room, the roommate, the noise, the fun…and the community bathroom. Oh, the community bathroom. Remember having to carry all your shower stuff down the hall for a shower? Well, lots of college students are still doing that now, so they need shower caddies! You might be thinking, “My student already has one.” Well, yeah…but think about it: a shower caddy gets wet, so it needs to be replaced regularly. Pottery Barn Dorm has some great shower caddies, with prices starting at $14.99. Some are even eligible for personalization. Check them out here.

Crocs. I know, you thought (or maybe hoped) these had gone by the wayside. Well, for a while, they did, but they’re baaaaaack. Nobody ever claimed Crocs were attractive, but they are durable and useful, for sure. My teenage daughter and her friends started wearing Crocs again last year…to the pool…to the beach…and in the shower at camp or in dorms. Crocs come in lots of different colors, so find out the recipients favorite color first, but this is a gift that will get used. Pricing for Crocs starts at under $15 on Amazon.com. You can shop their Croc selection here.

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Privacy Pop Bed Tent. Personally, I think this is a great idea for kids or teens. It provides privacy and can provide seclusion for siblings who share rooms or or sleep better in a cozier space.They come in sizes ranging from toddler bed to king bed, and they come in a variety of colors. Easy to install, they fit right under your regular mattress, and they come in a variety of colors.  Priced from $119 to $199. Purchase here.44075242744702p__1

Charm Bracelet. High school and college are the perfect times for a girl to start a charm bracelet. It doesn’t mean they have to wear it, but it’s a great time to start collecting mementos from places they’ve traveled. After my mother died, I found a charm bracelet from her youth with lots of charms from places I knew she had visited, and it made me feel connected to her. I don’t wear it, because I’m afraid I will lose it, but I have it. Unfortunately, I never started my own charm bracelet, and I wish I had. It would be fun to have charms from special times in my life or places I’ve visited. You can get charm bracelets at lots of places, and you can get them in gold or silver. I’m listing two in sterling silver. Right now, Kay Jewelers has a heart charm bracelets on sale for about $60. At Tiffany & Co, the ever-popular Heart Tag Charm Bracelet starts at $310 in sterling silver.

 

BACtrack S80 Pro Breathalyzer OR BACtrack Mobile Pro A breathalyzer is a great gift for a college student, and honestly, some might like it for a teenager. As much as parents want their kids to make good decisions, we all know they don’t always do that. If you have a son, daughter, niece, nephew, or friend who imbibes, this might be the perfect gift to help them make good decisions. I’ve listed two, because both get excellent ratings. From what I can tell, these are the best ones out there. Just look at the two, and decide which one is best for your recipient. The BACtrack S80 Pro is priced at $129 (on sale from $149 at time of writing), and it has been tested by and meets the requirements of the DOT/NHTSA for a personal breath alcohol screening device. The BACtrack Mobile Pro, priced at $99,  has other features, working with your app and cell phone. It even estimates the time at which your BAC will return to 0.00. To learn more and/or purchase, go to the website here.

 

PBTeen Groovy Swivel Chair. Teens and college students often love a little extra seating in their rooms, but they don’t want conventional chair or don’t have room for them. These Groovy Swivel Chairs come in different colors and fabrics, and they are a fun alternative to regular chairs and bean bag chairs. My daughter likely will be getting one this Christmas…what a comfortable place to study and do homework! Prices start at $279 for the faux fur chairs (on sale right now) and go up to $399. Check them out here.

 

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Smart TV with Roku. If your college student (or teenager) doesn’t have a Smart TV, it would make a great gift this holiday season. A Smart TV with Roku doesn’t even have to be connected to any cable or satellite service. They can stream movies and shows straight through Roku with a Sling subscription. They can also watch Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and several other streaming services through the Smart TV. Of course, there are lots of different versions on the market. I found them starting at $169 at Best Buy for a 32″ TV. To check at Best Buy, click here. 

