My Favorite Holiday Gifts 2018: Part 8, Southern Gifts

For our friends who live in other parts of the country, or even other parts of the world, it’s fun to send regional gifts. For me, that means sending something that represents the flavor and culture of THE SOUTH. I’ve written about some of these before, but they’re worth mentioning again. You might even want to “gift” some to yourself!  Here are my selections:

Hi Y’all. Holy moly…this is one of my new favorite sites. Based in Starkville, Mississippi, this fun company started in 2012, according to their website. A friend whose daughter is a student at nearby Mississippi State University told me about this company, and I can’t stop perusing the website. They produce handprinted pillows, apparel, prints, and custom paintings…and I love them all! Of course, they have a southern theme, and anything they have would make a great gift for a fellow southerner or someone who has never visited the south. See the website here.

 

Pepperoni Rolls. Country Club Bakery, Fairmont, West Virginia. I’ve just placed an order. I saw a story about these on CBS Sunday Morning (you can see it here), and I can hardly wait to receive them. This was one I hesitated to share, because I want them to be my secret. Alas, I couldn’t resist telling y’all about them too. Y’all are going to wish you lived in West Virginia. Pepperoni rolls were introduced in WV when Italian immigrants went there to work in the mines, and pepperoni rolls were the perfect hand-held snack that wouldn’t spoil in their lunches. You can order yours here.

Olde Colony Bakery Benne Wafers. Based the Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, Olde Colony offers Benne Wafers, which are basically Sesame seed cookies. They’ve been a part of the culture of Charleston for hundreds of years, and Olde Colony has been making them since 1940. Representing a taste of the history of the Charleston area, send these to some friends in other parts of the country, or get some for yourself. Shop here.

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GooGoo Cluster. I don’t know if GooGoo Clusters are sold everywhere, but even if they are, they are fun to send! Made in Nashville, Tennessee, these treats containing marshmallow nougat, caramel, peanuts, and covered in chocolate have been around since 1912, and they’ve survived for a good reason: they’re yummy! Standard Candy, the makers of the clusters, was an early sponsor of the Grand Ole Opry, selling the candy at shows there in the 1920s. They are definitely a taste of the south! Send a box to someone in another part of the country as a Christmas treat! See their website here.

Aunt Sally’s Pralines. Straight out of New Orleans, these sweet treats are definitely a taste of the deep, Deep South. They are described on the website as “creamy and sugary, with hints of vanilla and delicate, melt in your mouth texture.” Pralines are definitely sweet and creamy with just the right number of pecans. They know what they’re doing at Aunt Sally’s. There are lots of great pralines throughout the south, but I went with one from New Orleans, since that’s where they originated in the US. With prices starting at $14.95 for a box of the treats, this is a great gift to send. See the website here.

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King Cakes. Since we’re talking about New Orleans, I should mention King Cakes. Traditionally a Mardi Gras treat, Haydel’s Bakery makes a Christmas version and a candy cane version. If you’ve never experienced a King Cake, the holidays might be the perfect time. And anyone anywhere would love to receive one, because they are fun and delicious. They’re not cheap, though. Priced at $53, they include some beads and a pack of French Market Coffee. You can get their Cajun Kringle starting at $43.95, or as a package with French Market Coffee and a Christmas towel for $55. See Haydel’s here. .

 

Videri Chocolate. This company in Raleigh, North Carolina, makes an assortment of delicious chocolate products…hot chocolate, bonbons, chocolate bars, and even teabags. And they’re not only delicious, they’re beautiful too! And the packaging! I’m sending some friends some of their Jingle Bell Caramels ($21) this Christmas. I’ll be sending myself some too! You know…one for you, one for me. Prices start at $6 for bars. See Videri Chocolate Factory here.

South Georgia Pecan Company. I was introduced to this company, located in Valdosta, Georgia, by a friend who used to live there. She gave me a bag of their Chocolate Amaretto Pecans, and it was love at first bite. She also told me a secret to making them even better…store them in the freezer! Since then, I’ve ordered them for friends and myself too! Check out their website here. 

