Blame It On the Limoncello

Blame it on the limoncello.

After I posted my piece titled Please Drop In, I received a text from a friend telling me she was on the way to my house. This particular friend is funny…hilariously funny…and smart…put those two qualities together, and it makes for an awesome person. In fact, she’s so awesome that, years ago, when she told me she had “people” (that’s Southern for family) in Clanton, Alabama, I told her we absolutely must be related. I have family all over Alabama, so anything’s possible, right? Rather than digging through genealogy, I just went ahead and declared her my cousin. So, now we’re cousins. I’ve written about my “fake cousins” before. I don’t have a lot of them, but when I feel a particular kinship with someone…well, they become my fake cousin. So…when she said she was on her way to my house, I was thrilled!

A few minutes later, she drove up my driveway in her beautiful white convertible, and when she hopped out, she had a bag in her hand. Here’s what it contained: two cups of ice, a bottle of vodka, a bottle of Limoncello, a bottle of Diet Sprite, and some lemon juice. That’s a party in a bag! And yes! As you see…she even brought cups of ice! This cousin was prepared!

I have to admit that when I saw the bottle of limoncello, I got a little scared. I had an unforgettable experience with limoncello several months ago. You’d think at 53, I’d know what not to do where alcohol is concerned, but apparently, I’m not the fastest learner. A friend invited me to go with her to see Kathleen Turner perform in her one-woman show in Greenville, South Carolina. Because I’m a control freak, I offered to drive us there. We made an early dinner reservation for 5:30 or 6:00 at a restaurant near the theater, and we hit the road, arriving at the restaurant at about 5pm. The bar was open, but the restaurant wasn’t open yet, so we bellied up to the bar. My friend ordered an Old-Fashioned, and I ordered a glass of Prosecco. Well, one glass turned into two…never a big deal, because we wouldn’t be getting into the car for hours. But then, the bartender offered us some homemade Limoncello.

Has anyone ever told you how dangerous Limoncello can be? Well, I drank what he poured me, and when I stood up to go to the ladies room, I knew immediately that I was a little drunk. Yes, at 53, I was accidentally drunk before dinner. Fortunately, when I returned from the ladies’ room, our table was ready, so we could go straight to our table and order dinner. After dinner, I was feeling better, and we walked in the cool, brisk air to the theater. The show was great, and we joined some friends of my friend for “drinks” afterward…I just had coffee, thank you very much. By the time we left, it had been six hours since we moved from the bar to our table, and I was sobered up. I had a terrible headache, but I was sober.

The day after that little jaunt to Greenville, I was talking with another friend who said she’d had a limoncello experience too, and she reminded me of a time Danny Devito appeared drunk on The View. Later, he blamed his slurred speech and unsteady gate on the limoncello he’d been drinking, saying, “I knew it was the last seven limoncellos that was going to get me.” Since then, whenever something goes awry in my world, I say, “Blame it on the limoncello.”

But last week, my cousin who dropped in assured me no bad behavior was on the horizon. She assured me we were going to have one very light afternoon cocktail. And I watched intently as she mixed a lovely, summery-tasting concoction using all the ingredients she brought with her. And it was delicious! It tasted like sunshine!

All this was my long way of saying a great big “thank you” to my cousin for dropping in with the perfect treat in hand. Even better, she brought her infectious sense of humor and optimism…just when I needed it most! This whole pandemic has cancelled some of my vacations, and she knew I had the blues. But she cured that! I hope she’ll drop in again soon…or maybe I’ll drop in on her!

Blame it on the limoncello!

 

Please Drop In

Please drop in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Revisit Walnut Grove

Revisit Walnut Grove. 

Last week, I was working on a project, and for background noise, I wanted something relaxing. I didn’t want to listen to the news. I didn’t want to hear stupid talk shows. I didn’t need to know anything else about the pandemic…no real life, thank you very much. I started flipping through the channels, and I came upon an episode of Little House on the Prairie. I stopped flipping channels, and I decided to record it. I found two more upcoming episodes and recorded those too, and then I changed to a relaxing music channel, saving the shows for later.

