My Favorite Holiday Gifts 2019, Part 2: Home Gifts

If there’s someone on your holiday gift list who loves receiving home gifts, you’re in the right place. Or if you’re planning to go to holiday parties in folks’ homes, you need to be prepared to take some hostess/host gifts. Either way, I’ve done lots of research, so you don’t have to. Need some ideas? Every year, I take great pride in finding gifts that are unique. Don’t get me wrong. Nobody loves a good candle more than I love a good candle, but I also love to give unique gifts.

So here we go…for your viewing pleasure…gifts for the home!

Neiman Marcus 2019 Holiday Platter. I’m a big fan of the Neiman Marcus annual holiday platter, and this is a repeat from last year’s list. In fact, it will be a repeat every year. I get one for myself every year, and I get some for friends too. At $40, it’s pretty inexpensive, and the platters are always beautiful and well-made. And don’t forget useful…I use them all the time! This year’s platter is red, my favorite color for the holidays! You can purchase online here. And when you order from Neiman Marcus for the holidays, I always recommend paying the extra for the beautiful gift wrap. It makes the gift a little more special.

Custom Family Portrait. Sounds expensive, right? Well, it doesn’t have to be. A friend gave me the cutest family portrait from Mrs. Best Co. shop on Etsy. Starting at  about $40, these cute, whimsical portraits are fun and memorable! Anyone would appreciate this thoughtful gift! If you know someone for whom you’d like to do this, start thinking about doing it now! You can purchase here.Look around on Etsy at different versions. There are more detailed family portraits that are more expensive, but this one is fun!il_fullxfull.1514771239_4aevTea/Dish towels. I love when someone gives me tea/dish towels. I love flour sack dish towels, and I love funny dish towels. And I especially love holiday themed dish towels, because it’s an easy way to “decorate” for the holidays. This year, I found some cute ones at Target. They’re inexpensive, and they’re festive. Some are Sugar Cookie-themed, while others are Hot Cocoa-themed or just general holiday themed. Purchase for $5.69 (for two!) here. Amazon has some great flour sack towels too. You can see those and purchase here.

Coffee Table Books. One of my best friends loves Coffee Table Books more than anything. She knows I’m talking about her. While I don’t love them as much as she does, I enjoy them too. There are some great ones out there. Chip and Joanna Gaines have the coffee table book, Homebody, in Target Stores now for 30 percent off! Get it here. I also came across a lovely coffee table book earlier this year by Shayla Copas; it’s called Four Seasons of Entertaining, and while I would never be able to put together the things she pulls together, the book is full of great ideas and it is absolutely gorgeous! I actually met the lovely author at a signing in our local Neiman Marcus, and she was perfectly charming. Purchase the book here.

Knit Throw. Last year, I was all about the faux fur throw, and I still love them. But this year, I’m all about the knitted throw…especially the ones that are extra chunky. I could make my own, but frankly, the yarn alone would cost me more than purchasing a throw in a store. I found one in Target last night that I absolutely loved, and it’s under $70. I also found one at Amazon for about the same price. Does anything seem more cozy than a chunky knit throw? And they look beautiful too! Get one at Amazon here.61J1XPV1RPL._SL1078_

Mario Luca Giusti Set of Double Old Fashioned Glasses. Acrylic, acrylic, acrylic. These double old fashioned glasses are fun…the colors are fun…and the fact that they are virtually unbreakable makes them even better! I have lots of friends who would love these. For just $72, you can get these for your friend or family member at Neiman Marcus. And don’t forget the pretty gift wrap! Purchase here

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Custom Home Portrait. I want this. I want this. I want this. I think people love having pictures of home. And this is another good, inexpensive gift option. I have found some places on Etsy that do home portraits for as little as $25! Yes! You read right: $25! It’s hard to find any gift for $25 these days. Of course, some home portraits are more “custom” than others, so prices can vary. The photo below is from Bailemor Studio on Etsy and priced at $29. Look at lots of different options on Etsy here.il_fullxfull.2024205616_cw36Letter board. This isn’t something I thought I would ever recommend, but I’ve seen how friends leave positive messages for their families…in their kitchens, mudroom, etc., so I think they’re fun! And I think kids and teens like them too. Wandering through Target last night, I came across a few, ranging in price from $12.99 to $29.99. Look closely to decide which one will suit your friend or family member best. What a fun, inexpensive gift! See Target’s offerings hereIMG_5131

Glass lantern. A friend gave me a glass lantern during the holidays last year, and though I had never thought about one before, I absolutely loved it! She had tied a beautiful holiday bow at the top, and I put a battery-operated candle in it…it made for a lovely holiday centerpiece in my dining room. Therefore, I’ve decided glass lanterns make great gifts. And the recipient can change the bow for different seasons. I have several favorites. See photos below.