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The Alabama Sweet Tea Company. A friend recently told me about this company that’s based in Montgomery, Alabama. She loves their full-flavored tea, which you can purchase by the box, and she loves their other products too! Fun fact: their tea is served at Magnolia Table in Waco, Texas…maybe you’ve heard of it on HGTV? You can purchase their tea on their website, but their gear is fun too! Their t-shirts, tumblers, and hats are pure southern. I think my friends at Front Porch Football (see them here) will like these shirts! See the website here. 

Loveless Cafe, Nashville. Opened in 1951, this “down home” establishment is known around the world for its southern-style biscuits and pies. Back in the day, there was an adjacent 14-room motel, but it closed in 1985, and the rooms were converted into shops and office space. The cafe is going strong in 2018, and you can order jams, bacon, hams, a cookbook, mixes, and all sorts of Loveless paraphernalia. It definitely represents the south. I may send the cookbook to a friend who writes her own cookbooks of healthy recipes…she might enjoy trying to decrease the calories and fat in some of the down home recipes. Shop Loveless Cafe here.

Holy Spirit Monastery Gifts. Located in Conyers, GA, the Holy Spirit Monastery has a gift shop that helps support the monks. They sell honey, biscotti, and more, but the most southern gift they make is their fudge. The monks make the fudge by hand on premises, and a friend tells me it’s delicious. Plus, they have one flavor called Southern Touch that contains peach morsels, pecans, and a touch of brandy. Wow! Boxes containing 12 ounces of fudge are $12.95. Shop it here.

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30a Gear. Nothing says “Florida panhandle” like 30a Gear. If you’re thinking “Florida doesn’t have the flavor of the south,” you’ve never visited the very southern panhandle. 30a is a beach lifestyle brand that was created by a man from Birmingham, Alabama, when he moved to Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. With the panhandle being in disrepair after Hurricane Michael, I needed to include a business from there. You’ve likely seen 30a gear, and some of you likely had no idea what it meant. Well, Hwy 30A is a beach road through the panhandle of Florida. I could get more specific, but that’s the gist. It’s a beautiful stretch of beach, and it’s very popular. Shop here.

 

Edgar’s Bakery Cheese Straws. It’s no secret to my friends and family that I love anything Edgar’s Bakery makes. Based in Birmingham, Alabama, but with several locations, this bakery makes my very favorite strawberry cake. Alas, it cannot be shipped. But they can ship their gift tins. With prices starting at $16.50, you can ship a tin of their housemade cheese straws (also my favorite) or wedding cookies. The cheese straws will make you want a tall glass of sweet tea! Shop here.

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Sweet Potato Sweets. Straight from the Sweet Potato Capital of the World, Vardaman, Mississippi, Sweet Potato Sweets offers lots of goodies made from…you guessed it, sweet potatoes. Bread and pies and cakes, oh my! Personally, I never met a sweet potato I didn’t like, especially when a little sugar is added. Representing the true south, anything you send from Sweet Potato Sweets will be welcomed with open arms. I’ll be ordering some of their breads. Shop here.

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There you have it! Wanna share a little bit of the south with someone who doesn’t live here? Send them any one of these items, and they will feel the southern love! Or order some for yourself. I’m placing some orders right now.

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My Favorite Holiday Gifts, Part 1: Books

Christmas is two months away. I know! I know…it’s early to be thinking about it, but there was a time in life I had all my shopping done by the end of October. Those days are behind me, I’m afraid. I haven’t purchased the first gift this year. I have, however, been looking at possible gifts for a few months, and I’ve talked with friends and family about gift ideas. Because I’ve found so many awesome things, I’ve broken them into categories that I will feature over the next week or two: Books, Apparel, Accessories, Home, Travel, Men, and Stocking Stuffers…and maybe Kids & Teens. Today is BOOKS. These are nonfiction, with the exception of one, a collection of fiction short stories. I find it’s more difficult to gift fiction than nonfiction, but I have listed some popular authors’ recent fiction releases at the bottom, in case you have a friend or family member who is a fan of a particular author. I’ve read a few of these selections, but some were recommended by friends. Without further ado, here are some books, in no particular order, I think would make great gifts:

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Whiskey in a Teacup by Reese Witherspoon. If you were lucky enough to see her when she visited Charlotte last month promoting her book, you know Ms. Witherspoon is truly southern and truly adorable. This lovely book contains some of her southern grandmother’s recipes, and some great stories behind them. She includes party hosting tips, book club info, “do gooding” info, and more. Plus, the cover looks really pretty on a coffee table! Great for friends or sisters! Purchase through Amazon.com here.