When I was a little girl, I loved Little House on the Prairie. I loved the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. My parents gave them to me for Christmas one year. And I loved the TV show. The TV show premiered in September 1974, when I was seven years old, and I was the perfect age to think it was the greatest show ever! Anyone who was a little girl at the time probably remembers the Holly Hobbie dolls that became popular in 1975…likely due, in my opinion, to the popularity of the Little House on the Prairie TV show. But Holly Hobbie is a discussion for another time. As for Little House, I loved watching the life of Laura Ingalls and her family in the “wilderness.” 

I looked forward to it every week…for a couple of years anyway.  The show was on for nine seasons, but I didn’t watch it for those nine years. Little girls become preteens and teenagers, and tastes change; as a preteen and teen, I thought I was way too cool for Little House on the Prairie and stopped watching.

And then I grew up.

I went to middle school, high school, and I don’t think I watched another episode during that time. I went off to college, and after my junior year, I had an internship at a small town newspaper. I would go home every evening and watch an episode of Little House on the Prairie. I was growing up, I guess…I no longer thought I was too cool for the show. And every night, at some point during the show, I would cry. What the heck? The show, with its life lessons, would always elicit an emotional response. 

So last night, my husband and I settled in to watch a little TV before going to sleep, and I said, “I’ve recorded a couple of shows I think we should watch!” Was he thrilled when I said it was Little House on the Prairie? No, but we watched anyway. And he enjoyed watching it as much as I did. Yes, I cried. We watched back to back episodes titled Sylvia, parts 1 and 2, and they are heart wrenching episodes about a teenage girl being raised by her daughter. Sylvia, the character for whom the episodes are named, is a teenage girl being raised by her father. There are lots of twists and turns to the story, but she becomes pregnant as the result of a sexual assault. Albert Ingalls, the adopted son of the Ingalls family, is in love with her, and they plan to marry, even though they are mere teenagers…oh, it just gets worse after that. Heartbreaking.

My husband watched it, and even liked the show, but when I cried at the end, he did what he always does when I cry over a television show…he made fun of me.

Afterward, I posted on Facebook that we had watched a couple of episodes of Little House on the Prairie, and I was shocked at the number of responses! Lots of my friends said how they loved the show. One mentioned that Michael Landon, the actor who played Charles Ingalls, was easy on the eyes…indeed! Another said it was her favorite show of all time. And yet another mentioned Alison Arngrim, the actress who played the incorrigible Nellie Oleson. 

My friend, Nikki, who lives in Alabama, somehow knew that Alison Arngrim is reading the books on Facebook Live, so I checked it out, and oh my! It’s worth tuning in! As it turns out, the girl who played the incorrigible Nellie Oleson, is actually a hilarious adult! To see one of her Facebook Live readings, click here. And while you’re at Arngrim’s Facebook page, look around! She also has a comedy show where she dishes about the secrets of the show! That one requires the purchase of an online “ticket,” but I’m thinking it might be worth it after watching her hilarious readings.

If you decide to revisit Walnut Grove by watching some old episodes of Little House on the Prairie, just be forewarned that you’re likely to cry, and you might just become addicted. I’m likely to be watching it for months!  And if you want some of the behind-the-scenes dirt, check out Alison Arngrim on Facebook!

 

 

 

 

Happy-Up the House

Happy-up the house.

Everybody’s sick of being home right now. It’s not just me. It’s not just you. It’s everybody.  I’ve said before that every day, I wake up wondering if this is all a bad dream. It’s not. It’s reality.

But here’s the thing: it doesn’t have to be terrible.

I spend a lot of time trying to think of ways to make things a little happier around here. We’re playing music throughout the house on a regular basis. We’re spending a lot of time out in the sun on the patio on warmer days. My daughter and I strung some LED lights around her bedroom doors and windows…she can change the colors with a remote…pink, blue, violet, red…all kinds of colors. We’ve been baking. I’m constantly looking online for different ideas to brighten up things around our house. What can I do to make it seem a little more festive around here?

Last week, it was Krispy Kreme doughnuts all the time. Looking for somewhere…anywhere…to go, I would leave after dark and drive to the nearest Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, and my daughter would gladly go with me. The last time we went, we got a dozen of their spring mini doughnuts. Yum. That added a little happiness for a while. I’ve ordered cupcakes, cookies…you name it.