Decorative Dragonfly (or Butterfly, Bee, or Ladybug). These are just little tchotchkes, but they’re fun, and I think they make lovely, thoughtful gifts for the right person. For example, I have a friend who loves dragonflies…they remind her of her daddy. Another friend loves ladybugs, because she feels like they are good luck. They would love these little brass tchotchkes, and at $35, these are a bargain gift. Get them at Neiman Marcus.

Louis Sherry Chocolates. I have loved Louis Sherry Chocolates since the first time I had them at the Sherry-Netherland Hotel in New York. They come in lovely tins, and the chocolates are unforgettable. I wrote a piece about them in September. You can see it here. These make great hostess gifts for the holidays, and this year, Louis Sherry is offering a limited edition Nutcracker tin. Get the 12-piece tin of chocolates for $35 at Neiman Marcus here.Or order directly from Louis Sherry, where they are priced at $40.nmhcnlx_mz.jpg
Mason Jar Indoor Flower Garden. I saw this on Uncommongoods.com and immediately ordered it for a friend who loves flowers as much as I do. Flowers are beautiful and brighten anyone’s day, but what’s even better? Edible flowers! Using just this kit and some water, the recipient can have a lovely windowsill garden! Priced at $20, it’s a lovely hostess gift or holiday gift for a friend or family member. Get it here.42998_1_640px

Anthropologie. This is a first. I normally don’t just list a store in my gift pieces, but Anthropologie has lots of little, unusual, home gifts. Some of my favorites are their Agate Cheese Boards and their bud vases. But I highly recommend you just go peruse the site…click here to see their home gifts.

The Buttercup. If you live in Charlotte or find yourself in the area, visit The Buttercup on Providence Road for more great home gifts. See the website here.

Corner Copia Gardens and Gifts. In Fairhope, Alabama, shop Corner Copia Gardens and Gifts for lots of great home/garden gifts. Located at 11983 E State Highway 104 in Fairhope.

And those are my selections/suggestions for HOME GIFTS for 2019. I hope you’ll find something that will help make your holiday gifting easier! If you’d like to see last year’s selections for more ideas, you can click here

    UP NEXT? GIFTS FOR TEENS/COLLEGE STUDENTS…COMING SOON!

 

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Gardening…again

Last year, I tried my hand at a very small garden and had lots of success, so this year, I’ve decided to do it again. Before, I had tomatoes, sweet corn, and sunflowers, so I’m going to see if lightning will strike twice. As I said last year, I’m no gardener. I have no idea what I’m doing. But dang it…it’s fun!

We are planting corn this year on the side of the house, and it will be visible (a little) from the street once it gets tall. I’m not sure how much grain growing is allowed in the neighborhood, but I guess we will find out! I will let everyone know if we receive some sort of written notice. My husband is lucky, because I really wanted to plant it out front. I think corn stalks are beautiful, but he put his foot down on that. I learned last year that I had planted my corn plants too far apart, so I had to pollinate them by hand. We still had corn to eat, but it was a chore making sure they were all pollinated. Therefore, this year, I’m planting them in clusters, so they can pollinate each other. Nature’s way is best, so planting them closer together is the way to go. I learned from the past. I was actually surprised the corn grew last year, and I was doubly surprised when it actually produced ears of corn!

The tomato plants are going into the ground near where they were last year, because our knockout roses are in the same area. I believe our tomatoes survived last year, simply because of the knockout roses. The roses attracted braconid wasps, which in turn, killed the tomato grubs that tried to invade the garden. I had no idea about that when we planted the tomatoes, but I noticed a tomato grub with little eggs all over his back and looked it up. They were the eggs of the wasp, and they killed the tomato grubs. Thank you, braconids! Therefore, we are going to put our tomatoes near some roses again.