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Amazon Fire Stick and Echo Dot. I mentioned this in my favorite gifts for travelers, but they’re great for teenagers who already have televisions. The Fire Stick will enable them to stream shows and movies without cable or satellite service, but they will need Wi-Fi. In my previous post, I mentioned the $39.95 deal for the Amazon Fire Stick with 2nd Gen Echo Dot, but now they’re offering a special deal on the New Amazon Fire Stick with 3rd Gen Echo Dot for $59.95 (regular price $99.95), in stock at Amazon on November 26. Purchase now as a bundle from Amazon, and they’ll send it when it’s in stock!. Your teen or college student can plug the Amazon Fire Stick directly into the HDMI of their existing TV, and use the Echo Dot in conjunction with it. Get it here.

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Experience Gifts. I’m always telling people experiences are more memorable than things, and they make great gifts! Maybe you have a teenager or college student who has always wanted to skydive or indoor skydive. Maybe they’ve wanted a racecar experience or rafting experience. There’s a website that can sell you the experience, but if you know of an experience off the top of your head, maybe you contact the place directly. I know we have a new company coming to Charlotte called iFly which offers indoor skydiving, which I’ve wanted to do for a long time. They offer gift cards in various dollar amounts. Or maybe you purchase someone a gift card from experiencedays.com, and they can choose their own experience from their offerings. See experiencedays.com here, and iflyworld.com here.

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Sled. This one is a tradition at our house. Every year of her life, our daughter has received a sled from Santa for Christmas, and as far as I’m concerned, that will continue as long as I can do it. She has quite a collection of awesome sleds now, so when it does snow once or twice a year in Charlotte, she is always prepared. In fact, sometimes we just have ice instead of snow, but that doesn’t stop us! (I say “us,” because yes, I go sledding too.) We have had a lot of luck with Hammerhead sleds, so this year, she will be getting a newer version of the same type sled. These sleds are lightweight, durable, steerable, and most importantly, fast. You know what they say, “Kid tested, Mother approved.” It’s not cheap, coming in at just over $177, but if you can spend it, it’s worth every penny when it snows. You get a lot more that $177 of fun out of this thing. There are some less expensive versions on Amazon too. If you want to see this one, click here. Amazon will ship it to you for free, if you’re a Prime member.

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Cash is king. Not gonna lie. Teens want what they want, and we don’t always get it right. I don’t even try to buy clothes and shoes for my daughter anymore. And sometimes, they just want cash so they can get exactly what they want. While it seems impersonal, teens and college students love cold hard cash. But to make it even more exciting, do what my sister-in-law does: wrap it up. And I mean wrap it up. Start with an envelope. Then wrap it in a ball of plastic wrap. Put that ball in a box. Wrap it in newspaper. Put it in another box…and so on and so on. Keep it interesting! Make that package as complicated and big as you can make it!

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Stocking Stuffers. For more ideas, please refer to my stocking stuffers post. There are lots of good ideas on there for young people too. You can see that post here.

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Teenagers and college students are tough customers, but hopefully, you’ll find some things here that will go over well with yours. We want them to have a Merry Christmas too!

***If you found these suggestions helpful, please LIKE and SHARE the post, and LIKE our Facebook page too! Thank you!***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Is Home?

The world is continuously changing, and people are more mobile than ever before. People move halfway around the world, all over the country, and within states. But with all that moving, what is home?

When I was growing up, my family moved several times…from Florida to Alabama and then a few times within the state of Alabama. Every time we moved, our parents sat us down and said, “THIS is home now. MAKE it home.” And we did. Wherever we were, it became home. We didn’t refer to our old city as “home.” Our parents made efforts to help us join the community, and we hit the ground running.

Charlotte is a growing city, so naturally, there are lots of people always moving into the city. They come from all over the world, and most people I talk to love it. We were on an American Airlines flight the other day, and the pilot came on before we left Miami to go to Charlotte and said, “We are about to go to Charlotte. If you don’t want to go to Charlotte, you’ve probably never been there.” And I immediately thought, “He’s right!” Charlotte is a lovely city.