And then, I was scrolling through Instagram and saw a picture of someone’s pool, and it had floating light balls in it! Immediately, I knew I had to have them! I went straight to Amazon and typed in “floating light balls.” Wow! There were lots of them to choose from, so I set about reading every review I could possibly read in a reasonable amount of time.

Within an hour or so, I had found the solar-powered color changing floating light balls I wanted, and I placed an order for four. You can order here. What makes a swimming pool more festive at night than color-changing light balls? In placing my order, I also discovered that not only can you use them in the pool, but you can also hang them! Each ball has a loop on top, so you can hang them from trees, eaves, posts…anywhere! I could hardly wait for them to arrive! I knew my husband would think I was absolutely nuts, but when have I ever let that stop me before?

A few days later, they were delivered to our home. The next morning, I woke up, and started opening the box. My husband asked me what it was, and when I said, “You’re going to think I’m crazy. It’s something for the pool.” When I told him the box contained floating light balls,  interestingly, he didn’t think I was crazy at all! He also didn’t help me blow them up. Each one is about 15 inches in diameter, and I blew them up while we watched the morning news. He did look at me several times and say, “You’re going to get a headache.” But I didn’t. Once I had them all inflated, I hurried outside to put them in the pool. Since they are solar powered, I wanted them out there all day to absorb as much sunlight as possible so we could enjoy them in the evening.

And guess what? We’ve sat outside on the patio having cocktails every night since, and those balls of light are glorious! And happy! It adds an element of happiness to our backyard! I’m so glad I ordered them, and secretly, I think my husband is too! Our daughter loves them, and she and I agreed I need to order more to hang from the front eaves of the poolhouse, so I ordered more to hang from the eave. They should arrive in a few days, and they will add a little more happiness. And when summer is over, and we aren’t using the patio as much, maybe I will use them as Christmas decor in the trees in the front yard!

I’m still thinking about other inexpensive ways to brighten things up around here while we’re stuck at home. If you have any ideas, please send them my way!

Host a Virtual Brunch

I want to host a virtual brunch.

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!

Stay safe. Stay well. And stay hopeful.

Portion-Controlled Desserts? Yes, Please!

Portion-controlled desserts? Yes, please!

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

Hungry Girl to the rescue!

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

On to the good stuff…

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

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

Here are some of my favorites!

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

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake Mug

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

Red Hot Apple Pie in a Cup

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

Chocolate Cake Mugs for Two

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Hungry Girl Breakfast Ideas

Y’all know I’ve loved Hungry Girl for a long time, and I really love the breakfast recipes, because it can be difficult to get creative with breakfast and keep it on the healthier side at the same time. Who wants the same old thing every day? So, if you’re ready to change things up a bit in 2020 while sticking to your resolutions for the new year, read on. I’m going to tell you about some of my favorite recipes and provide links, so you can make breakfast a little more exciting at your house too. They’re great for when you have houseguests too! They’ll think you’re the most creative host ever!

Blueberry Muffin Overnight Oats. In a hurry every morning and think you don’t have time to worry about changing things up? Well, you do. Hungry Girl offers lots of recipes for overnight oats, but my personal favorite is the recipe for Blueberry Muffin Overnight Oats. It’s easy to make, and it doesn’t leave you feeling flat an hour later like waffles and pancakes do. And these have way more nutritional value than a muffin. My daddy would have said overnight oats “stick to your ribs.” With just nine ingredients, many of which you always have in your cupboard, it’s easy to throw this together the night before and stick it in the refrigerator. On your way out the next morning, just grab it and go! I love blueberries, but I also love that these oats have a little almond/cinnamon flavor. You’ll love it, and your picky-eater kids might even like it too! My picky teen loves it. See the recipe here. And see the recipes for other overnight oats here.

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Blueberry Muffin Overnight Oats…photo courtesy of hungry-girl.com

 

Breakfast Pizza Mexicali. Wanna spice up your mornings? The Hungry Girl Breakfast Pizza Mexicali will do it! It’s easy, with a prep time of just five minutes, and the cook time is only ten minutes! I prefer this one on weekends, when I have time to sit down and enjoy it. It’s a big hit with guests who like spicier foods too. I’ve had some who even added a little hot sauce! With just four ingredients (plus one optional garnish), it’s super easy to make, and it just makes me happy! See the recipe here.