If you’ve never had a garden of any type, you might find it therapeutic. Last summer, when I woke up every day, I would walk outside and water our garden. And sometimes, I would water them in the evening too. We had tomatoes galore! But it was also a way for me to relax. Sure, I can sit by the pool during the summer and relax. And I can spend time with friends and family, but there was something about the quiet solitude of tending the plants that was good for my psyche. My mother had died the December before, and I truly believe gardening helped me with that. My parents both loved tomatoes and sunflowers. I knew they would have been pleased with what I was doing. Nobody loved a tomato sandwich more than my daddy, and I was able to enjoy them all summer long last year. Store-bought tomatoes just don’t cut it, so I grew my own! We hope to have the same this year…good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise!

So today, instead of doing all the things I should be doing, I will be doing what I want to do. I will have my hands in the dirt. OK, mostly it will be a trowel in the dirt. But I will have it in the dirt, transferring my seedling plants from the little clear cups into the ground. I discovered last year that birds and moles ate most of the seeds I planted, so I had more luck when I transplanted seedlings for corn and sunflowers. Tomato plants will go into the ground near the roses, and we will see if lightning strikes twice.

I’ve had terrible laryngitis for the better part of the week, so having something quiet to do will be perfect for me today. I haven’t felt much like doing anything, but today, it is on!

 

 

 

 

My Favorite Valentine’s Day Gifts 2019

It’s a problem for some people every single year…what do I get my spouse/significant other for Valentine’s Day? It’s less than a week away, folks. While some people are full-on romantics, others like silly gifts, and some like gifts somewhere in between. And this year, for the first time in years, the traditional candy hearts from Necco won’t be available. Necco went out of business. Another company did purchase the rights to make the hearts, but they didn’t have enough time to make the hearts for this year. They should be back for Valentine’s Day 2020, though. I’ve come across some awesome other ideas in lots of price ranges…and varying degrees of seriousness.

Shari’s Berries. Y’all think you know everything there is to know about Shari’s Berries, but you don’t. You probably know they have delicious chocolate-covered strawberries. I know it, because my husband has sent them to me before. But did you know they have heart-shaped cheesecakes and mini cheesecake bites? Did you know they have flowers and Mrs. Field’s Cookies? Well, they do. If you haven’t checked out their website, you need to look here. But there’s more! When you get to the website, if you look just above the search box near the top of the page, you’ll see a place to click BLOG. Click there for access to lots of great Valentine’s ideas, including some printables that include 102 Reasons Why I Love You. (Or you can click here.Who wouldn’t love a sweet treat from Shari’s Berries plus a booklet of 102 Reasons Why I Love You. My husband will definitely receive some chocolate covered strawberries this year (it counts as a serving of fruit, right?), and I’ll print the printables, but instead of putting them in booklet form, I’ll hide them all over the house and in his car for him to find at different times. Maybe one in a house slipper. Maybe one in a jacket pocket. Maybe one under his toothpaste. Maybe one in the car console. You get the picture.

Shutterfly Personalized Gifts. I love personalized gifts, and frankly, I love Shutterfly. I discovered Shutterfly when our daughter was an infant, and back then, it was the easiest way for me to share photos with faraway family. It also became my go-to for personalized gifts. They offer a myriad of gifts you can personalize with photos…blankets, photo books, notecards, coffee mugs, and more. My personal favorite it the photo book. You can do it the easy way with “auto-fill” or put in a little more work and organize the photos yourself. Maybe gather photos from your first date to now? Or a few photos from every year of your marriage? If my husband gave me one of these, I’d be thrilled. Shop Shutterfly here. There’s still time if you pick express shipping.

Comfy. Some of y’all are going to think I’m crazy. You might have seen ads for this, or maybe you saw it on Shark Tank. The Comfy is awesome. It’s a giant, oversized sweatshirt/blanket with a soft, fleecy inside! I got one for my daughter and one for me, and we love them. Best of all…one size fits most! It comes in a variety of colors, and I think it’s perfect for cold nights at home, cold sporting events (I’ll take it to cold lacrosse games), long flights or car rides, and more! It might look silly, but it sure is comfy! I got us both navy blue, but I have a friend who has a pink one and another friend who has a red one. The red one looks a little like characters from A Handmaid’s Tale, but it’s still cute and comfy too! Get it at Amazon here. Great for males or females!

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Comfy…photo by Amazon

Chick-Fil-A Chicken Minis. I know. It sounds crazy, but this year, Chick-Fil-A will be offering chicken minis and chicken nuggets in a heart-shaped reheatable tray. From what I can tell, there is a possibility it won’t be available at all locations, but I will definitely be checking around to see which ones are offering it! I would be thrilled to get chicken nuggets or chicken minis from Chick-Fil-A for Valentine’s Day…no joke…even if they’re not in a heart-shaped tray! I can say, without a doubt, my teenage daughter would love it.