But if you move to Charlotte or any other city/town, it’s never going to feel like home till you start acting like it’s home. It’s a lesson I learned as a little girl, but lots of adults haven’t learned it. The first way to make it feel like home is to start CALLING it home. I can always tell when newcomers are going to be slow to get acclimated, because they keep referring to their old city as “home.” To me, that might be “where I’m from” or “where I used to live,” but my new city is home. My new house is home.

I have a friend who once told me she was homesick the entire four years of college. In talking about it, she told me her family lived about an hour from her college, and she would pack up and go “home” every single weekend. When she said that, I realized that was likely the problem. She hadn’t fully committed to being a part of the community at her school. Without that commitment, she was homesick. And the continuous going “home” just reinforced it. We talked about it, and she said she probably should have gone somewhere farther away. Maybe she would have become a part of her college community if she hadn’t been able to go back to her parents’ home all the time. College should start to feel like “home,” even if it is a musty old dorm room.

School age children who move often seem to assimilate into a community much faster than adults. Because they go to school, they are grouped with new people immediately, and more often than not, they find a friend group.

At most schools, I think new parents have more difficulty than new students. The first thing I always tell new parents I meet is to become a part of the school community. It’s an easy place to make friends, but you must put in some effort. If you’re an introvert, you may have to step out of your comfort zone for a little while to get started. All you need is one familiar face to start feeling comfortable. Find a face. You can do that by attending parent events and sporting events. But if the opportunities are there: volunteer, volunteer, volunteer! If you are giving your time to the community, it becomes your community.

I’ve known friends who moved as empty nesters, and the ones who started volunteering or attending events were the ones who started feeling like their new home was “home” soonest.

However, if you’ve moved to a new city and are still calling your old city “home,” well, you likely aren’t fully committed, and in my experience, you could have a long row to hoe.

I’ve always felt our parents did us a big favor whenever we moved by reminding us that we had a new “home.” My own daughter has always lived in Charlotte. She will be going off to college in four years, and I hope I will be able to instill that in her. I hope she will understand that her college is her home. Frankly, I hope she will be at least a few hours away so she has to become a part of things on campus, wherever that might be. On most campuses, Parents Weekend is usually about six weeks into the year, and that is done by design, so the students will make the effort to assimilate before seeing their families again.

Then there’s the old saying, “Home is where the heart is.” I don’t know who came up with that, but for me, “Home is where I decide it will be.” Bloom where you’re planted.

Cool It Now…I’m Young At Heart

This afternoon, my daughter asked me to run into Smoothie King and pick up some smoothies for her and some friends before field hockey practice. I was happy to do it. I remember what it’s like to be a 14-yr-old wanting a snack after school, but not having the ability to drive.

I asked her to text me their orders, and I ran into the Smoothie King between our house and the school.

Before I go on, let me tell you this particular Smoothie King is the best. It’s located in the Arboretum in Charlotte, and they make smoothies in record time and offer great customer service. Many times, I’ve barely given my order before I look up and it’s ready. I almost hesitate to tell people what great customer service they offer, because I don’t want the crowd to grow, BUT I have to give credit where it’s due.

Today, I walked in, and I was the only person in the place. School starts at a lot of independent schools in the area tomorrow, so tomorrow afternoon, it will be packed. But today, I was ahead of the curve. I placed my order for two Angel Foods, a Strawberry/Blueberry Greek Yogurt Smoothie, and a Banana Boat, and I waited. While I waited, I noticed 80s music was playing. Not just any 80s music…it was New Edition singing Cool It Now. (See the video here.) Ahhh…the good old days. I said aloud, “Wow! It’s New Edition!” The teenagers working in the place looked at me, puzzled. I explained, “New Edition…a boy band from the 80s…you know, Bobby Brown? Bell, Biv, Devoe?” They just looked at me. “No ma’am. I guess we’re too young.” Ugh. Yep. You’re too young.