 

order-book-tourHungry Girl Clean and Hungry Obsessed by Lisa Lillien. It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of the Hungry Girl brand. Lisa Lillien is the busiest woman I know, and she is always providing great info…by book, magazine, podcast, magazine, TV appearances, and website! And she’s really sweet too! If you need gifts for folks who want ways to cut the calories and fat in their lives, this is it. Purchase at Amazon.com here.

 

 bushtwavail.jpgGeorge and Barbara Bush: A Great American Love Story by Ellie LaBlond Sosa with Kelly Anne Chase. Through letters, photographs, and stories, Sosa tells the story of the enduring relationship of her grandparents, George and Barbara Bush. You can purchase on Amazon here, or *I received word that The Buttercup Gifts and Stationery in Charlotte will be hosting the author on Saturday, November 3, from 10:30am to 2:00pm for a book signing. Call The Buttercup for more information at 704-332-5329.*

 

510oZZ5X3DL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_-2Sean of the South, Volume 1 by Sean Dietrich. Deitrich is a humorist, storyteller, and writer with roots in south Alabama and a connection to a small town where I once lived, Brewton. He is plain-spoken, funny, and if you grew up in the south, you will relate to his experiences. If you grew up elsewhere, you’ll enjoy his stories too. Raised mostly by a hard-working single mother, he shares stories of his life and people he meets along the way. My mother loved reading Sean Dietrich, and we often talked about his Facebook posts. He has several books. This one is the first collection of short stories, so it is not newly published, but it’s a good place to start reading his work. See all his books at Amazon.com here.

 

 

caddyshack-book-cover-1-1525443738Caddyshack: The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story by Chris Nashawaty. For those who were old enough to enjoy this movie in the theater or those who were too young and had to sneak to watch it on HBO, this book is a fun look behind the behind the scenes of the one of the most surprisingly beloved comedies of all time. Starring Rodney Dangerfield and Bill Murray, those of us who remember the film know it was comedic genius. And the candy bar will never be forgotten. I was in Target recently, and two young people ahead of me in line were discussing 1980s movies they wanted to see. I recommended a few, and Caddyshack was at the top of the list. Purchase from Amazon here.

 

sons-of-cain-1534874929Sons of Cain: A History of Serial Killers From The Stone Age To The Present by Peter Vronsky. This one was recommended by a friend who knows my fascination with serial killers. Having an interest in serial killers does not make me a serial killer.  According to my unnamed friend, the book is entertaining while examining the psychology behind serial killers and examining certain cases. She said the author includes too many statistics, but aside from that, she thoroughly enjoyed the book. It was released in August of this year. This one is on my short list for me, and I think my friend, Mary Ann, would like it too. Purchase from Amazon here.

 

 

NMHBQJZ_mzBruce W. Talamon Soul R&B Funk Photographs: 1972-1982. A collection of photographs by Bruce W. Talamon, this book features “legends such as Marvin Gaye, Earth, Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder…” and more. For the music lover you know, this is a lovely gift that will likely bring back lots of memories or familiarize him/her with groups he/she has only heard and never seen. I’m getting one for my husband. Purchase at Neiman Marcus for $70 here.

 

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You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld. Ms. Sittenfeld is a successful Charlotte author with whom I was not familiar until she interviewed Reese Witherspoon onstage last month. Though I haven’t read them yet, she has hit the bestseller lists with previous novels, including Prep and American Wife. My friends sing her praises. Her latest, You Think It, I’ll Say It, is described on her website: “With moving insight and uncanny precision, this first collection of short fiction pinpoints the questionable decisions, missed connections, and sometimes extraordinary coincidences that make up a life.” I can hardly wait to pick it up for some friends! Purchase all her novels and this new short story collection through her website here.

