I was born in the late 1960s, so most of my childhood was in the 1970s. If yours was too, you likely loved McDonald’s. From the time I was a year old until I was seven, I lived in a little town in Alabama that didn’t have McDonald’s. We had a local hamburger drive-in that was really good, but it wasn’t McDonald’s. We even had a Dairy Queen…not McDonald’s. Eventually, we got a Jack’s, a hamburger place based in Birmingham, Alabama, but we still didn’t have McDonald’s when I moved away. We often went to Pensacola or Mobile for doctor appointments or to shop, so we had McDonald’s then, and it was a treat! I’m not kidding…a treat we could hardly wait to get! Those hamburgers! Those fries! Those chocolate shakes!
When I was seven, I moved with my family to the Mobile area, and we got McDonald’s all the time, because McDonald’s was plentiful in Mobile…I mostly remember the two on Government Street, and the one near the University of South Alabama on Old Shell Road. As kids, we even went to birthday parties at McDonald’s, and those were the best birthday parties! When I was eight years old, they even opened a McDonald’s in Bel Air Mall…a big, huge deal, because that whole wing of the mall started smelling like McDonald’s. To kids back then, McDonald’s was a little slice of Heaven.
One night last week, I craved McDonald’s. It happens occasionally. McDonald’s crosses my mind, and I simply have to have it. That night, I hopped in the car and drove to the nearest McDonald’s, got in the drive-thru line, and placed my order: hamburger, large fries, and a large Diet Coke. The service was quick, and I didn’t even make it out of the parking lot before I started gobbling up the feast from the paper bag. That first bite smelled and tasted like childhood happiness. I can’t explain it, but as soon as I unwrapped that burger, I felt like I was a kid again. And the fries? Well, it doesn’t get better than hot McDonald’s fries. I have known that my whole life.
If you’re anywhere near my age, chances are you have some McDonald’s memories. Maybe you went to birthday parties there. Maybe you ate there after every high school home football game (like I did). Maybe you remember the aroma of those hamburgers and French fries. Maybe you remember the McDonaldland characters and can identify all of them! Maybe you went there with high school friends or stopped there for breakfast on the way to school in the morning.
Sadly, the latest generations don’t seem to appreciate McDonald’s like we did. However, our daughter might be one of the exceptions. She loved McDonald’s Happy Meals as a kid. I took her to McDonald’s because I liked it, so she learned to like it too. Sometimes, we met friends there, so the kids could play in the indoor play area. Sometimes, we went to the two-story McDonald’s in South Park in Charlotte. My daughter, when she was a little girl, called it the “upstairs McDonald’s.” But I think a lot of kids didn’t have the joyful McDonald’s experience because society became health conscious and frowned upon it. Too bad, because kids missed out on that little indulgence. McDonald’s is supposed to be fun, and frankly, I think it’s OK in moderation. Do I want my daughter eating there all the time? No, and she doesn’t. But if she wants some fries from there once or twice a month…enjoy!
Fortunately, my daughter has a friend who told me about the McDonald’s App. If you have any appreciation for McDonald’s and don’t have the app, you’re leaving money on the table! Through the app, you can earn points to use toward future purchases, but you have immediate access to special deals like Free Fry Fridays, BOGO offers, and more! Seriously, if all you like about McDonald’s is their perfectly fizzy sodas, get the app now!
Right now, they have a BOGO order on breakfast sandwiches. They also have percentage off offers on different sandwiches, meals, and beverages. Seriously, if you like their coffee (it’s good) you can use the app for deals on that!
So if you’d like to experience a little childhood happiness, go download the app. You’ll be glad you did, because McDonald’s is your kind of place!
Oh, Krispy Kreme, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways: dozens and dozens and dozens…
I grew up in Alabama. When I was a little girl living in Spanish Fort, Alabama, on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay, we had to drive past a Krispy Kreme on Government Street in downtown Mobile every time we went to Bel Air Mall…and that was pretty often…usually on Saturdays. My family would shop, and my brother and I would eat French fries at the Eckerd’s lunch counter or the Woolworth’s counter in the mall. And sometimes, when we were lucky, on the drive home, Mother and Daddy would want to stop for a cup of coffee at the Krispy Kreme.
That particular Krispy Kreme franchise, I’ve been told, was an early franchise location. It served many a reveler after late nights during Mardi Gras for years. After moving away from the Mobile area as a child, I returned in my 20s, and that franchise location looked the exact same as I had remembered it…nothing had changed. In fact, I think it looked “original” till I moved away in 2000. Sadly, it closed in 2011. Repeated efforts to redesign the building for a drive-thru proved fruitless when they realized they would have to move parking to the back of the building, making it difficult for walk-in customers to gain access. I have some good memories of watching the doughnuts being made in that building…moving down the conveyor system. And I remember sitting at the counter on one of the green and silver round stools, enjoying a doughnut and laughing with my brother as a kid.
Clearly, Krispy Kreme has a positive connotation for me. So when Krispy Kreme announced they will give a free doughnut to customers who show their vaccine cards, I was thrilled. When I heard people were bashing the company for it, I was baffled. What the what? Apparently, there are people who think Krispy Kreme is “bribing” people into getting the vaccine. Really? That’s a pretty cheap “bribe.” Others posted on social media about how unhealthy the doughnuts are, and they shouldn’t be offering them.