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The Smoothie King guys aren’t much older than my daughter, but I think she knows who Bobby Brown is. In fact, when she was a baby, I could play My Prerogative if she were crying, and every single time, she would stop. (See My Prerogative video here.) I don’t know if it was the sound of tires squealing at the beginning of the song or the opening riff, but it stopped the crying every…single…time.

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I was determined to make these guys understand, so I went one step further, “Ever heard of Whitney Houston?” That rang a bell! They both nodded and replied, “Yes, ma’am.” And I went on to explain Bobby Brown had been married to Whitney Houston. “Ohhhh.”

They didn’t care. And I totally get it. It’s the same as if, in 1985, someone had talked to me about music or musicians from 1955. The only singer I would have been familiar with, probably, was Elvis.

Funny that they knew Whitney Houston, though. (They probably just know she died in a bathtub at the Beverly Hilton.) I remember watching Being Bobby Brown, a television reality show on Bravo in the early 2000s. It followed Bobby Brown and his marriage to Whitney. I remember one episode in which Bobby was in the lobby bar at the Grand Hyatt in Buckhead, Atlanta. He was talking to a gentleman at the bar, and when he told the guy who he was, there was no sign of recognition. When Bobby next said, “I’m married to Whitney Houston,” the older gentleman had the same reaction as the teenage boys had today, “Ohhhh! Yeah…Whitney Houston!” When I watched that episode, I felt bad for Bobby. He must have hated being known as Mrs. Whitney Houston. In the 80s, he had quite a career in music, first with New Edition, and then a successful solo career, winning at least a couple of Grammy Awards. After he married Houston, his career went downhill.

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So yes, I felt old in Smoothie King today, but I’m young at heart. I wanted to tell those guys they are totally missing out…they should give New Edition and Bobby Brown a listen. Candy Girl (video here)was another big hit for New Edition, and Bobby had lots of success with My Prerogative, Every Little Step, Roni, and Don’t Be Cruel. In fact, my senior year in college, on the night of a big party, some friends and I considered skipping the party and going with our dates  from Tuscaloosa to Montgomery to see Bobby Brown and New Edition. Back then, though, we didn’t have StubHub, so we didn’t know if we’d be able to get tickets. We opted not to risk it. Instead, we went to the party, which featured a local band called The Male Men. “What do the Male Men do? The Male Men do deliver!”

Good times.

While I felt old at Smoothie King, I also took a brief trip back to my college days. Oh, to be able to watch Bobby Brown and New Edition videos on MTV…back when it played videos. I should probably go thank those Smoothie King guys for making me feel the need to explain who Bobby Brown is…it made me think about him, and I immediately became 22 again as I got in my car and played My Prerogative loudly (and singing along at the top of my lungs) on the drive to deliver the smoothies to my daughter and her friends. In fact, if my arms hadn’t been loaded with smoothies when I arrived, I might have danced up to my daughter and her friends.

I’m young at heart.

 

 

Back to Reality

Ahhhh…vacation. If only we could feel as relaxed in daily life as we do on vacation.

We returned last night from what is likely the last big vacation of the summer for us. I love vacation. I love vacations of all kinds…active, outdoors (but not camping), water, city, lazy, big, small…just vacations in general. I love visiting new places and familiar places.

This most recent trip was to a familiar place, Los Angeles, but we had people with us who had never been, so everything old was new again. We had a great time…three moms with three teenagers. One mom was my awesome sister-in-law, whom I adore, and the other was my college friend, Angela…also adored. As we all started to depart the hotel yesterday, I could feel “reality” hanging over our heads like a fog.

I always get a little sad when I know the final big trip of summer is over. This year, because of high school sports, the final big trip of summer had to be a little earlier. (Note that I keep saying our final big trip, because I keep hoping for a couple of small adventures.) Our daughter is starting 9th grade and trying out for high school teams this year. Those tryouts start in early August, so no more vacations…back to reality.