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Experiences. Y’all know I love experience gifts. Gift the gift that will be remembered. I’ve said it before: we rarely remember gifts of stuff, but we remember experiences. There are lots of experience gifts: spa days, amusement park passes, indoor skydiving (I’m obsessed), race car driving, movie passes, concert tickets…the list goes on and on. You could even give an experience you can do together! Fleetwood Mac is coming to Charlotte later in February…that could be a great gift. Significant other likes basketball but doesn’t have season tickets to the Charlotte Hornets? Game tickets make for a fun night out. Another great one is a gift card to Blo Blow Dry Bar on Selwyn Avenue in Charlotte (see their website here)…women love to get their hair done! Check your local events calendar for concerts or special events in your area.

Other ideas:

  • Claus Porto Soaps
  • Cornet Barcelona Wine Glasses with a favorite bottle of wine.
  • Framed Favorite Photo
  • Homemade Baked Goods
  • Favorite Candies
  • Jewelry

You have almost a week! It’s time to get that Valentine’s Day gift for the one(s) you love! Personally, I’d be happy with anything on this list!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

 

 

 

We Survived Homecoming

After all the dress shopping, shoe shopping, and planning, Homecoming 2018 is officially over at our daughter’s school.

My mom friends have been posting photos on social media since the big night, and I love that every girl has her own style. I also love that the students go in groups.

At our school, the Friday of the Homecoming football game, there is a pep rally at the end of the school day, followed by the game that night. The Homecoming Dance is Saturday night. I can’t speak for everyone else, but before the dance, our daughter’s group went to dinner…26 kids total…at the home of one of the boys. It was fabulous! I know, because all the parents went over to take photos, and the hostess even had a lovely spread for us!

Now, here’s the skinny for parents of young daughters who will be going to a Homecoming Dance one day in the near future: that dress you had altered? You know, the one that had to be hemmed and taken in at the waist? You know, the dress that cost less than the alterations? She might not wear it. She might decide two hours before the dance that she wants to wear a different dress that you didn’t take for alterations, so she will need to be pinned into it. If you are lucky, like I was, she will get dressed at the home of one of her friends, and the friend’s mother will graciously do the pinning. I wasn’t there for it, but I’m hoping my daughter didn’t make it difficult, like she would have done for me! Here’s the great thing, though…she also wore some shoes she already had, so I get to return the new shoes she didn’t wear…money back in my pocket!

Girls wore all kinds of different dresses, each expressing her own personality…all colors, all silhouettes, and all lengths. It would be interesting to add up the total number of hours it takes to outfit a girl for the dance. We probably spent four hours shopping online. She then had to try on dresses…another three hours. Online shoe shopping plus in-store shoe shopping…three hours. Getting hair and makeup done and getting pinned into dress…2.5 hours. Add another hour for the time I spent getting two dresses altered that she didn’t wear. Grand total? It comes to 13.5 hours of my time, but probably more of hers, because I feel sure she tried on dresses in her room repeatedly…I’ll say 15 total hours. That’s a lot.chuttersnap-514371-unsplash

Parents of boys have it a lot easier with attire…khaki pants, collared shirt, tie (bowtie or regular), blazer, and shoes. It’s like the man uniform. I noticed while we were taking photos, though, that the mothers were all writing their sons’ names on pieces of paper and having them put them in their blazer pockets. Since the blazers all look alike, that’s a good way to make sure the they go home with the right person. So if your son hasn’t gone to the dance yet this year, go ahead and put his name in his coat pocket.

But for Homecoming, the boys who take dates have to make the plans. They figure out dinner arrangements, and they assemble the group. That’s not easy, but the boys, with the help of some hardworking mothers, pull it off.

Here’s another great thing: some kids go with dates, and some don’t…and it doesn’t matter. Most of them do, however, find a group, large or small, to go to the dance with. There is no right or wrong way to go to the dance…just go! And have fun!

After the dance, some moms very graciously took our group to iHop. It takes a lot of people to pull off all this fun for kids, and our kids are very fortunate to have parents who are willing and able to do it.

My daughter had a lovely time with her date, who is a great friend and perfect gentleman (I’ve always thought he’s a wonderful person). Together, they had fun with each other and their classmates.