I have four words for that: Give me a break!
Here’s how I feel. I don’t think Krispy Kreme is “bribing” anyone. I think they are rewarding people for getting vaccinated, and I truly believe this is a genius marketing campaign. They know most people won’t just come in and get that free doughnut. Most people will purchase at least one more item. And then there are the folks like me, who will purchase a couple dozen, just to share with anyone who comes to our house. Krispy Kreme will make money on the deal for sure. If you can be bribed for the price of a doughnut, you’ve got bigger problems.
As for the “health” issues…if you don’t want a doughnut, don’t go to Krispy Kreme for your free doughnut. If a vegan restaurant were offering something free as a reward, I wouldn’t go get it, because…you guessed it… I’m not vegan. But Krispy Kreme? You can bet your sweet bippy I’ll be getting my doughnut. In fact, I plan to meet friends there and have coffee too! And we will take pictures in the Krispy Kreme paper hats and post them all over social media…just wait. But if you are so worried about the health implications of eating a single doughnut, don’t sit by me. I don’t want to hear it. I just want to enjoy my doughnut and laugh with all my friends who will be enjoying theirs too.
I think Krispy Kreme is a great business. I have supported them my whole life. As an adult, I’ve been known to purchase multiple boxes at holidays and pass them out to friends and family. When we volunteered to donate cakes to the cake walk at the school carnival when my daughter was little, our “doughnut cakes” made with tiers of Krispy Kreme doughnuts and frosting/sprinkles were the most popular cakes at the events! Do I think people should eat them all day every day? No. But the occasional Krispy Kreme doughnut? Yes, please!
So if you don’t want your doughnut, please don’t go to Krispy Kreme. The line will be shorter for me and my friends, several of whom are physicians! Or better yet, go get your doughnut and pass it to me. But if you’re not going to get one…get out of my way. Don’t be a buzzkill.
Thank you, Krispy Kreme! I will get there as fast as I can with my completed vaccination card next Monday! I’ll be posting pictures on Instagram and Facebook before I even leave the store!
***Want to learn more about Krispy Kreme? Want to order one of those awesome coffee cups or some apparel? Click here!***
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:
Manolo’s Bakery, 4405 Central Avenue, Suite O
Suarez Bakery, 4245 Park Road
Suarez Bakery and Barra, 1115 N Brevard St in Optimist Hall
La Poblanita Mexican Restaurant and Candy Store, 1925 Westinghouse Blvd
My friend, Mary Ann, and I took a road trip from Charlotte to Miami and back last week. I’ve written parts 1 and 2, and part 2 ended with our driving out of the Tequesta/Jupiter area of Florida after attempting to visit Joe Namath’s soon-to-open restaurant…and getting caught accidentally trespassing in the process. Eek!
Our next destination? West Palm Beach, where we needed to try a Cuban restaurant my friend, Linda, raved about. We left Jupiter, and in less than half hour, we were standing in front of Havana Restaurant, right on the corner of Dixie Highway (Hwy 1) and Forest Hill Blvd.
Imagine our surprise when we found the dining room closed. The takeout window facing Dixie Highway was open, so we talked with the ladies there, who told us the takeout window is open 24 hours, but the dining room was open 5pm to 11pm. It was 4pm, so we decided to order an early dinner and dine at one of the outdoor tables on the side of the building. We knew that by the time we finished our early dinner, the dining room would be open, and we could go inside for dessert. We had Tostones Milanesa, Ropa Vieja, and Arroz con Pollo. Wow! The flavors were perfect, and the portions were huge, but we still saved room for dessert…because, well, Cuban desserts.
A little after 5:00, we entered the dining room and were seated immediately. I’ve never been to Cuba, but it certainly gave me vibes I thought were Cuban. The walls featured posters and photos of Cuban singers and stars, many from a bygone era. We loved the atmosphere! Mary Ann had never had Flan, so she ordered that, and I ordered Tres Leches Cake, which I always love, and we both ordered Cafe con Leche. The coffee came first; if you enjoy a good cup of coffee, I recommend you try the coffee at Havana. But when the desserts arrived, we were absolutely overwhelmed! Mary Ann decided she loved Flan. I knew I loved Tres Leches Cake, but this one bowled me over. I can hardly wait to get back to West Palm Beach just so I can get that cake. For more information about Havana Restaurant, click here. We loved it. The servers were absolutely delightful, and the food was fantastic. Highly recommend!
We waddled back out to the car after eating too much, and decided we’d stop in Delray Beach for the night. We took the beach road, and as I drove, Mary Ann was searching online for a small, locally-owned place to stay the night. We found Atlantic Hideaway on 6th Avenue. Unfortunately, they had no rooms left for the night. Even though we didn’t get to stay there, we recommend it and will likely try it another time. To see info about Atlantic Hideaway, click here. After driving around looking for other small inns, we finally opted to book at the Courtyard…yes, I know…not a small, locally-owned place, but it was in a great location…and at that point, it was just easy. We booked on the Marriott app, where we also checked in and got a digital key. Parking was in a covered garage. We were thrilled with how large the room was…two king beds…and the whole hotel was remarkably clean and beautiful. I never thought I would call a Courtyard beautiful, but this one definitely was.