Reality means it’s time to start getting prepared for the next school year. I get queasy just thinking about it. I don’t know if my daughter is nervous at all, but I am. It happens every year, but this year, more so, because she is going to high school. I’ve never had a child in high school, so this is a new experience for us. Deep down, though, I know she will settle in just fine, and eventually, I will settle down.

The most immediate thing on the horizon is the “assigned summer reading.” That is reality at our house right now, and that is the part I do not like. It’s not really my reality; it’s my daughter’s reality, but I will have to listen to her complain about it. I’m not the mom who helps with homework or nags about assignments. Most of the time, I don’t even know what the assignments are…and that’s how I’d like to keep it. I’ve talked with my friend, Maureen Paschal, about assigned summer reading on Been There Moms. You can see the video here. I simply do not like assigned summer reading. I feel like it is encroaching on my family time, and it’s like a cloud hanging over summer for us. I love to read, and I hope my daughter will eventually love it too, but even as a reader, “assigned” reading was tough for me as a student. At some point in the next couple weeks, she will take a couple days to sit down and read that book. She will complain about it, but she will get it done.

Personally, I think, if the school is going to require summer reading, I think they should also require outdoor exercise. There are some students who love reading all summer, and there are some who enjoy being outdoors all summer. Sure, there are some who fall between the two, but my daughter loves moving around and being outdoors. Sitting still? Nah. There’s no fun in that. But I really believe that if the school is going to have assigned summer reading, they should also have required outdoor exercise hours. If we are trying to enrich the whole student, let’s build their minds and their bodies.

Another reality is getting prepared for my daughter’s freshman year, meaning I need to make sure she has everything she is going to need. Right now, though, we are one month out from the first day of school, so seeing school supplies in the stores just makes me nauseous. I will get everything in advance with time to spare, but I don’t look forward to it.

And then there’s this reality: a month of back to back trips means things in my closet (and my home) are in disarray. I came home from the beach in June, and I’ve had several back-to-back trips since. I won’t get into listing all the places we visited, but it has been a lot of packing, unpacking, and packing again. And in some cases, I didn’t even unpack and repack…there wasn’t time. I just packed other stuff in a different suitcase. I need to take the time to straighten out all that, and it is one of my least favorite things to do. It means pulling out everything from closets around my house and purging. I’ve found some good “purging” advice in an article from the Huffington Post here. I dread it. But I will do it…maybe while my daughter is doing her assigned reading!

Today, though, I choose to ignore those realities. I want to enjoy the last fun, lazy days of summer…hanging out in the pool, spending time with family, harvesting tomatoes, spending time outdoors, and possibly, taking a little road trip or two. I’m on my way out to the pool now…

 

Wings & Things

When I was in college at The University of Alabama, way back in the 1980s, I fell in love. While I enjoyed dating, I was introduced to something I’d never had before…Buffalo wings, and it was love at first bite.

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I don’t remember hearing about Buffalo wings when I was growing up, but then I didn’t spend a lot of time in the Buffalo, New York, area. In fact, I never went to Buffalo till I was an adult.

So, when I started college, I’d never heard of the spicy chicken wing. I learned about it soon after I arrived, though, and I never looked back. How could I have been missing out on that wonderful flavor my whole life?

According to the website for the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York, the original Buffalo wing was served at their restaurant in 1964. The website says, “On March 4th, 1964, Dominic Bellissimo was tending bar at the now-famous Anchor Bar Restaurant in Buffalo, NY. Late that evening, a group of Dominic’s friends arrived at the bar with ravenous appetites. Dominic asked his mother, Teressa, to prepare something for his friends to eat. They looked like chicken wings, a part of the chicken that usually went into the stock pot for soup. Teressa had deep fried the wings and flavored them with a secret sauce. The wings were an instant hit and it didn’t take long for people to flock to the bar to experience their new taste sensation. From that evening on, Buffalo Wings became a regular part of the menu at the Anchor Bar.” You can order online from Anchor Bar, and they will ship Buffalo Wings to you anywhere in the United States. Click here to order.