Now we can start planning for the Sadie Hawkins Dance in February, when the girls invite boys! Ugh…what will she wear?!?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Daddy’s 80th Birthday

My daddy died a couple of weeks after his 68th birthday, in 2006. Pancreatic cancer. Today is his 80th birthday. It makes me sad to think he has been gone so long and to think about what he has missed, but it makes me happy to think how happy he would be that my brother and I have remained close. He would be happy to know my brother and I have great relationships with our extended family, and he would love that I have come to know our cousin, Ardrue, over the last couple of years.

Daddy worked hard to make sure we had the things we needed and most of what we wanted…within reason. He was practical, but some indulgences were allowed. According to Aunt Katie (Daddy’s younger sister), Daddy was a quiet young man…and serious, making it interesting to me that he made a living in sales and was good at it. He had to step outside his comfort zone (quiet) and talk…convincing companies to purchase his product. I don’t remember him as quiet. At home, he was jovial. He loved telling stories about his childhood. He loved goofy jokes, and he loved wordplay. He mellowed with age, so I can only imagine what fun he’d have been if he had made it to 80.

My nephews were crazy about daddy, whom they called Big Ken (he was tall). My daughter was almost three when he died, so she doesn’t remember him, but she loved him. I think being a granddaddy was his greatest joy. After he retired, he had time to spend with them, and he laughed and smiled when they were around. When they were infants/toddlers, he spent a lot of time holding them in his lap, reading to them or talking to them. As my nephews got older, he played baseball with them, had Easter egg hunts, and let them pretend to be waiters at Cock of the Walk (a fried catfish restaurant) while he sat out on the back porch, repeatedly placing his pretend orders for hushpuppies and fried catfish.

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My 2-yr-old daughter enjoyed Easter egg hunts with Big Ken too…all year. Other times, he would take spoons outside for her to dig in the dirt. He had built a bridge across the Civil War mound in their front yard, so my daughter spent a lot of time running back and forth across the bridge. Daddy was amazed that she never stopped running.

Today, he’d be proud of his grandsons…one working hard in college and the other making his way as a writer. He would enjoy watching my daughter play sports.

When we were growing up, he enjoyed watching sports on TV…there was always a baseball or basketball game on. If sports weren’t on, he was likely watching Sanford and Son, Cheers, All in the Family, or The Jeffersons. He loved to laugh, and those shows made him laugh, without fail. As for dramas, he loved Lonesome Dove, and one of his favorite movies was Cool Hand Luke.

He peppered his language with things we called “Bascom-isms,” named after a place he lived as a little boy, Bascom, Florida. I wish I had written them down over the years, because they’re difficult to remember. I was reminded of them recently, when I posted on Facebook a picture of the sun shining while it was raining, and captioned it, “The devil’s beating his wife.” It was something Daddy said, and lots of people from the south say it. We learned it as, “The devil’s beating his wife with a frying pan,” while others apparently said, “The devil’s beating his wife behind the door.”

Here are some things Daddy used to say:

Ned in the first reader. Daddy said this all the time. I called Aunt Katie to confirm the meaning. In our family, Ned in the first reader means someone who is poor at what he/she is doing. It means Ned never advanced beyond the first reading level, meaning he wasn’t good at reading or he wasn’t very smart. For example, let’s say Suzy and Jane are doing the same job, and Suzy gets three times as much done as Jane in the same amount of time. Daddy would say, “Suzy makes Jane look like Ned in the first reader.” Or if someone is trying to learn to sew but can’t even thread the needle, we might say, “Bless her heart. She’s like Ned in the first reader.”

“Don’t care” has neither home nor master. This is something Daddy would say if we answered, “I don’t care.” I think it means that if you “don’t care” about something, then you stand for nothing. You should always care. Daddy’s mother used to say it to him when he was growing up. She was right. We should never say we “don’t care.” Maya Angelou once said, “Can’t Do is like Don’t Care. Neither of them have a home.” The meaning is the same…you should never say you can’t do something, and you shouldn’t say you don’t care about something.

You can make three days (or any time reference) standing on your head. This was Daddy’s way of saying “you got this.” If we had three more days of exams, it’s something he would say to remind us something was do-able.

I hope my brother will call me and remind me of some of Daddy’s sayings, because I feel like we keep his memory alive, in part, by keeping these sayings alive.