After getting our bags to the room, we went out to explore on foot. Delray Beach is a lovely town with lots of cute restaurants and shops. We didn’t need more food after Havana, but we enjoyed walking. We crossed over the drawbridge and visited the beach. Of course, we took lots of photos along the way.
We slept well, and when we got up the next morning, we spent a couple of hours checking out Delray Beach, resolving to return soon. It’s the kind of place I could live out my retirement…seriously, it could happen.
In the afternoon, we got back on A1A, driving south through Highland Beach, Deerfield Beach, and Pompano Beach. We knew Miami Beach was our southernmost destination, so we made a hotel reservation and dinner reservations while we drove…more on that later. We didn’t make any stops till we got to Pompano, and we were past due for some lunch, since we hadn’t eaten breakfast. We had just said we were feeling “lunchy” when we saw a sign for Great Indian Grill. We both love Indian food, so we took a chance and were so glad we did! The place was small…just three tables…but with only two employees, it had a friendly, personal vibe. The chef, Jay, took our orders, and offered suggestions. He suggested Chicken Tikka Masala as an appetizer and Lamb Biryani and Shrimp Curry for lunch. Yum! Everything he prepared was perfect, and we felt like he was our personal chef! In some Indian restaurants, the flavors can be overwhelming, but Jay prepared them in such a way that the flavors melded perfectly. Everything was delicious. For info on Great Indian Grill, clickhere. We thanked our new friend, Jay, profusely before getting on the road to Miami.
As we drove away, we remembered reading that a Goodyear Blimp Airbase is in Pompano Beach, so Mary Ann checked her phone, and we decided to make a quick drive past the hangar, in hopes a blimp would be parked outside. As we approached, we realized we were getting more than that! A blimp was outside, indeed…getting prepared for takeoff! We had no idea where it was going, but when it took off, it flew low directly above us! As it started to circle low around the base, I realized it was doing a fly by and was going to land again! What a treat to watch it take off and land! I’ve seen the Goodyear blimp countless times, but I had never seen it take off and land, so this was fun! Once we knew it wouldn’t be taking off again, we got on the road. For info on the Goodyear Blimp Airbase, click here.
We rolled into Miami with Will Smith singing Miami on the car speakers, and eventually switched over to Pit Bull…just to get the vibe for the 305.
As I mentioned earlier, we had made a hotel reservation. We opted to stay at Eden Roc, because it’s in mid-beach (not South Beach!), and because they have valet parking. There were other factors too…Nobu restaurant and Malibu Farm restaurant are both at Eden Roc.
Upon arrival at Eden Roc, we were greeted warmly by the valet and bell staff. Check-in was quick and easy, and our room on the seventh floor gave us a pool view and partial ocean view. We got cleaned up and went downstairs to Malibu Farm for our cocktail reservation before moving to Nobu for our dinner. Mary Ann had never dined at Nobu, but I have dined at several, so I knew it would be a fabulous experience. It most definitely was.Nobunever disappoints. In fact, Mary Ann has called me several times since, still talking about that Nobu meal. I’d love to list everything we ordered, but we let the server decide for us, so we didn’t know the names of everything…but it was fantastic! For info on Malibu Farm, click here…and Nobu info, click here.
We went to bed happy, dreaming of the Nobu meal we’d just had!
We knew we had one day in Miami, so the next morning we picked a couple of things we wanted to do. I have no love for South Beach, so that was off the table. We knew we wanted to visit Calle Ocho…you can’t go to Miami without visiting Little Havana/Calle Ocho. We also wanted to visit the Wynwood Walls.
So after a quick drive around the Art Deco and South Beach area, we drove west, across MacArthur Causeway to Calle Ocho, where we had another great Cuban meal at Versailles. It’s a a tourist trap, but there were locals there too, and frankly, the easy parking was a factor in our decision. To see more about Versailles, click here. We left there and took a few pictures in Little Havana before going to the Wynwood Walls, an outdoor museum of murals by American and international artists. It’s actually blocks of murals on building and walls, but now there is a part of the area that charges for entry. It’s $10 per person, and it’s money well spent. We spent about an hour there, admiring the murals and taking photos. We loved it. And of course, at the end, I had to go into the gift shop to purchase some postcards…it’s what I do. For more about The Wynwood Walls, click here.
We left there, driving north with no idea where we would stop. More next time…in part 4 of the series.
This is the first of two reposts on stocking stuffers! A new post with new ideas will be posted tomorrow, December 1.
I love looking for stocking stuffers. Truly, it’s the highlight of my holiday shopping. It’s the really fun part of the shopping, because it can be funny gifts, small gifts, silly gifts…anything goes for stocking stuffers.
This year, I’ve done my research, and with the help of several great friends, I’ve compiled a list of some great stocking stuffers, so you don’t have to do the research. I’m featuring stocking stuffers in lots of different price ranges. Without a doubt, you’ve thought of some of these yourself, but I’m guessing some of them will be new to you! So read all the way through! And keep in mind that there will be a second post on stocking stuffers coming soon…and it will be full of things I love too!
Let’s get started…
Minute Mimosa Sugar Cube Trio.I love these! For $30, you get 18 sugar cubes infused with different flavors that, when dropped in a glass of champagne or prosecco, will turn it into a Bellini, Mimosa, or other fruit flavored drink! The company offers two different trios…a peaches and berries trio, and a citrus trio. I love a good glass of bubbly…and these sugar cubes are a lot of fun! I’ll be finding some of these in my Christmas stocking this year…no doubt! Get them here.
