We Miss the Elves

We miss the elves.

I know, I know. Every parent who is having to deal with The Elf on the Shelf right now is wondering why they ever bought into that commercialized bit of Christmas.

Seriously, how many times will you forget to move the damn elves during the season? I remember many times our daughter would come downstairs in the morning to find the elf in the same spot as the day before. She would ask if it had lost its magic. “Oh, no honey! It was just really foggy/stormy/cloudy out last night, and he couldn’t make the flight safely.” I had to think fast, and I couldn’t let the panic show on my face.

Other times, I would wake up in the middle of the night and remember I hadn’t moved the elf. I would get up, try to wake up enough to be creative with a “hiding place,” and stumble back to bed…cursing the elf the whole time.

And then, the elves multiplied at our house! She teceived them as gifts. Or she asked them to bring friends. When all was said and done, we had SIX elves visiting our home, and that meant I had to move all six of them every night. (I know…I know…I’m crazy to have allowed it.) Not only that, but I also had to get more creative after she heard about other friends’ elves that did more interesting things than just sit in the Christmas tree. Keeping up with the Joneses was real where the elf was concerned. She didn’t want to think Santa sent her a lame elf (or elves!).

Seriously, it got out of hand. Those damn elves were leading better lives than I was: writing all over the vanity with toothpaste, bungee jumping from the stairs, bathing in Christmas M&Ms, coming in on a wrecking ball, drinking Karo Syrup, trapping each other in cake domes…oh, to be an elf! And the notes and “surprises”! They brought little trinkets. They wrote her notes in their special elf handwriting. My brain had not been that creative in years, but I made it happen. Honestly, I became an overachiever where the elves were concerned, and I’m sure all her friends’ parents hated me for it. I don’t blame them. I hated that I let myself fall into the trap of that level of insanity after seeing others post on social media, but I did it.

I thought about all this last night, because my daughter, who is now 19 and a freshman in college, was hanging out with friends and texted me, “Can you send me pictures of the crazy things my elves did?” I searched through years of pictures and found some to send her. She sent back lots of laughing faces, lots of “Lol” and lots of “wow.”

Then I went down the rabbit hole.

I started texting her elf stories. I told her about the time she came running into the kitchen just before Thanksgiving Day (when the elves are supposed to arrive) with an elf in her hand. I’m not sure how old she was…maybe six of seven? She had gone into my room to look for something in a drawer, and she had found an elf. “Mommy! Look what I found in your drawer!” I was standing at the stovetop preparing dinner but looked down to see her holding the elf up for me to see. Somehow, I thought fast and replied, “Wow! He must have known you would look in there today, and he was just waiting for you to find him!” Her eyes widened! She bought it hook, line, and sinker! She replied, “I guess so!” And the elves got an early start (ugh) that year…lucky me (insert eye roll here).

Another year, on Christmas Day, she seemed a little sad…unusual for Christmas Day. She was eight, and she should have been excited and happy the whole day. Finally, in the afternoon, I asked, “Honey, are you OK?” Immediately, the flood gates opened…her bottom lip rolled down as her chin quivered, and tears rolled down her cheeks. “I miss my elf!,” she exclaimed. My heart broke. My sweet little girl thad been holding in those emotions all day. I could have been stern. I could have followed the elf rules, but I didn’t. I hugged her. I comforted her. And then I said, “There might be a way to get him back.” Call me a sucker if you want, but personally, I love knowing my child is full of so much love. That year, her elf had taken on the task of replacing some of her “babies” (stuffed animals) that had been accidentally thrown out while we were having her room painted. She appreciated what that elf had done for her, and she loved her elf for it. Who was I to say the elf couldn’t come back? Surely, there was a way?!? I said, “Here’s a little secret: since it’s still Christmas Day, you can make a wish on a Christmas candle, and maybe the elf will come back.” I’m still patting myself on the back for this one. My husband brought us a Christmas candle, and I sat down on the sofa with her, telling her to close her eyes and make the wish before blowing out the candle. Then close her eyes again and slowly count to ten, just to help the wish. Whatever…I was winging it, OK?!? While she slowly counted to ten after making the wish, my husband scampered quietly into our room, got the elf out of a drawer and placed him on the dining room table. When she opened her eyes, I said, “Maybe the elf will return. He might show up in an unexpected place.” Of course, she couldn’t resist the urge to start searching. When she found him on the dining room table, it was sheer joy! Her Christmas wish had come true! Since the elf had returned on a Christmas wish, she was allowed to hold him (against the Elf on the Shelf rules), so she settled in on the sofa to watch a Christmas movie with him. I told her she had 30 more days with the elf, but he wouldn’t fly back and forth to the North Pole, and had to leave after those 30 days. She agreed 30 more days would be enough…and it was.