 

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Road Swing
by Steve Rushin. I spoke with a friend about what books he would recommend for sports lovers, and this one was the first one he mentioned. An obsessed sports fan takes a road trip through the United States visiting every major sports “shrine” and shares his insight. It will make any sports fan want to do the same road trip to the same epic places.  Perfect for the sports fan on your list…especially if he/she is a fan of road trips too! Purchase through Amazon here.

 

41f1eA1LEoL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Belichick: The Making of the Greatest Football Coach of All Time by Ian O’Connor. Even if you don’t like the New England Patriots. Even if you think Deflategate was a terrible football scandal. By all accounts, this in-depth look at the most successful football coach of all time is compelling. Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe called it “a must-read for football buffs and anyone who appreciates leadership.” Purchase through Amazon here.

 

 

41EQr37Py+L._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_All The Way: My Life in Four Quarters by Joe Namath. Last but not least, the one I’m most looking forward to…this autobiography is actually not available yet, but you an preorder it on Amazon here. I’d be thrilled to receive a card at Christmas telling me I will be receiving this book as soon as it is released. Scheduled for release in May of 2019, this book is the football icon’s life in his own wordS. He has lived a life like no other, so I expect an exciting read. Honestly, I have to admit I don’t really care what it says…I love Joe Namath so much that I’d be happy just looking at photos of him. Till that book is released, you can gift Namath by Mark Kriegel, a biography of Broadway Joe that was released in 2005, which you can purchase here.

POPULAR FICTION AUTHORS WITH NEW RELEASES:

Jodi Picoult, A Spark of Light: A Novel, purchase here.

Nicholas Sparks, Every Breath, purchase here.

Dorothea Benton Franks, By Invitation Only, purchase here.

John Grisham, The Reckoning, purchase here.

****Next time, more gift suggestions: ACCESSORIES.****

 

 

 

 

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Too Young To Be A Grandparent!

Last week, I attended a baby shower for the daughter of some friends. The daughter is my friend too. It was great fun…food,  family, friends. As I sat talking with folks at the shower, I looked around, and as I looked at my friends who were about to become grandparents, I thought, “They’re not old enough to be grandparents!” They’re still young, vibrant people! But they are old enough. In fact, their daughter is a full-fledged adult with a great job, married to a great guy, and they are both contributing to society and paying their own bills.

A few years ago, as my husband and I sat watching the Heisman Trophy Award Ceremony from our living room, we loved the interviews with each candidate. One candidate, Amari Cooper, was from the University of Alabama, my alma mater. They interviewed Cooper, and he told stories about this youth in Miami. And they interviewed his mother, a lovely lady.

When the interview with Cooper’s mom came on, my husband turned to me and said, “Wow! She looks really good for an older lady!” I agreed. And then I started doing the math. At the time, Cooper was likely about 20 years old.

After a minute or so, I said to my husband, “Amari’s mother probably isn’t an older lady.” He pointed out that Amari was about 20 years old, so she had to be older. That’s when I reminded him that we are older parents, but Amari’s mother was probably younger than we are. I don’t remember if I grabbed my laptop or if they told her age on the segment, but at some point, we learned her age was several years younger than ours…and she had a son who would soon be starting a career in the National Football League! That year, he didn’t win the Heisman Trophy, but Cooper was the fourth pick in the overall draft and signed a fat contract with the Oakland Raiders. *Just yesterday, Cooper was traded to the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for a first round draft pick.*

At the time of that Heisman ceremony, I was 47 years old and had an 11-yr-old daughter. My husband was 48. Because most of our friends who have kids the same age are about the same ages we are, we fell into believing everyone is that way. We lost sight of the fact that most people who have 11-yr-olds are younger than we are. According to this article in Allure magazine, the average age of a first time mother in the US is 28, considerably younger than I was when I gave birth at 36.

So our friends who have now become grandparents since that shower are old enough to be grandparents.  We just have a skewed view…thinking parents of grown children have to be older than we are. We are plenty old enough to have grandchildren. In fact, the average age of a first-time grandparent in the United States is 48. If I’d had a child when I was 25, and if that child had a child at 25, then I would be a grandmother right now…and I’d fit right in with societal norms.Since we were later than average having children, we are later than average having grandchildren, and we don’t plan to have them for at least ten more years. If our daughter is as old as I was when she was born, I won’t be a grandmother till I’m 72 years old. And that’s OK too.