Kylie Lip Sets. Say what you want about the Kardashians. Love ’em or hate ’em…they’ve marketed themselves really well. Kylie is actually a Jenner, but she’s a half sister to the Kardashian girls. She ventured out and created/marketed a line of lipsticks/glosses/liners that were successful as soon as they hit the market. She recently sold her stake in the company for a cool $600 million. I’m sure I’m not their target consumer, but I have several of the Kylie Lip Kits/Sets, and I love them. I also use the Kylie bronzer and face powder…love it all! There are lots of Kylie cosmetic palettes out there…even some new holiday palettes/sets, so check them out. See the whole collection at Kyliecosmetics.com
Slingshot with felt ammo balls. Fun for the whole family! Maybe Santa could bring one of these for every member of the family. Let’s face it…it wouldn’t be any fun to send fuzzy cotton ammo flying through the air at your sibling/parent/child if they couldn’t take aim back at you! It’s safe. It’s fun. I hope my husband and daughter are ready to lose this fuzzy ball war! Priced at $12.99, get it from Amazon here.
Smartphone Controlled Paper Airplane. You read it right…a paper airplane you can control with your smartphone! Priced at $45, it’s not cheap, but it’s different! What you get is paper to fold the plane and a bluetooth device to attach to it. Once you have it set up, you download the app to your smartphone, and you can control the plane with the app. Could be great entertainment indoors or outdoors. But please note this is recommended for ages 14+…it contains small parts that could be choking hazards. Get it here.
Lifestraw Water Filter. If you’re not familiar with a cute lady named Kristen Hampton, you should be. She runs a Facebook page called Kristen Hampton Good News, and on Tuesdays, she does live feeds she calls PTT…Product Testing Tuesday. The first place I saw the Lifestraw Water Filter was on one of her PTT videos. She waded into murky water in Arizona and put this personal water filter to the test. The product removes almost 100% of all waterborne bacteria and contaminants from water. It surpasses EPA standards, and it’s a great gift for outdoorsmen, campers, and hikers. Priced at $14.96 on Amazon right now, it’s a great stocking stuffer. Get it here.
Poo Pourri. One of the greatest inventions ever, Poo Pourri is the “spray before you go” toilet spray that eliminates odors by trapping them. I have loved it for years and keep them in every bathroom in our house. They also offer smaller bottles that will fit in your handbag, so you can “spray before you go” when you’re on the go! Poo Pourri has a four-minute commercial on YouTube that you can see here,but remember the subject matter…it’s not a sweet, little, pretty commercial, but it is hilarious. Go to the Poo Pourri website here to see all the products they offer….lots of fun, hilarious holiday offerings, including some ugly Christmas sweaters. One of my favorites is the Pink Citron glitter Poo Pourri, but I love all their products and their fun names. And check out their shoe odor eliminator while you’re there too! See the website here.
Lumilux Toilet Light.Since we’re already talking about the bathroom, I might as well go ahead and put this one out there too. Sounds silly I know, but some folks just need a toilet light, and this one has a motion sensor and 16 different color possibilities! It is one of the toilet lights marked “Amazon Choice,” and it’s priced at just $14.95 for one or $24.95 for a two pack. Get it here, because who wouldn’t want an automatic light when they approach the toilet at night?
Serendipity 3 Frozen Hot Chocolate. This stuff is the best, and it’s super easy to make the Frozen Hot Chocolate like they have at the world-famous Serendipity 3 in New York. The mix is in packets or buy it by the can, and directions are easy to follow. Have some whipped cream on hand for topping! My daughter insists on this every year, and I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like it. Get the can of mix at Amazon here.Or purchase it by the packets here.
Incognito Flask. For the over 21 set, this is a great gift. Sometimes, we like to take some alcohol to the beach or a football game, and there’s nothing worse than trying to sneak a bottle past security…hiding it in your bra or down your pants. Yep, it happens. Flasks that look like something else are the answer to those woes! And there are lots of options. Fake sunscreen flask? Check. Fake binoculars flask? Got it! Fake umbrella? Yep. Fake tampons? Uh-huh. Fake camera? You bet. Even fake shampoo and conditioner bottles for smuggling alcohol onto cruises! Who knew? Amazon has a whole page of them, but my favorites are the hairbrush, binoculars, and sunscreen. See them all here.The binoculars are pretty far down the page, so click here for the direct link. In fact, there was a picture on dailymail.com that went viral…a girl drinking from her binoculars at a race. See it here.
Silk Pillowcase. These days, everyone is extolling the virtues of the silk pillowcase…something I’ve known about my whole life. I remember my mother telling me as a little girl that silk pillowcases are better for your skin and hair. She used them, and she swore they helped keep her hair in place. Well, they’re back! Now, a company called Slip makes a sustainably sourced silk pillowcase, and it is becoming famous fast. Sit down, though…it sells for $85. Get them on Amazon here.I’ve also found a brand of silk pillowcase called Fisher’s Finery that was called a winner by the Good Housekeeping Institute. It sells for just under $50 on Amazon here.
Gift cards.It’s not impersonal. It’s practical…especially for teens and college students. They have places they love to go, but everything costs money. Giving them a gift card to Starbucks, ChickFilA, or anywhere else they frequent is a fabulous gift! Get them at Target or possibly in your local grocery store.