The elves were popular at our house for several years until one day, she simply said, “Mom, I know the elves aren’t real.” In some ways I was happy. I wouldn’t have to remember to move them! I wouldn’t have to find creative places to put them! I wouldn’t have to wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat when I realized I hadn’t done anything with them! I wouldn’t have to lie about the fog/storms/clouds. At the same time, my heart broke a little. Sure, my life would be a little easier because she didn’t believe in the elves anymore, but it would be a lot less fun.

Now that she’s 19, the elves no longer come around. One moved to a new home when a neighbor melted her daughter’s elf on a lamp and was in a desperate search for a new one. We had one that matched hers, so we let her have it. Our daughter didn’t believe anymore, so it was nice to know we were saving another parent from a meltdown. Now, we look back on the elves with fondness. And honestly, they make good stories.

We miss the elves…not enough to bring them back, but we miss them!

Last Minute Holiday Gifts

Last minute holiday gifts.

We are getting down to the wire. If you still have gifts to purchase but don’t know where to start (or finish), we have suggestions.

Shop Local. It’s always important to shop local, and I did a lot of local shopping this year. Your local business owners always appreciate your business, but they especially appreciate it when inflation is crazy and prices are soaring. Don’t forget, they are having to pay more for the items from their suppliers too. If you don’t know about local boutiques in your area, ask around. Or if you live in Charlotte, you can check out the Charlotte’s Got A Lot website. They have compiled a lengthy list of local places to shop for everyone on your list. You can check it out here. I checked out their list and got a few ideas for my husband and daughter. Then, I passed along some ideas to friends…straight from the Charlotte’s Got a Lot list. If you don’t live in Charlotte, you might be able to find a similar list for your town. My personal favorite local shops are The Buttercup (great for women/young ladies/neighbors/friends), Paper Skyscraper for whimsical gifts (and stop in for lunch at Thai Taste next door when you go), Charlotte’s for women, Swoozie’s for fun gifts for friends and neighbors, and though it’s not really a shop/boutique, I love purchasing sports tickets or sports merchandise for local teams…the Carolina Panthers (available through Ticketmaster or at the Panthers store in the stadium), Charlotte Checkers hockey tickets/merchandise, and Charlotte Hornets tickets/merchandise.

USA Today List. USA Today published a list just yesterday of some last-minute gift ideas, and it includes gifts for everyone on your list. Prices range from below $100 to over $1000, but you’re likely to find something that will work. Get busy looking, though, because the longer you wait, the less likely it will get here in time. See the USA Today list here.

Amazon. No, it’s not shopping local, for sure, but sometimes you just need Amazon. My mother used Amazon for lots of her shopping when she was alive, because she just didn’t get around real well. Even if you can get around well, you might find that time is not your friend, and you just need to get something now. Amazon has a section on their website called Very Merry Deals, where you can find popular discounted items that can be shipped to your home or to the recipient’s home in time for Christmas. But do your Amazon shopping now! You can see their Very Merry Deals here.

Gift Cards. It sounds cliché, but if there are any college students in your life, they love gift cards. You can purchase gift cards to just about anywhere in Harris Teeter, Target, and CVS. My college-age daughter loves gift cards from Starbucks, Panera, ChickFilA, Netflix, and Amazon, but I’m sure there are others that are popular. As a freshman, our daughter has a dining plan through her university, but sometimes, she just wants to eat what she calls “real food.” That’s when gift cards come in handy.