If Daddy were here to celebrate his 80th birthday today, I would call him and sing the birthday song from The Little Rascals. The episode is called Feed ‘Em and Weep, and it’s about Darla’s friends bringing gifts to her dad on his birthday…when all he wanted was a quiet evening with family. Daddy thought Alfalfa and Spanky were hilarious, and he looked forward to my singing every year…and we would laugh. To see the clip of the song, click here.

Today we celebrate his birth 80 years ago. He loved sunflowers, just like Mother did, so we will use some from our yard as our centerpiece for the day, and I’ll have a tomato sandwich. Maybe I’ll make the Sour Cream Pound Cake his mother used to make. Our cousin, Ardrue, gave me the recipe last year, and it is delicious.

Today Is Mother’s Birthday

My mother was a little firecracker of a woman. She really was little. She claimed to be five feet tall, and maybe she was…with the right shoes. In her final years, she was probably more along the lines of 4’10”. But she had a big heart and a big sense of humor.

Lots of my friends have lost parents. They know what it’s like. It’s life-changing. I have a friend who recently lost her mother, and then her daddy passed away a month later. Heartbreaking.

My daddy died in 2006…pancreatic cancer. My mother passed away in December. Her 79th birthday is today, September 3, but she didn’t make it this far.

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Mother on her 75th birthday, in 2014, with my daughter and my nephew.

Here’s the deal: Mother would not want us to sit around crying about her. She would be thrilled to think we have laughed and told funny stories about her since she passed. She had a great sense of humor that got better with age, and nobody could make her laugh like my brother could. She died on the morning of December 30, and that evening, I met my brother and some of his friends for dinner/drinks. She would love to know the restaurant’s owner, a family friend, had a cup of Bailey’s and coffee at a seat for her.

Interesting that my mother’s birthday coincides with Labor Day, the first weekend of college football season. She loved college football. Actually, she loved watching most sports…baseball, basketball, track, etc. College football was her favorite, though.

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Mother and I used to watch football games “together.” She lived about 400 miles from me, but we would call each other and talk during football games. Everybody knows I don’t actually watch Alabama games till after the fact (I record them), because I think I’m bad luck, but sometimes, Mother would call me after an exciting play and tell me to turn on the TV and watch the replay. Often, she “watched” Bama games with her friend, Nell, via telephone, as well.

This will be my first football season without her. Unfortunately, she missed Alabama winning the National Championship in overtime last year. She would have loved the game-winning touchdown pass. (See that here.) She likely would have watched it a hundred times since, if she’d been here to see it. In fact, she probably wouldn’t read the rest of this blog post, because she would still be watching the video…repeatedly. She would have loved that Alabama won on Elvis’s birthday too, since she was a big Elvis fan.

She’d have had a big smile on her face throughout that Alabama/Louisville game Saturday night.

When mother was in the hospital in her final days, she requested I put bowl games on the television in her room. I remember her waking up at some point and saying, “Isn’t there a football game on?” No matter how bad the bowl game was, she wanted that on instead of anything else. She wasn’t actively watching the games, but she liked them as her background noise. That’s how much she loved football.

She also enjoyed reading the Bible. She wasn’t much of a churchgoer, but she read the Bible daily. After she passed, I found little notes with Bible verses in her room, in the kitchen, in the living room, and on the back porch. A sweet lady named Lois stayed with Mother during the day. Lois knows the Bible, so she and Mother would read the Bible and discuss it. Many times, we thanked God for Lois, and I know Mother did. They enjoyed each other’s company. We all love Lois.

Never one to make a big deal about her own birthday, she would say, “Every day should be celebrated.” And she was right. She was usually right about most things. Lots of people went to Mother for advice or simply to talk. I’ve had countless people tell me what a good listener she was. I’m proud of that. She was always a good listener for me and gave great advice. She was a wise woman. I wrote a blog at Mother’s Day about things she had taught me. You can see it here. I sure miss her…every single day.

Mother loved her family, football, sunflowers, homegrown tomatoes, pound cake (made by our friend, Jane), friends, and she just loved to sit and chat. That’s what I miss most…just sitting and chatting with her. In fact, just yesterday, I wanted to call her to tell her about some folks getting married.

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A big sunflower I cut in my backyard this weekend. It’s our centerpiece for Mother’s birthday.