Therapy Dough. Yes, it’s a thing. Some people like to have something to do with their hands to help them relax, and Therapy Dough could be the answer! Roll it. Stretch it. Shape it. The brand I’ve found at The Grommet, called Pinch Me Therapy Dough, is lightly scented for even more relaxation! For $25, it’s a great addition to a stocking! Get it here.
Light up Gloves.What kid wouldn’t love some light up gloves?!? Kids love flashlights and glow sticks…these are lights that fit on your hands! The YoStyle kids’ gloves get a five star rating on Amazon, and they look like lots of fun for camping, parties, and more! At just $10.99/pair, they won’t break the bank, and they could be good for hours of fun. Get them here.
NEBO Larry Flashlight. And since I mentioned flashlights, we should just add those to the list too. My personal favorite brand of flashlight is Larry. I first discovered them at a camping store, and they’re they only brand I ever buy now. The Big Larry comes with a bright LED flashlight, a strong magnet built into the base, and a flashing emergency light, in case you need it. Prices start at $24.95 on Amazonhere.Or maybe a smaller light is what you need. The Lil Larry starts at $16.89 at Amazon here.
Lil Larry Flashlight
Big Larry Flashlight
Quality candies.Nobody loves a good maple sugar candy like I do. I’ve been addicted to them since we started visiting Maine ten years ago. My favorites are shaped like little maple leaves. One brand I’ve tried is Butternut Mountain Maple Farm. It’s pure maple sugar candy, and it’s good. You can order it here.I’ve heard Trader Joe’s sometimes carries their own brand of Maple Candy, but I haven’t seen it in the store yet. Another great candy I’ve mentioned before is Louis Sherry Chocolates. They come in beautiful tins of different sizes. Twelve-piece tins start at $35, but for the lovely holiday Nutcracker tin, it’s $40. Did I mention the chocolates are delicious? Get them here.
1818 Farms products.A friend who lives in Alabama told me about 1818 Farms a few years ago. Located in North Alabama, this farm produces lots of organic products. I love their Shea Creme starting at $10. Wedding Cake would be my favorite scent. They also have lovely handcrafted soaps starting at $7 and beard oils starting at $12. You can see them all at their website here. They also offer holiday bundles!
Tabletopics Conversation Starter Cards. These are great for people of all ages, and Tabletopics has made it easy for you to choose the right set! They offer the Original Tabletopics, but there are also sets geared toward families, teens, couples, date night, dinner parties, and more! Each box contains 135 thought-provoking questions for $25. Get them on Amazon here.
Dry Divas Shower Caps. Every girl needs a good shower cap. Who wants to wash their hair every day? And it’s a pain to get a shower without getting your hair wet! Lots of shower caps don’t do the job, but Dry Divas Shower Caps are the best! I should know…I’ve been using them for a while now. Priced at $25, they aren’t flimsy. They’re well made, pretty, and they stay in place. See the various designs at Amazon here.
Mer Sea & Co. Faux Fur Hot Water Bottle Cover. Go ahead. Tell me I’ve lost my mind. Who uses hot water bottles anymore? But come on…think about it…there’s something comforting about a hot water bottle. Sure, you can use a heating pad, but there’s no chance a hot water bottle in a beautiful faux fur cover is going to start an electrical fire. OK, so maybe that’s extreme, but there’s just something about a hot water bottle when you’re cold and tired…or have back pain…or just want to warm your feet. At $38, this is beautiful and practical! I want one. Get it at Anthropologie here.
Vintage Toys.Toys were different when I was a kid. Most of them weren’t electronic. I love vintage toys. Remember Stretch Armstrong? How about Viewmaster? Etch-a-sketch? How about the rail twirler? Slinky? Wooly Willy? Don’t forget paddleball! They’re all available on Amazon. Wooly Willy starts at about $5. See various vintage toys here.Kids and adults might like them!
Dermalogica Facial Cleanse.This is the best stuff I’ve ever used to clean my face. It’s a two step cleansing process. First, I use the Dermologica PreCleanse, which is priced at $45, and while that sounds crazy, the bottle lasts for months. It gets all the makeup off my face the first time. I’ve always struggled to find a good makeup remover. This is the bomb! Get ithere. Follow it up with the Dermalogica Special Cleansing Gel ($39) for super clean skin. Find it here.
Smartphone Lanyard. It’s always a dilemma…I need my phone, but I can’t carry a handbag, and I don’t have pockets. I found the Smartphone Lanyard at The Grommet, and now, I can hardly wait for it to arrive in the mail! Of course, it will have to be a stocking stuffer, so I won’t be able to use it till Christmas. My teenage daughter wouldn’t use it, but I bet there are a lot of moms out there who would. It will come in really handy at sports tournaments…when I need to be able to find my phone easily, but I don’t want to hold it in my hand. Priced at $9.99, it’s a bargain. Get it here.
Personalized Stationery. Every member of the family needs personalized stationery…for sympathy notes, thank you notes, and just regular notes. Don’t we all love to receive handwritten notes in the mail? I do. There are lots of places to get personalized stationery for everyone in your family, and it makes a great stocking stuffer. One place to get it is The Stationery Studio. For $35, you can get 25 beautiful, personalized, hand bordered note cards with envelopes like the ones shown below. See them here.