Experiences. If you have an amusement park near you, it might be possible to purchase season passes or gift cards for someone on your list. Call ahead to find out. Movie passes make great gifts too. Maybe there is an attraction in your town that’s fun for someone in your family. We have the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, and it’s fun for the whole family! A gift card there can mean hours of fun! Or give the gift of travel! Charlotte is a hub airport for American Airlines, so a gift card on American Airlines could be a great gift for someone who could fly out of here or fly into Charlotte to visit! See their gift cards here. Delta offers them on their website too. You can see theirs by clicking here.

Wrapping Paper

Wrapping paper.

Every year, as Christmas approaches, I meet a friend at Paper Skycraper in Charlotte to find stocking stuffers and wrapping paper. It’s a tradition. We pick a day, and we know we will enjoy a leisurely lunch at Thai Taste before walking next door to Paper Skyscraper to shop ’til we drop. Seriously, I always walk out with way more than I planned to purchase.

For those who don’t know, Paper Skyscraper is on East Boulevard in the Dilworth neighborhood of Charlotte. According to their website, they have been open for more than 30 years. I have been shopping there for more than 20. I moved to Charlotte in 2000, and I remember going there with a friend soon after moving here. They have lots of fun gifts and lots of quirky gifts. If you decide to go, know in advance that this is not your grandmother’s gift shop. It’s full of sexual innuendos and f-bombs…even on some of the wrapping paper! One thing is for sure, you will laugh a lot while you’re there. If you can’t get into the store, you can shop some of their items online here.

Our designated day to shop together this year was last Friday afternoon. We met at Thai Taste first. I had the Pad Thai with chicken and medium spice, and she had the green curry dish. (I seriously considered ordering the curry dish to take home for dinner. It looked that good.) We had just ordered when another friend called us, and we immediately asked her to join us. She was only about five minutes away, so it worked out perfectly, and our duo became a trio! We enjoyed a lunch and lots of laughs before strolling over to Paper Skyscraper. You can see more about Thai Taste here.

As soon as we walked into Paper Skyscraper, I saw one of the light-up ceramic Christmas trees we all had in the 1970s. I wanted it, but I resisted the urge to purchase it. I didn’t even check the price, because I knew if I gave it too much attention, I would have to have it.

My friends made their way to the area full of fun gifts in the side room, while I made my way first to the wrapping paper. I am obsessed with their wrapping paper, and like a child, I didn’t want someone to walk away with some paper I might want. I found lots of lovely paper. I’m not a wrapping paper snob, but I do like quality paper. I always know I can find it at Paper Skyscraper. They have lovely rolls of Christmas paper and some funny ones too. Plus, they have sheets of beautiful wrapping paper made from recycled materials. When I say it’s beautiful, I mean it’s beautiful. I picked up a few rolls of paper and put them in my hand basket. I picked eight or ten sheets of recycled wrap and put that in my hand basket, and I made my way to the other side of the store to meet my friends. What I hadn’t considered was that, with all those rolls of paper sticking out of my basket, I was likely to knock things off every rack along the way…and I did. Fortunately, I didn’t break anything. After rearranging the basket, so I didn’t knock down anything else, I was able to continue shopping with my friends, who had been smarter than I was and waited till the end to get their wrapping paper. After an hour or so of shopping, we all left with lots of stocking stuffers, gifts for friends and neighbors, and wrapping paper.

I now have a lovely assortment of wrapping paper and have been wrapping gifts for the last couple of days. I love wrapping gifts. It’s very relaxing. Aside from the Paper Skyscraper wrapping paper, I also have some I ordered from Zazzle. Our daughter will be quite surprised when she sees it, and I’m sure she will think I’m totally crazy. It’s personalized wrapping paper with family photos on it. You can order it from Zazzle here. It can add a little fun to your gifts! I have wrapped lots of gifts, and they are piling up in the keeping room off my kitchen.

If we would only get our Christmas tree up, I would have somewhere to put them!

***Also, see great wrapping paper at the following retail stores in Charlotte:

The Buttercup, 1035 Providence Rd

Swoozie’s, 4722 Sharon Rd Ste G

Paper Twist, 2902 Selwyn Ave, Ste A

Cleaning Out My Closet Before the Holidays

Cleaning out my closet before the holidays.

A distant cousin posted a meme on Facebook today that said, “Every marriage has one person who throws things out, and a garbage-loving, chaos goblin who says, ‘But I was saving that!'” I replied, “Me…I’m the goblin.”