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Breakfast Mexicali Pizza…photo courtesy of hungry-girl.com

Cinnamon Maple French Toast in a Mug. Sounds unhealthy, I know, but stick with me. Because this recipe is totally portion-controlled, it’s easy to stick to a lower calorie count…and no joke, it’s as delicious as it is easy. It’s basically made by adding the listed ingredients to a mug before adding the pieces of bread…then stirring and heating before garnishing. Make it for the kids, and they will think it’s a treat. Make it for yourself, and well, you’ll think it’s a treat too! If you like French Toast, this is an easy way to have it without all the calories, as each serving has just 145 calories! See the recipe here.

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Cinnamon Maple French Toast in a Mug…photo courtesy of hungry-girl.com

Healthy Superfood Breakfasts. If you want to supercharge yourself with some healthy superfood breakfast choices, these two options are easy, delicious, and super healthy! I’m listing them together, because Hungry Girl lists them together. One is the Pumpkin Pie Overnight Flax Oat Surprise, and the other is the Apple Berry Yogurt Bowl. You might think those sound like obvious choices, but Hungry Girl adds extra flavor, so you will want to make these again and again. The Pumpkin Pie Overnight Flax Oat Surprise is easy to put together and chill overnight, so you can grab and go in the morning. In fact, it’s so good, I might have it again tomorrow morning. And the Apple Berry Yogurt Bowl, while simple, is crunchy, juicy, healthy, and delicious…all in one bowl. See the recipes here.

Try a few of these recipes and let me know what you think. And while you’re at it, take a moment to sign up for Hungry Girl emails  here. And after you put in your email address, where it asks how you heard about Hungry Girl, click “Hungry Girl Ambassador,” and then enter my name, Kelly Mattei. I’d love for them to know you’re learning more about them from me!

***For more great Hungry Girl breakfast recipes, click here.***

 

Discover Hungry Girl Now!

At 52, I still love learning new things, and I really love sharing when I find something I love….thus, my website, of course. In January, we always hear a lot about people wanting to get healthier. Yes, there are lots of different ways to do that…diet, exercise, sleep, etc.

I’m not a good “dieter.” As soon as I think of the word, “diet,” I just want to eat every potato in sight. That’s the truth. Any time I have ever gone on a diet, all I’ve thought about is food.

But here’s something that I love: Hungry Girl. If you aren’t familiar with Hungry Girl but you’d like to know about some good low-calorie swaps and get some new recipes, you need to familiarize yourself with the brand. I had the pleasure of meeting Lisa Lillien, the founder, and her staff a couple of years ago, and I immediately wanted to become a part of that fun group! I don’t think of it as a diet, because the recipes are flavorful and fun, and frankly, I am amazed at the ease of most of the recipes! Hungry Girl knows how to keep it exciting, and there are so many ways to get dialed into it.

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  • Hungry Girl on Facebook. This should be your first step to getting informed about Hungry Girl. When you go to the Hungry Girl Facebook page, click “sign up,” then where it asks how you heard about it, click “Hungry Girl Ambassador” and enter my name, Kelly Mattei! Go to the Facebook page here. I love Hungry Girl, and I want them to know how much I love them, so make sure you enter my name! Yes, I’m a Hungry Girl Ambassador, but anyone who knows me knows I can’t promote something I don’t believe in…I believe in it.
  • Hungry-girl.com. So, once you’ve signed up through facebook, you’ll start getting emails from the website. Y’all, the website is chock full of great recipes, great swaps, and great tips! Want something low carb? Just type it into the search bar and find some recipes! Want something made with chicken or turkey? Type it into the search bar! And through the website, you can access Lisa’s podcasts, recipe spotlights, and great product finds! You’ll also know when Lisa is going to have TV appearances…she’s so cute and bubbly; you don’t want to miss her! You will get all sorts of great information! Check it out!
  • Hungry Girl Magazine. This fabulous magazine started at the beginning of 2018. I could hardly wait to get my hands on the first issue…and I have enjoyed every issue since. It’s full of recipes, as well, and offers tips on how to snack smart, but it also features some success stories from Hungry Girl fans. You should be able to find copies of the magazine in your local big box retailers like Target and Walmart, but I usually pick up a copy in my local Barnes and Noble bookstore.
  • Hungry Girl books. Honestly, I have all of them and love all of them, but my personal favorite is Hungry Girl: Simply 6, because all the recipes have six ingredients or fewer. All the recipes I’ve tried from her books have been easy, and since I’m no chef, that’s saying a lot! Pick up a copy of one or all of her books at Amazon.com here.