Wireless Express Sing-A-Long Bling Karaoke Microphone.Folks of all ages love karaoke. I’ve seen videos on Facebook of my cousins’ children and grandchildren singing karaoke, and I have lots of adult friends who love singing along. This karaoke microphone, with its bluetooth capabilities, is a lot of fun for just $55. Get it at Neiman Marcus here. It comes in Pink Bling and Iridescent Bling.
Waiter’s Corkscrew. Call me old-fashioned, but I find waiter’s corkscrews are the easiest to use. The wing style corkscrew just doesn’t work for me. And there’s something that looks more skilled when someone uses one of these. Priced at just $10.95, the Hicoup Waiter’s Corkscrew is a great stocking stuffer for anyone who enjoys a nice bottle of wine. Get it here.
Urban Decay Naked Honey Palette.Just looking at the Urban Decay website is a lot of fun. So much color! So much glitter! Every year, they have a “hot” eyeshadow palette, and this year, the hottest thing going is the Naked Honey Palette, priced at $49. Or get the Honey Drop Vault, which includes the palette plus other Honey items for $115. It’s golden! It’s sparkly! And it is popular. See the Naked Honey collection here.
I hope you found a few things that look like they could work for your loved ones! If not, there will be a second list of stocking stuffers coming soon!
Earlier, I had to run to Walgreens to pick up one thing…some bottled water. Of course, like so many other people, I can’t walk out of Walgreen’s with just one thing. I have to “browse” the aisles. By the time I checked out, my cart contained hand sanitizer, cheap lipstick, Halloween candy I promptly hid when I got home, and Hostess Cupcakes. Yes, Hostess Cupcakes…the ones that come two to a pack. The creme-filled chocolate ones that have the white swirls across the top. The ones that I loved as a kid in the 1970s.
When I was a little girl, Daddy took us to Murphy’s store on Highway 31 in Brewton on Saturday mornings after he gave us our $5 allowance. It was our opportunity to get whatever we wanted, and back then, $5 would buy a lot of treats. Murphy’s was a little locally-owned convenience store. We always referred to it as “Murphy’s,” except Saturdays, when we referred to it as “the candy store.” Mr. and Mrs. Murphy actually ran it themselves. I’m sure they laughed when they saw us coming, because they knew we were going straight for the candy. By the time I left the store, I usually had an Icee or a Grape Fanta and a little brown bag full of different treats. My personal favorites? Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (I remember when the price increased from 15 cents to 20 cents), Pixy Stix, Marathon Bar, Grape Now & Laters, Spree Candy, M&Ms, Candy Cigarettes (it was the 70s, after all), and yes, those glorious Hostess Cupcakes. I thought those swirls across the top were beautiful. I guess I always had homemade birthday cakes, so those Hostess swirls looked like some special handiwork. Here’s a secret, though: I rarely ate the cupcakes. I usually just ate the frosting off the top…and that swirl? I saved that till the end.
So, after I got home from Walgreen’s and ate those Hostess cupcakes, I posted on my personal Facebook page about them, and the reaction was great! So many of my friends remembered those cupcakes from childhood. But the great thing was the memories they shared about their own experiences. One friend commented that her dad would take her to the deli on Saturdays, and while he picked out lunch stuff, the kids could get treats…including Tastykakes…a Mid-Atlantic treat. Others could remember the mom-and-pop shops where they got their weekend treats, and one friend frequented the 7-11 with her dad, buying comic books and candy.
One of my favorite comments was simply, “Nyolator.” It was a comment from a kindergarten friend in Brewton. I’m guessing not just anyone would understand it, but I knew exactly what it meant immediately. In South Alabama, when I was a kid, I didn’t call Now&Later candies by their real name. I called them “Nyolators,” and I now know I wasn’t the only one! We weren’t being funny. Since I never bothered to read the package, I just pronounced them the way I heard it,”Nyolator.” I guess that’s the way my kindergarten friend heard it too! So if someone had asked me what candy I liked at the time, I likely would have answered, “Grape Nyolators.” Later, when I bothered to read the package, I was amused to learn I had been calling them by the wrong name my whole life…I was probably a preteen by the time I realized it, but dang!
So now, I’m thinking those Hostess Cupcakes aren’t just cupcakes. They’re symbols of my childhood…memories of going to Murphy’s store with my daddy. Pixy Stix can have the same effect for me. I loved Pixy Stix then, and I still love them now. Again, grape Pixy Stix are my preferred flavor. I don’t know why I love artificial grape flavoring, but I do.
Grape sodas, which taste nothing like real grapes, also make me think of visiting my Granddaddy. I’ve talked with my cousin, Patti, in recent years about how Granddaddy would give us a quarter, and we would walk down to the little store down the street from his house. I don’t know what the store was called, but I know I could always get a grape soda or an RC Cola there.
And you know why all those items…the candy, the cupcakes, the sodas…remind us of our childhood? Because they represent happy times. We tend to lock things into our longterm memory if they are attached to an emotion, and I guess that emotion, for me, on a Saturday morning, with $5 to spend at a mom-and-pop convenience store…well, that emotion was pure joy! No doubt!