A few times a year, though, I get the urge to get rid of the chaos, and today was one of those days. I made the decision this morning to tackle my closet again when I realized I needed a place to hide some Christmas gifts. I have a pretty nice-sized closet. It’s not particularly large, but it’s not small by most people’s standards, either. Could I host a party in there? No. Do I have it decorated to the nines with a chandelier and the prettiest wallpaper I could find? No, but my closet, as it is, should be sufficient for the stuff I have, especially since I converted all my hangers to velvet flocked hangers earlier this year. (If you haven’t done that yourself, you will likely find you have more closet space if you do. I purchase mine from Amazon here. The ones in my feature photo are black, but I prefer the ivory ones.) And there should be plenty of space to hide gifts…now that I cleaned it out.

When I first moved into this house 22 years ago, I would swap out my wardrobe seasonally…taking the spring/summer clothing up to our climate-controlled attic space in fall, and swapping it with the fall/winter clothing in spring. I feel pretty sure I did that for several years…until I found better things to do with my time and stopped that insanity. Now, all my clothes and shoes are in the closet year-round, and I’m the first to admit I have a lot of clothes and a lot of shoes. They are color-coded and separated by season (go ahead…gasp! I know you’re surprised!), but they are all in there. So every now and then, especially after I have purchased new things, I realize I need to get rid of some things. Today was one of those days.

Today, I started by going through the dresses then moved on to the jackets, tops, pants, shoes, and finally…the miscellaneous items that get stashed in there when I’m in a hurry…like packets of seeds for my garden…not sure why or how those ended up in there.

Lots of people use the “if I haven’t worn it in a year, I’m not going to wear it” method of cleaning their closet, but not me. In fact, for one of my daughter’s graduation events last May, I wore a lovely pair of designer shoes I purchased in Palm Beach 21 years ago. I had not worn them in 18 or 19 years, but every time I cleaned my closet over those 18 or 19 years, I resisted the urge to toss them out, donate them, or sell them, because like the meme my cousin posted, “I was saving that!” Seriously, I knew I would have another opportunity to wear them. Plus, they are lovely, classic shoes that I purchased on sale for 90% off! How often does a deal like that come around?!?! I can’t get rid of those! I’m too proud of the purchase! I also recently wore a dress I hadn’t worn in 2 1/2 years! It’s a quality dress I purchased in LA three years ago. I had worn it just once before, but I was so glad I had it when I needed it!

It’s rare that I get rid of a quality purchase. I’m smart enough to know that any good shoes or handbags I purchased over the years are likely to be called “vintage” one day. I hang on to those. But the impulse purchases I make in a Zara or H&M store? (Don’t go all crazy on me. I love Zara and H&M.) Or the “filler” clothes I purchase on a whim? By “filler,” I mean they are just clothes I’m likely to wear to events that aren’t fancy, but they’re also not super-casual. I wear good clothes to parties, lunch or dinner with friends, or events. I wear super-casual (we’re talking t-shirts, hoodies, sweatpants, etc) to run errands. But those filler clothes? They are perfect for air travel, school sporting events, and stuff like that. Those “filler” clothes are the ones that are likely to go into the “toss” pile if I haven’t worn them in a year. And that’s exactly what happened today.

I normally don’t throw out handbags. I have tons of “vintage” handbags, even though, as I have gotten older, they have gotten very little use. At 55, I mostly carry a small, black, Tumi Ruma crossbody. (You can purchase one like it from Tumi here. It would make a great Christmas gift for anyone on your list who travels, because it’s small but large enough for important documents, cash, lipsticks, mints, and credit cards.) In fact, I don’t know that I have carried any of my other handbags in a year or two…except for the clear handbags I’m required to carry to college and professional sporting events. And shoes…mostly the ones I toss are well-worn flip flops and sneakers. Today, in fact, I’m wearing some sparkly, purple Uggs I’ve had for at least 10 years. I’m not wearing them to make a fashion statement. I’m wearing them simply for comfort, because they are, indeed, comfortable. These Uggs will never be thrown out. But those cheap flip flops I purchased last summer when I was on vacation and realized I forgot to take flip flops? They were the first things to go today.