We ordered a new flower arrangement for her grave over the weekend. Today, in honor of her birthday, I’ll make a tomato sandwich with a tomato from my garden for lunch. She and Daddy used to grow tomatoes every summer…sometimes successfully. She would never believe I grew tomato plants this summer that produced lots of healthy, delicious tomatoes. I’ll cut some of the sunflowers (her favorite and Daddy’s favorite too) from the garden for the table’s centerpiece, and we’ll have some birthday cake with Bailey’s and coffee. And we’ll watch the Florida State/Virginia Tech football game. Florida State was her second favorite team. If she were here, we would talk and laugh.

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Stargazing

If you know about my affinity for Los Angeles/Beverly Hills, you probably think I’m going to write about famous people. Nope. I’m actually talking about stargazing of the astronomical kind, not the Hollywood kind.

Last year, my friend, Mary Ann, and I went to Damascus, Virginia, with five kids: her three, my daughter, and a friend of my daughter. Damascus, Virginia, is the home of the Virginia Creeper Trail, a 34-mile bicycle trail that starts at the top of Whitetop Mountain. For info about the trail, click here. We went to ride half the trail…the first 17 miles from the top of the mountain to the town of Damascus.

Before we went, I called ahead to the bike shop and let them know we would be coming. The bike shop I like to use, Creeper Trail Bike Rental (see website here), has a large assortment of rental bicycles for adults and children. I spoke with Craig, one of the owners of the shop with whom I had dealt before. Next, I set up a rental for the night before our ride. We opted to rent a local four-bedroom apartment for the night, so we would have plenty of room for the seven of us.

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We left Charlotte in the afternoon and arrived in Damascus a couple of hours later. It was late afternoon, and we went straight to our rental apartment. After everyone picked a room, we decided to go out to dinner. Damascus is a small town, and a lot of places close early, but fortunately, we ran into some locals who told us about a locally-owned pizza place, which turned out to be fun and delicious. It was located near a grocery store, so right after dinner, we went to the grocery store to get milk and cereal for breakfast and a few other snacks to take out on the trail with us the next day.

Once we were back at the apartment, some of the kids went inside, and a few of us stayed outside. We had noticed how clear the skies were, and thanks to Mary Ann’s oldest son, I had a new app on my phone that would help me see constellations, satellites, and stars. Mary Ann and I sat out on the picnic table in the backyard chatting for a while before lying back to see the stars. Where I live in Charlotte, there is so much city light that it’s difficult to see any stars. Add in the fact that my husband lights up the exterior of our house like an airport, and there’s not much chance of seeing anything in the sky. Using the app Mary Ann’s son had told me about, Sky Guide, I knew which satellites would be coming over the horizon, and I found constellations I wouldn’t have been able to find otherwise. I don’t know if there was a meteor shower that night, but we saw lots of meteorites, or as I like to call them, shooting stars. The term, shooting stars, just sounds more exciting. Two of the kids came out to join us as we were stargazing, and we all were amazed at the sky above us. I had never realized just how much fun it is to stare at the sky. I could have stayed there all night.

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We were relaxed and enjoying the sky show when suddenly, we heard a loud BANG! I don’t know what we thought it was, but it scared us. Well, it scared three of us, anyway. Three of us were off that picnic table in a split second and fighting our way up the porch steps and through the back door of the apartment. Mary Ann never made it inside. She was too busy laughing at us from the picnic table. As it turns out, the sound was a truck backfiring on the road in front of the apartment, so nothing to fear, but it took a few minutes for my pulse rate to come back down. I still wonder why Mary Ann didn’t run…was it a set up? Couldn’t have been, though, because no videos of the three of us running scared have surfaced…yet. Actually, I wish we did have a video, because it had to be hilarious. We did go back to stargazing afterward, but we couldn’t stop giggling about the backfire.

The next morning, we all got up, packed up our belongings, and went to the bike shop at about 9am. Craig loaded our rented bikes onto a trailer and drove us up the mountain in his van. On the way up, we told him about our stargazing the night before, and he suggested that net time we are in the area, we should go up to the top of Whitetop Mountain and do some stargazing from there. He said it’s beautiful on a clear night. I’m hoping I can get Mary Ann to go with me again in a few weeks, but frankly, I’m a little afraid of going to Whitetop…what about bears? Or Bigfoot? Maybe we will go in my car and watch the skies through the sunroof…at least then, we could make a fast getaway if necessary. I’m not usually a wimp, but I’m a wimp about bears and Bigfoot…and mountain lions…and snakes…and spiders.

So, Mary Ann, get your shorts and sneakers, and let’s hit the trail…The Virginia Creeper Trail! Looking forward to some pizza and stargazing!

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