I was big on making my little brown bag candy stash last a while. I could drag out eating some M&Ms by peeling them. I never got Peanut M&Ms. Back then, I only got original milk chocolate ones. And I actually peeled them. Sounds crazy right? I would bite each one just lightly enough to crack the outer shell, and then I would carefully peel off the shell, eating it little bit by little bit. And that’s when there were still red M&Ms with cancer-causing coloring, and there were two different brown colors of M&M…one was tan. Remember that? Long before blue M&Ms. I remember hearing the slogan for M&Ms many times, “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand.”
And while I was peeling my M&Ms and hoarding my candy/cupcake stash, I was likely playing records on my record player…maybe Ricky Nelson singing Garden Party, which takes me back every time. That and Otis Redding singing Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay. But I’m not even going to get into how music takes me back…that’s for another day.
For now, I’m going to sneak back into the kitchen and eat some of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups from the bag of Halloween candy I purchased at Walgreen’s. I hid it from everyone else in my family, but I know exactly where it is!
My daughter and I used to visit a friend in Maine every summer for a couple of weeks. We loved it. We loved the beaches in Wells and Kennebunkport. We loved the food…lobster rolls? Yes, please! We loved the people and the shopping. And we fell in love with maple cream candies. Since then, I have occasionally ordered maple sugar candies and maple syrup from a company in Maine.
Last week, I got the news that Nabisco was putting out a new Fall flavor of Oreos…Maple Creme Oreos! I was excited! No joke…I immediately went to Amazon to see if they had them, and indeed, they did. The least expensive way to purchase them was to purchase 12 packs at a time. No big deal, right? My daughter and I love Maple Creme!
The cookies arrived a couple of days later. The box was big! It was exciting! I opened the big shipping box to find another box, and I could hardly wait to break into it. My husband handed me scissors to get the job done, and when I opened it, the packages looked glorious! My husband, on the other hand, thought I was nuts. “Why did you order twelve of them?” He didn’t really want an answer…it was actually just a way for him to say, “You have lost your ever-loving mind.”
I called upstairs to our teenage daughter and asked her to come downstairs, because I had a surprise for her. She came down, and when she saw the Maple Creme Oreos, she got excited too! She grabbed a pack and took them upstairs to her room, while I opened a pack in the kitchen. They looked delicious…golden Oreo cookie outside with maple cream, caramel-colored filling on the inside. I took the first bite. Hmmm. Then I took another bite…and giving it the benefit of the doubt, I took yet another bite, thinking maybe my taste buds weren’t registering it correctly.
Except they were…
My tastebuds registered it correctly. I didn’t like them. I went up to my daughter’s room and asked her what she thought. She had already powered through a few of the cookies, and she said, “They’re good!” Apparently, my daughter likes the “artificially flavored” maple creme cookies, and I’m in the minority, because I went back to Amazon and checked the reviews…there are ten 5-star reviews and only one 1-star review. That means most people loved them. So don’t take my word for it; you might like them. I think the real problem is that it’s just way too sweet for me. It just tastes like sugar to me. If you want to read the reviews or purchase some, you can get them from Amazon here.
There is no way my daughter can eat all twelve packages of the Maple Creme Oreos before they go bad. She usually loses interest in a food if she eats too much of it. My guess is that she will finish one pack, and she’ll be never think about them again. Those other ten packs will simply go bad while they take up space in our pantry.
But then…I had a thought! If I can just be patient and let them sit there for two months, some trick-or-treaters (if we’re allowed to have Halloween) will get full packs of Maple Creme Oreos in their trick-or-treat bags! Yes, we will give them candy too. They will think they’ve hit the Halloween jackpot at our house! Who knows? They might even like the cookies! Maybe I won’t regret the purchase at all! Maybe I’ll get to see some big smiles on some ghosts and goblins.
So maybe I won’t have to regret this purchase. Seeing smiles at Halloween will totally be worth it, right? I have regretted bigger purchases, so this is pretty minor, fortunately.
I’m really disappointed, though. Oreo has made so many delicious flavors over the years! I wasn’t a fan of the original chocolate/cream cookie till I was an adult. Something about the flavor was too harsh. But as an adult, I like them…especially the Double Stuf version. I have always loved Golden Oreos…I can’t keep them in my house, because I will eat all of them in one sitting. Some of my favorite special flavors: Birthday Cake, Peanut Butter, Mint, Carrot Cake, Lemon, Peppermint Bark, Firework (with popping candy in the creme), and Apple Pie. I think some of them are seasonal. I never tried the Cherry Cola flavor or the Dunkin Donuts Coffee flavor…if I ever see them in the store, I will buy them.
Till then, I’ll stick with what I know. And if you want Maple Creme Oreos, you don’t have to dress up like a ghost or goblin on Halloween. You can simply ask me for them!
For the past few years, I have hosted at least one spring brunch for friends at my house, but this year will be different. No spring brunch, unless I get creative. My friends will need to be creative too, but maybe I can find a few who are willing to do a virtual spring brunch while we’re all “social distancing.” I talked to a lady at the bank (on the phone, of course) who told me she’d enjoyed a virtual cocktail hour with friends the night before, so why not a brunch?
Here’s what I’m thinking:
I’ll pick a future date (but not too distant) that might be good for a few friends. We can use the Zoom app to all “get together.” But how do we do brunch together through the app?
First, we all need to set a dress code. Personally, I think it should be spring luncheon dress…pretty dresses or blouses that will cheer us all up. I have a Saloni dress I got for Easter last year that would work perfectly. The fabric is bright pink, blue, orange, yellow, and green flowers on a white background. It has ruffles and looks very happy and seasonal. So I will encourage everyone to wear a happy, spring dress or blouse.