So my closet cleaning method, while different than most, works for me. And maybe it will work for you? My method? Toss the cheap stuff, but keep the good stuff and the frequently-worn stuff. I have sweatpants and jeans in my closet that I have had in the regular wardrobe rotation for years!

And now I have a clean closet with plenty of room for stashing Christmas gifts until I can get them wrapped and under the tree (when I get that up!).

Holiday Gift #2 for 2022

Holiday gift #2 for 2022.

Quick recap: my holiday gift #1 post featured bags by Baboon to the Moon. See the post here.

As the holidays approach, I’m taking stock of things I see and things I love…things I think will make the perfect Christmas or Hanukkah gifts. The second item I’m featuring this year is a fire pit from Solo Stove. I actually mentioned this item in a post last holiday season, but because we get so much joy from our Solo Stove fire pit, I’m featuring again this year. It would be a great gift for Dad or even for Mom, if she likes to spend time outdoors in the evening like I do. Or maybe you have a college student or other adult in your family who lives in a house and likes to entertain?

We have the Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0, which is their most popular size of fire pit. According to the website, it’s perfect for backyards, and I can attest to that fact. My husband and I have cocktails or coffee out on our patio…just the two of us or with friends…almost any night we are home, and in the fall, winter, and early spring the Bonfire 2.0 is the perfect smokeless fire pit to keep us warm. It is about 19.5 inches in diameter and heats about 5-6 people. We love the warmth and ambiance it offers when we are out there stargazing, and we love that, when our daughter is home, she and her friends enjoy gathering around it too.

With a chrome finish, the Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0 is attractive and useful. Plus, because it’s not too big, it’s easy to clean…easy to dump the ashes. Always wait till there is no sign of heat or fire before dumping the ashes. We usually wait till the next time we are ready to use the fire pit to empty the ashes. That way, we know we won’t be inadvertently starting a fire in the garbage can, in the yard, or anywhere else.

Is it actually smokeless? For the most part, yes. My husband would not want to use it if it created a smoky fire. He hates the smell of smoke more than anything. When I first purchased the Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0, he was skeptical. And when I first built a fire in it, it seemed like a fail. It was smoky…at first…but once the fire took hold, the fire pit did what it’s supposed to do, and we had a smoke-free fire. However, because my husband gets nervous about burning ashes flying through the air from wood fires, we went in a different direction and purchased Duraflame logs to burn in the fire pit. I was skeptical, but after I realized how easy they are to light, I was sold. And the fire with the Duraflame, because it doesn’t require smoky kindling, starts out smoke free.

Solo Stove makes several different sizes of fire pits, so if you think the Bonfire 2.0 is too large or too small, there are other sizes that could work for you. Their Ranger 2.0 fire pit is 15 inches in diameter, so it’s a little smaller, so it’s most portable. For a larger fire pit, they offer the Yukon 2.0, which has a 27-inch diameter, making it more easy to accommodate up to 13 people!

And if you’re wondering about pricing, the Ranger 2.0, at the time of writing, is on sale at the Solo Stove website for $199, a savings of $100 off the regular price. The Bonfire 2.0, the one we have, is on sale for $239, a savings of $160. And the Yukon 2.0 is on sale for $439, saving the purchaser over $300 off the original price. To see the website, click here.

Because we enjoy our Solo Stove fire pit so much, this gift goes in the category of “highly recommend.” You can’t go wrong with it, and if you do things the easy way, like we do, and get the Duraflame logs, it’s super easy to have instant warmth and ambiance on your patio any time you want it.

But I don’t know how long the sale will last, so if you’re considering it, go ahead and purchase it now! I believe the recipient will think it’s a great gift, and they will thank you for years to come!

Happy shopping!

Love’s Baby Soft

Love’s Baby Soft.

Anyone who was a little girl or preteen in the 70s and 80s remembers Love’s Baby Soft…a brand of cologne, body powder, body mist that smelled “like a baby” and was marketed toward girls and preteens through Teen Magazine and even on commercials. I don’t know if the commercials ran in the afternoons, evenings, or Saturday mornings, but I can still hear the jingle, “You can try hard. Or you can try soft. Soft will get ’em every time…Love’s Baby Soft!”