Back in 2003, our friends were having babies in their late 30s, so we started thinking everyone was having babies in their mid to late 30s. Those same friends who were “late bloomer” parents are likely to be “late bloomer” grandparents too, so we will be in good company. We don’t fit into societal norms for the age of first-time grandparents, but we fit in with our societal norms, since lots of our friends are the same age we are.

The point? Any age is OK to be a grandparent! When you become a grandparent, you’re just happy to have a new grandbaby! If you need ideas for baby gifts for someone who’s having a baby, here are some ideas I talked about earlier this year.

We’re lucky to have these younger friends who have just become grandparents, and we’re lucky to know their daughter too. They bring joy to our family, and I’m not gonna lie…the new grandmother can cook!

Congratulations to our young friends on the new granddaughter!

***Our friends’ granddaughter was born on October 15 and weighed 4 pounds, 10 ounces!***

 

 

 

 

 

I Want Candy…My Favorites

I love candy. I love chocolate candy and sour candy. I love all kinds of candy…always have. In fact, when I was a kid, I loved candy so much that I actually tried to get the answer to the commercial question, “How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?”

When I was a kid living in Brewton, Alabama, Daddy took us to the “candy store,” which was really a locally owned convenience store called Murphy’s, every Saturday. He would give us our allowance, and we would go blow it on candy and Icees. I always got a Coke Icee at Murphy’s. We got $5 allowance. Back then, $5 would buy a lot of candy, but I never actually spent my whole allowance. I usually put back a dollar or two, but I could still buy lots of candy and save too. I also stashed candy in hiding places in my room, but my brother usually found it and secretly ate it bit by bit.

Later, after moving to Spanish Fort, we would walk to the TG&Y in the local shopping center to buy candy. Instead of Icees there, we got bottled soda…in real glass bottles. My personal favorites were RC Cola, Dr. Pepper, and Coca-Cola in the little bottle, what we called a “baby Coke.”

I have favorites. As a child, I would always pick some favorites: Tootsie PopsSpree, Pixie Stix, Zotz, Bottle Caps, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Fun Dip, SkyBar, M&Ms, Blow Pops,  and sometimes, a Hershey Bar…without almonds. I also loved Sugar Babies, Sugar Daddy, Necco Wafers and Marathon Bars. (They don’t make Marathon Bars anymore, but Cadbury makes a similar bar of braided caramel covered in chocolate called the Curly Wurly.) Good times. In addition to candy, I would top off my purchase with some Hostess Chocolate Cream-filled Cupcakes. *Necco Wafers and SkyBar were made by New England Confectionery Company, which went bankrupt and is now owned by Spangler Candy Company. The future of some products is unknown. I’m stocking up on SkyBar now.*

Obviously, our candy intake was never restricted. My parents thought candy was one of the small joys in life, and I feel the same way. Before my daughter was born, a neighbor told me the kids she knew who couldn’t have candy at home went crazy eating it at her house, so we always have it, and our daughter doesn’t go crazy over it. We have a designated candy drawer in the kitchen. Need a little pick me up? Grab something from the drawer.

My daughter’s candy intake has never been limited. When we visit different cities, we love to visit any candy store we hear about. Dylan’s Candy Bar is a favorite in various cities. The last two times we’ve gone to LA, we visited Candytopia, a candy museum. It was a temporary popup, but now it’s in New York and San Francisco. As we entered each room, we got different kinds of candy: Pixie Stix, Tootsie Pops, candy necklaces, and more! Plus, there were sculptures and portraits made entirely of candy! My favorite part: a giant marshmallow pit! Great photo ops!

I still love candy.  I now love Snickers bars in addition to all my old favorites. I can’t resist purchasing some of the more rare ones when I see them.

I’m placing an order for some Curly Wurly Bars from Amazon now. All the candies I’ve listed above are available from Amazon.com. I want candy!