Too bad I didn’t hear about them till 1985! Or maybe it’s better I didn’t hear about them before. I had a full appreciation for them in 1985. At 18, I knew good flavor, but if I’d had them at 13, I might not have recognized the greatness of them.

So, the first place I had Buffalo wings was far from Buffalo, NY. The first wings I had came from a little place on The Strip (a few blocks along University Blvd) called Wings & Things.

By my junior year, ordering delivery from Wing & Things had become a Sunday night ritual for me and my friend, Angela. Every Sunday night of our junior and senior years of college, Angela and I ordered the same things. I had the mild wings, extra wet, with hot sauce on the side, extra bleu cheese, and curly fries. Angela had the hot wings, extra wet, with hot sauce on the side, extra bleu cheese, and curly fries. We didn’t even have to discuss our orders.

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We would decide what time to order, and one of us would pick up the phone, a landline since it was pre-cellphone days, and call Wings & Things…a number we didn’t even have to look up. We even knew what our total would be. When it arrived, we would run downstairs, pay the delivery guy, grab the boxes, and hurry back upstairs to Angela’s room to enjoy our wings. Why the rush? Well, if anyone else on the hall saw us with wings, they would want one or two, and as far as we were concerned, wings were “no-share items.”

We always locked the door and sat in the floor to enjoy our wings.

Even with all the rush, the wings were aromatic, so after a few minutes, we would hear someone in the hall, saying, “Who has wings?!” We would look at each other, wide-eyed, and giggle silently, but we never answered. People would even knock on the door, and we would pretend we weren’t there…sitting silently, enjoying our wings. Because we ordered them “extra wet,” we always wore old clothes we didn’t care about, because we knew that orange-colored “wing juice” would drip and run all down our arms while we ate.

After we’d had our fill of wings, there were usually a few left. We had a ritual for that, too. One of us would pick up the landline phone again and call our friends, Lisa and Angie, down the hall, saying, “We have leftover wings. Want them?” In about two seconds flat, we’d hear footsteps coming down the hall. We would unlock the door and hand them the styrofoam boxes containing a few wings, and they would run back to their room and lock the door to enjoy the leftover wings.

Ahhh…the memories. In 1992, Wings & Things became Buffalo Phil’s in Tuscaloosa, so you can still get them if you visit. Since then, I’ve actually had wings in Buffalo, New York. I don’t know if they were from Anchor Bar or not. I was working as a flight attendant right after college graduation, and on a quick turnaround flight to Buffalo, the captain called ahead and ordered Buffalo wings to be brought to us on the plane between flights. I’m not gonna lie. They were good. They were darn good. I see there is an Anchor Bar in the Buffalo Airport, so maybe they were from Anchor Bar. I need to place an online order and try them again!

Now, whenever Angela and I get together, we almost always have wings. Since the 1980s, places that serve wings have popped up all over the country. I almost always order them the same way I ordered them in the 1980s, but Angela varies her order a little. Sometimes she’ll get different flavors, depending on where we are, but we still love our wings.

I guess when we’re old and living in the same senior living facility (my husband will be there too), we’ll have the same Sunday night wing tradition. For now, though, Angela lives in Montgomery, Alabama, and I live in Charlotte. We have favorite wing places in and around both places, so we’ll be OK. I don’t think any of the places deliver, so I’m hoping UberEats or Postmates will still be delivering food.

Eat more wings.

Here are some of our other favorite places for wings:

CharBar 7 in North Carolina (see website here)

Coaches Corner in Wetumpka, Alabama (Their “chicken chunks” in Buffalo sauce are good too. See facebook page here.)

Hickory Tavern with various locations in NC and Alabama (see website here)

Hubee Ds with a location in Charlotte and one in SC (see website here)