For decor, I think it will be fun to let everyone decide their own decor for their space, but make it as happy and springlike as possible! I will likely use my mother’s Desert Rose china and decorate my “space” around that…pink and green…with whatever I can find around my house. Or I have some other pretty spring china of Mother’s that’s blue and green…that could be pretty too. I’ll definitely use my sterling silverware instead of stainless…just to make it feel more special. And crystal glasses. If I can find some pretty flowers outside in the neighborhood, I’ll use those too.
And how about the menu? Should we all have the same things? That could be tough, since we don’t all have access to the same things. But it will be interesting to see what everyone has! I know I have plenty of pimiento cheese, so I can make some finger sandwiches for my meal. I have some strawberries, so I can have those. Maybe I’ll make a Slow Cooker Breakfast Casserole from the Hungry Girl website. (Click here for recipe.) I’m having to think in terms of what I actually have on hand. For my beverage of choice, I’ll go with Prosecco…I have a lot on hand. If I have any fruit juice on hand, I’ll make a froufrou drink, but if not, I’m cool with Prosecco. And for dessert, I’ll have cupcakes from Baked By Melissa (click here), because I know I have an order arriving soon. They’ll add some color!
This pandemic is certainly not fun, because these are trying times, but it’s OK to look for a little happiness where we can. We’ll say some prayers for those who are sick and their families, and we’ll pray for those who have lost jobs or businesses. A little bit of “virtual” happiness might make us feel better for a little while. I think I’ll send out some virtual invitations today!
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.
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.
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.
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!*
Throughout life, there are times that I’ve thought, “How did I miss out on this?!?!” But by the time I reached age 52, I thought I had likely seen it all. Surely, unless it’s something new, there’s nothing that’s been going on for years around me that I didn’t even notice. Sure, at 40-something, I learned about the little tabs on the end of the aluminum foil box that hold the roll in place, but that was before I was 50. I wasn’t surprised about the flat tire icon on the car dashboard or the little arrow that shows which side the gas tank is on. If you don’t know all those things, you need to get busy Googling.
But earlier this week, I learned about something that is supposedly southern that I didn’t know about. That thing? Pineapple Casserole. Never heard of it till Sunday or Monday of this week, and as I type, it’s Wednesday. I grew up in Alabama. If it’s a southern dish, how did I manage to make it to 52 without ever having heard of it?!?
So I did what I do. I went to my personal Facebook page and asked my friends if they grew up eating/knowing about Pineapple Casserole, and if they did, where did they grow up?
I got lots of responses saying they grew up with it. Lots of folks from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, and surprisingly (to me), Alabama…even a friend from High Springs, Florida, which is actually in the part of Florida that’s still “southern” had grown up with it! My people (an aunt and cousins) in the Florida Panhandle (a part of Florida that is still very southern) had not grow up seeing it, just like I’d never seen it. One cousin said she had it as an adult when a friend made it, but otherwise, my family had somehow missed out on Pineapple Casserole. Maybe it’s a familial thing??? I’d never even had it at my grandmother’s house in Birmingham, but according to a cousin who now lives in California, she had served it to her and her friends she referred to as the “soup ladies.” Even my friend, Amy, from Selma, Alabama (does it get any more southern than Selma?!?), said she did not eat it growing up. I promptly decided we must be related, since we both grew up in Alabama and had never heard of it. I now refer to her as Cousin Amy.
But just so you know, friends from Indiana, Philadelphia, and Delaware also had it when they were growing up, so now I’m wondering just how “southern” it is. But that’s beside the point. Everyone except one South Carolina girl gave it two thumbs up, so you know I have to try it.
I will make it later this week, and I can hardly wait! But for the holy grail of Pineapple Casseroles, I’m going to ask my friend, Crazy Jane, to make it for me when she visits. Crazy Jane is the best cook in the world, so even if we followed the exact same recipe, her version would be far better than mine. She just has a special touch.
I’ve asked several friends what I should expect. Some say it’s the perfect side dish with ham. Others say it’s almost dessert-like, because it does contain sugar…and not just a little of it. Plus, pineapple is sweet and a little dessert-like, right? It also contains butter, flour, cheese, and other stuff. Sounds disgusting, right? But my friends know good food, so I’m trusting them when they say it’s delicious. I thought the recipe for the Mississippi Pot Roast (click here) sounded disgusting too, but I absolutely love the stuff!
So I know you’ve been waiting for the recipe. I went to the Southern Living website for the recipe, because it’s a site I trust. If Southern Living posts a bad recipe, they hear about it from lots of southern ladies, so I think they’re pretty careful. You can see the recipe here.
If you’ve never had Pineapple Casserole and decide to make it, I’d love to hear your feedback! I’m starting to question my southern roots, since I’ve never had it! How did that happen?!? I’ve been to lots of church covered dish lunches and family potlucks, and I’ve never seen it. Or maybe when I was a kid, I saw it and thought it looked disgusting. That’s likely. I’ll let you know what I think after I make it.
I’m also wondering if I can get Hungry Girl to do some ingredient swaps and bring down the calorie count on this crazy sounding dish?!? Maybe I’ll send the recipe to their test kitchen!