And you know what else? You can follow Hungry Girl on Instagram too! It was from Instagram that I found out about the recipe I’ll be trying for dinner tonight: Mexican Spaghetti Squash Bowl! Yum! You can find it by clicking on the link in the Hungry Girl bio on Instagram!

It costs nothing to sign up with Hungry Girl (on Facebook here)…please remember to click that you heard about them from a Hungry Girl Ambassador and put my name. You will find recipes your whole family will love, and you never have to utter the word “diet.”

Let me know that you’ve signed up! And once you’ve tried a few of the recipes, let me know which ones are your favorites! I think you’ll find food doesn’t have to be boring to be good for you! I will feature a few of my favorites from time to time!

Happy New Year!

Take Ten Seconds

A friend just shared on Facebook a video of Mr. Rogers accepting a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Daytime Emmy Awards in 1997. In his acceptance speech, the beloved Mr. Rogers asks if everyone will take “just 10 seconds to think about the people who have helped you become who you are…the ones who cared about you and wanted what was best for you in life.” And he silently keeps time on his watch…just ten seconds to think of the people who helped you become who you are. You can see a clip here.

I loved Mr. Rogers. It’s no secret. My friends have known that for years. In Pittsburgh a few years ago, I forced everyone in my party to visit the Heinz History Center to see the Mr. Rogers exhibit…some of the pieces from his television show. I was happy. I looked at all of it and thought how much my little girl self would have loved to see it all in person back in the 1970s. Mr. Rogers was a part of my childhood. If you are close to my age, he was likely a part of your childhood too. You likely know the theme song for his show. You likely remember some of the characters from The Neighborhood of Make Believe. Sure, we sometimes made fun of Mr. Rogers and his cardigans and practical shoes, but we all learned something from him.

And as it turns out, Mr. Rogers, in his acceptance speech, was still affecting people. In fact, he’s still affecting us today. That very video made me stop and think about something I hadn’t thought about before…the people who helped me become who I am.

For me, there are many…my parents, my family, some of my teachers, my college friends, other friends…you know, the usual. I won’t name any names, but there are other people who helped me become who I am, and some of them did not do it intentionally. You know who really helped me become who I am? People with whom I had a disagreement of some sort. Seriously. Think about that. When you have a disagreement with someone, it changes who you are…hopefully for the better. And I truly believe that, when I’ve had disagreements with folks, I have been introspective afterward…thinking about where I might have been right and where I might have been wrong. There are also people with whom I had a chance encounter…maybe they helped me carry my groceries; maybe they blessed my day; maybe they stopped me from doing something stupid; or maybe they encouraged me to take a risk I wouldn’t normally have taken. The list is long.

But the list of people who have cared about me along the way? I have a small family, so that list is not particularly long. I have some great friends with whom I will be friends till I die. And I’ve had other friends who aren’t still around, but they cared about me at some point, and I cared about them…and deep down inside, I truly care about anyone who was my friend at one time. Truth. And even if they don’t care about me, they still shaped me in some way.

I’m a firm believer that everyone we encounter affects us and shapes us in some way…maybe it’s a positive and maybe it’s a negative.

So stop and think about the people who have made you who you are. Sure, some of them cared about you. Some of them just affected you in a chance encounter. Be restrospective and introspective. And then, get out and go see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, starring Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers. Just seeing the movie trailer makes me cry, so when I go see it, I’ll have lots of tissues. I plan to see it within the next few days.