***If you were a teen in the 1980s, you probably remember a song called I Want Candy by the group, Bow Wow Wow. It was a remake of a 60s song by The Strangeloves. Bow Wow Wow trivia: Boy George was an early member of the group before forming Culture Club. You can see the Bow Wow Wow video here.***

Let’s Talk…We’re the Been There Moms

My friend, Maureen, and I recently started a site called Been There Moms. I have loved spending time with Maureen for years…we chat, we laugh, we share, and now, you can join us for our chats! Been There Moms is a quick look at the things we discuss…and the humor we share. We make videos discussing topics of interest to parents and other folks, too! We share our own parenting fails, share our lessons, and sometimes we just “kvetch” about the hazards of parenting. And we laugh…a lot.

We have a great time, for sure. Maureen’s twenty-something son is very patient with us when he’s helping us with the videos. We are grateful for his patience, his directing skills and especially his mad editing skills. I know it’s hard to believe, but sometimes, we get carried away when we’re talking, and he has to reign us in. We can turn a three minute video into 15 minutes of chat, so he has to edit a lot. Lots of times, he has given us the “wrap it up” sign, and when he turns off the camera, we all laugh. Seeing our chats on video, I’ve realized some things: Maureen is especially talented with her sense of humor. She comes up with the best one-liners. I’m definitely the squirrel chaser, so Maureen has to get me back on topic. I’m the long, drawn-out storyteller. Come to think of it, I’m probably the reason our chats run long. I should apologize to her son, our director/editor.

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Maureen has four children, ranging in age from 14 to a second year law student…three boys and a girl. I have one child…a 15-yr-old girl. Together, we cover a lot of topics, and we offer different perspectives. Maureen is from the north, and I’m from the Deep South. She went to a highbrow, liberal arts college. I went to a big state university. We’ve had different experiences, but we are great friends.

So far, we have discussed some parenting parenting dilemmas: children flying alone; shopping with teenage girls; Homecoming proposals; being nice; high school sports; being the new mom at school; and summer reading. There are more videos to come, but since it’s not our day job, we have to make them when it’s convenient. We are having a great time! It’s a good excuse for us to get together!

This past weekend, my nephew visited with a friend, and the friend (she’s 22) told me she loves the Been There Moms site! Yay! We have a young fan who isn’t even a mom! According to my nephew, his friend watches our videos regularly and walks around saying, “We’re the Been There Moms!” Seriously, I was so excited, and when I saw Maureen at my daughter’s field hockey game Friday afternoon, I could hardly wait to tell her: our young fan thinks we’re funny! I guess it’s not just for moms anymore! Anyone who knows me knows I love a good audience.

So, here’s the deal: we are always looking for new topics to discuss. I have a running list, and Maureen does too, but we would love folks to send us some topics to discuss. Check out our Been There Moms Facebook page here; like the page, and then send us a message or comment with some topics! We would love to hear from you! And who knows? If you offer up a good topic, we might invite you to be a guest on our “show”!

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Our Daughter Is 15 Today

It’s difficult to believe. Our daughter is 15 today. As I type, she has about 15 more minutes to sleep before getting up for school…ninth grade, a high school freshman. How did we get here so quickly?

It has been 15 years since she changed our lives. Wow. We had no idea what we were doing as new parents, and we have no idea what we’re doing as parents of a teenager. We take it one day at a time. Even last night, she asked me if she could go to some concert in a couple of months, and I answered, “Can’t we deal with that when it gets a little closer?” Sometimes, I refuse to believe she is old enough to go to concerts.

Getting here has been a journey. Our daughter was never a sleeper. Even as an infant, she didn’t really nap. She was always wide-eyed and always moving. I’ve always said she is just like my brother. He was always on the move and still is. It serves our daughter well in athletic endeavors. She has lots of energy, and the athletic field is the perfect place to use that energy. Of course, all that energy disappears when I try to drag her through a museum…but that’s OK. Museums are usually quiet places, which is why she doesn’t enjoy them. I get it.

When she was two, our pediatrician told me, “What you have here is the classic strong-willed child. It will drive you crazy, but it will serve her well.”