My Favorite Holiday Gifts 2019, Part 5: Gifts for Men/Boys

Honestly, “gifts for men” is a tough category. We got married 19 years ago, and every year, I have trouble deciding what to get my husband. But when I find something that I know will truly surprise him in a happy way, I get all giddy on Christmas morning. It’s difficult, but usually, I find something he loves…and he is always in awe.

Solo Stove Bonfire Steel Firepit. This is not your average woodturning firepit. And don’t tell him, but my husband will find one of these under the tree this year. We’ve had propane burning fire tables, but we never liked them. He hates wood-burning fire pits, because he can’t stand the smoke, and he especially hates the way his clothes smell after standing around one. This one, though, solves that problem. He’s going to be surprised! I don’t know how it works, but the design is patent-pending, and I’ve heard it’s amazing. As much as we enjoy having cocktails on our patio, this will be a big hit. The smallest Bonfire Steel Firepit is 19.5″, which is priced at $295.96 on Amazon. Of course, prices go up for bigger versions. Get it here. 510eipIfE6L._AC_

Games. Sounds silly, I know, but stay with me. Lots of men love the thrill of competition…even if it’s just a backyard game. We have lots of friends who love a good game (or tournament) of corn hole. I’ve sung the praises of the corn hole game before, but it’s worth mentioning again. Get corn hole boards at Amazon here. Another favorite through the years is the Hook and Ring Toss Game. Found in pubs everywhere, who doesn’t love the challenge? I remember playing it at the World Famous FloraBama Lounge and Package Store in Orange Beach, Alabama, when I was in college. (If you’re not familiar with the FloraBama, you should be…it’s a dive bar on the beach…home of the Annual Mullet Toss. Good times! See info here.) As for the hook and ring toss game, you can find different versions. I found some good ones on Amazon here. Have a basketball goal at home? We do, and my husband still gets out there and shoots hoops with his friends. He might like a Dribble Up Smart Basketball to improve his game. It’s also a great gift for kids. Order here. Another fun game is a tabletop football game. All men remember playing football with paper footballs as kids, and I think boys still play it. Now, they don’t have to hold up their hands for goal posts anymore! See the game here. Or how about an indoor putting green for the man in your life who loves golf? There’s a great one here for $37.61.

 

 

Barbour Quilted Jacket. This one is a little more pricey, but your man will be fashion-forward. Teen boys love these jackets too. Starting at $200 at Nordstrom, these are good-looking, well-made, and they can wear them for years to come. The newly re-issued Icons editions, starting at $250, have been re-engineered, and they’re very popular.  See them here.

 

Tailgating stuff. Need to buy a gift for someone who loves tailgating? There are lots of great things he might not have yet, and he’d be thrilled to get any of these. First, there’s the much-heralded Yeti Cooler. There are lots of versions of Yeti Coolers, starting at about $200 and going all the way up to $800 for the gargantuan versions, but that might be a little big for a tailgate. See them all here. Or maybe he likes to mix some drinks while he tailgates. I saw this on Chrisley Knows Best, one of my favorite shows. Nanny Faye, my favorite family member on the show, had her own travel bar, and I thought, “What a great gift!” So if your man likes to mix drinks at tailgates, he might like a travel bar! There are various sizes, but my favorite is the Concession Express Portable Two Bottle, Leather Travel Bar that includes a jigger and a bottle opener. Priced at $82.66 on Amazon. See it here. If he likes to keep his liquor close to the vest, the Shinola Men’s Leather Wrapped Hip Flask could be perfect for him. Priced at $125 at Neiman Marcus, you can see it here.

 

 

Drones. Men love flying toys. It starts when they start throwing balls as kids. Drones are the ultimate flying toy for men who can’t fly planes. There are lots of them on the market, but I found some that are rated high by consumers. For an inexpensive drone made by a reputable company, there’s the Holy Stone Wi-Fi FPV Drone with 720P Wide-Angle HD Camera. Priced at $89.99. BestReviews.com says it is feature-rich, adding, “while it’s a good choice for novices, it also appeals to seasoned drone enthusiasts, thanks to the ample features and affordable price.” See it here. For top-notch quality, BestReviews.com recommends the DJI Phantom 4 Professional Quadcopter, priced at $999 at Amazon. It’s pricey, but apparently, it’s the best. If you have an experienced drone enthusiast on your list, this could be the primo gift. Get it at Amazon here.