I remember milestones…her first day of preschool, when she was ten months old. I needed a break one day a week, so she went for three hours to the preschool at our church. The first time she went, I cried as I walked away. And then her first day of “real school”…transitional kindergarten at an independent school. I didn’t cry that day. I was excited for her. She was four years old. She would turn five years old six weeks into the school year. But on that first day of “real school,” I drove up, and she got out of the car like a pro and walked up the sidewalk to her new classroom. I can remember what she was wearing. I wanted to watch her walk up the sidewalk and into the building, but it would have caused a logjam in the carpool line, so I drove away.

There are so many memories. I remember her crawling at breakneck speed. Her first tooth emerging when she was 10 months and 2 days old…later than most. Her first steps when she was 11 months old…she walked and then ran all in the same day. The joy on her face on Christmas mornings. She always loved Santa; she was the little girl who would sit on his lap and talk his ear off. How she was afraid of the Easter Bunny…a giant bunny coming into her house was terrifying, so he always left her basket just inside the door. I remember when she fell at preschool when she was three, popping her lip open. I remember walking on the pier with her at our condo on the bay, alligators in the water beneath, holding her hand so tightly it turned blue. I remember watching a nutria forage for food underneath the same pier. Our girl loved digging in the dirt in my parents’ yard and running back and forth across the bridge in their front yard. She would catch the giant black and yellow horse lubber grasshoppers that populate the Gulf Coast with her bare hands. 1200px-Horse_Lubber_Grasshopper_(Taeniopoda_eques)When she was little, she loved Easter Egg hunts year round. She loved playing outside with her older cousins. She has always loved being outside. We still remember the look on her face during her first trip to Disney World when she was four. We spent countless afternoons over the years with our playgroup…having fun with friends. We’ve gone on road trips with friends and other vacations with friends…New Orleans, Upstate New York, Maine, Puerto Rico, Atlanta, Chicago, Kentucky (slept in a wigwam!), San Francisco, Louisville, and more. I remember when the admissions counselor at her school told me how sweet she was during her visit (she was four years old) when they asked her, “If you break a cookie in half, how many pieces do you have?” She answered, “I would have two, but I would give one to my friend, Caroline, because she’s in the hospital.” I remember when she was taking swimming lessons as a toddler, and every week, she helped a scared little girl walk to the pool, taking her by the hand and walking her over. I vividly remember dropping her off at the airport in New York last summer for a two week trip to Iceland, and I can still remember the joy I felt when she was back in the USA. My husband and I have watched hours of soccer, field hockey, basketball, and lacrosse. We went to dance recitals when she was a little girl…cute little yellow tutu with temporary tattoos all over her arms. I can still see the look on her face the first time she went to an Alabama football game at Bryant-Denny Stadium…it took her breath away. She has always loved rollercoasters…we were regulars at Carowinds Amusement Park for years…going almost daily when she was two, three, and four.  I’ve taken her to see concerts: Miranda Cosgrove, Matty B, Selena Gomez, Big Time Rush, One Direction…even One Direction opening for Big Time Rush. She has met some of her favorite athletes: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Teddy Bridgewater, Tony Romo, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, Evander Holyfield. I should mention she also met Squishy Paws from Ricky, Nicky, Dicky, and Dawn, but only because I recognized the sweet little pooch when we were touring Paramount Studios…a proud moment. I’ve taken her to Los Angeles at least once a year since 2011, and she never gets tired of it.

On the journey to fifteen, she has lost two great-grandmothers and two grandparents…most recently, my mother this past December. She has had broken bones (wrist and shoulder) and multiple sprains. When she was ten, she came down with the flu on Christmas Eve. Yes, Christmas Eve. Since she was awake sick all night, Santa had a tough job that year. After a couple of nights at home with the flu, she and I moved to the Ballantyne Hotel for the next three nights and ordered room service till she was well. She has endured the stress of trying out for sports teams and standardized tests at school. She has watched her daddy go through brain surgery. And now she’s in high school. She is enjoying the transition from middle school to high school, and one day, I hope she will enjoy the transition to college just as much.

Before she goes off to college, I plan to make lots more memories…and afterward too. But since I know she leaves for college in less than four years, I want to make these high school years the best they can be.

One thing I know for sure is that she teaches us far more than we teach her.

I can’t believe she’s 15.