 

 

Tommy Bahama Apparel. My husband loves this brand for its comfort, and I don’t blame him, as everything they make seems super soft. He loves their lounge pants, their tshirts, and their sweaters. He loves their French Terry Lounge Pants and wears them year-round at home. Heck, he has been known to wear them out of the house too! They look good. They’re comfortable, and they’re well-made. Priced at $56 here. TB81818_809_main

Camping stuff. If the man on your list enjoys camping, then he will love receiving camping supplies. I recently came across a Tiki Tunes Outdoor Bluetooth Speaker that creates ambient light while playing your favorite tunes. For $69.99, you get a set of two speakers, which you can find it at Amazon here. Or maybe he’d like a power station for camping? The Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 240 is highly-rated and picked as an “Amazon’s Choice.” Priced at $249.99 at Amazon right now, it’s a gift any camper would love to get. And it’s not just for camping. It’s great in an emergency when you lose electrical power at home too. See it here. A camping buff might also like the travel bar listed above under tailgating stuff.

 

Mancave stuff. Men who don’t like decorating suddenly become more interested in aesthetics when they have a mancave (or as we call it at my house, a game room). They might not have any idea what the rest of the house looks like, but a man wants to decorate his own mancave. Amazon has lots of cute neon signs for mancaves starting at $24.99. You can see them here. The Grommet has some fabulous stadium art your sports fan might love. My two favorites are pieces of wall art made by Stadium Views. One is a Wooden Five Layer Stadium Wall Art, priced at $59.99, and my very favorite is a 3D Stadium Wall Art priced at $249.99. Just pick your favorite team’s home stadium or field…and place the order. The detail is amazing. See them here. Or maybe they’re more into license plate signs. My husband has one, and he loves it. Get CMR Custom License Plate Designs at Amazon here. Favorite NFL team? Check out NFLshop.com for lots of home/office items. MLB team? Shop MLB.com. And for NBA, shop store.nba.com.

 

Duluth Trading Company. You’ve seen their kitschy cartoon ads on television. Those commercials are what initially caused me to check out the website…and I’m so glad I did! I’ve given my husband and my brother some of their jackets, and while I’m sure they weren’t excited when they opened the gifts, I’m proud to say they both actually wear them. That’s tells me I did a good job picking those jackets for those hard-to-please gents. I gave them both Shoremen’s Fleece Jackets, and they are super durable and warm. But I think next time, I’ll get them one of the Firehose Jackets for added warmth. See them at Duluth Trading here.

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Men’s Fire Hose Flannel Lined Lumber Jac $79

RSVLTS Shirts. I’ve written about RSVLTS Shirts cult shirts before. They have lots of printed button-downs that pay homage to various movies, personalities, and tv shows…Saved By the Bell, Ghostbusters, The Sandlot…and if your man loves any of the featured movies and likes to wear fun stuff, this could be for him. They also have tshirts. Prices start under $30…go check them out here.

 

 

Ugg Slippers. For those who love a good, old-fashioned, comfort gift, my husband loves Ugg Slippers. It sounds corny, but we get him a new pair every year for Christmas. And he wears them regularly. Starting at $90 on the Ugg.com website, take a look and pic which style you think will work best for your man. The Dex style is pretty universally liked, I think. See the website here. 1103901-CHE_1

Experiences. And last, but certainly not least, consider giving the men in your life gifts of experience. In Charlotte, where I live, we are fortunate to have the NASCAR Racing Experience. Starting at $99 for a ride along experience, folks claim it’s the best gift ever! See the website here. We also have the US National Whitewater Center, where lots of experiences are available: canopy tours, whitewater rafting, zip lining…see the website here. And don’t forget about IFly Charlotte…an indoor skydiving experience! See the website here. But if you don’t live in Charlotte, there must be experiences near you. Think about concerts, sporting events, and more. I know my husband would love concert tickets.

***To see last year’s selections for men, click here.***

Whatever you choose to do, I hope you have the best luck ever with your gifting this season!

***COMING SOON: STOCKING STUFFERS!***

 

 

 

 

 

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