I’ve gone to YouTube and watched some of the old commercials. It appears one commercial from 1975 was marketed toward an older audience. It’s a little creepy, saying, “Innocence is sexier than you think.” Yuck. You can see that commercial herenot my favorite. But the one I remember most was clearly marketing to the younger generation. You can see the ad I remember most here.

What made me think of Love’s Baby Soft?

I try to walk several miles a day, and when I do, nothing passes the time better than talking on the phone with friends. Sometimes I listen to books on Audible, but usually, I talk on the phone. I was talking with a friend last night, and somehow, we started talking about riding the school bus. We both went to public school growing up, so we exchanged some school bus stories. I told her stories about the older guys on our bus singing Queen’s We Will Rock You while the rest of us pounded the well-known beat on the bus seats. We had a pretty patient, understanding bus driver named Mr. Maynard who I think might have actually been entertained by the shenanigans.

The friend I was talking with asked if, when I was growing up in Alabama, high school kids were allowed to take jobs as bus drivers. I don’t remember that being the case, but she said teenagers could be bus drivers in North Carolina back then, adding, “We had a cute bus driver named Chuck. He was probably 17, and I was 11. Anytime I knew Chuck would be driving, I’d spritz myself with some Love’s Baby Soft before running to the bus.” I died. I could just see it…a preteen girl with a crush on the 17-yr-old…trying to get his attention with some Love’s Baby Soft! “You can try hard…or you can try soft…” After I recovered from the laughter, I asked her if she put on her Kissing Potion too. We both laughed and laughed, because we had dug up some old memories.

In the 1970s, I was a big fan of both products. I wasn’t romancing anyone, and I certainly wasn’t kissing anyone, but I was one of the best customers for both. I remember hearing at school when new scents of Kissing Potion had been released, so I would get Mother to take me to the local TG&Y in Spanish Fort Shopping Center, so I could use my allowance to buy the latest Kissing Potion roll-on lip gloss. All the girls in my fourth grade class had our favorite flavors. Bubble Gum was quite popular, and I liked the minty flavored one.

And guess what! You can get both products today! I don’t know if they are the same as they were then, but I’m going to find out. I’ll be ordering them for myself and for future surprises for friends who need a pick-me-up. Nostalgia makes for great gifts. If I had the blues and someone gave me either of those products, I think I would instantly feel better. You can find Love’s Baby Soft on Amazon here. And get the original formula Kissing Potion from Tinte Cosmetics here.

I should probably add that the Love’s Baby Soft didn’t catch the attention of the 17-yr-old bus driver, Chuck. My friend might have dodged a bullet on that one. If the 17-yr-old had liked the 11-yr-old, there would have been bigger issues!

Moms After Christmas Day

Moms after Christmas Day.

We made it! Moms of the world, we made it! We got through Christmas Day!

No, this doesn’t mean we don’t celebrate the real reason for the season. It doesn’t mean we aren’t grateful. It doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy the holidays. But moms, in most families, take on the lion’s share of the “burden” of making Christmas Day happen in our homes…and we wouldn’t have it any other way!

When our now-18-yr-old was ten years old, she came down with the flu on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. We were ice skating with friends, and suddenly, she wasn’t feeling well. We left immediately and went home, but when I discovered her fever kept going up after taking meds, I took her to Urgent Care just before they closed. She had flu. It was Christmas Eve. She still believed in Santa, and Santa (me) had some work to do that night!

I took her home and put her in my bed, and shortly thereafter, the nausea kicked in. We were up all night till about 6:30am, when she finally fell asleep and Santa (me) could jump into action. Fortunately, that year, I had prepared well ahead of time. I had wrapped all the Santa gifts in advance and put them in a giant black garbage bag in the game room upstairs. I sent my husband up to bring that down, and as soon as our daughter fell asleep (for a total of 30 minutes!), I dashed out to the living room and put the gifts out…just like Santa would do!

But isn’t it that way for most moms? At the holidays, we just have to find ways to make things happen. Burn the turkey? Pull out some frozen chicken pies from the freezer. Forgot to buy milk for a recipe? Call the neighbors and rush over with a cup to pour some from their refrigerator.

And invariably, we purchase and wrap all the gifts. I looked at all the beautifully-wrapped family gifts under our tree this year and realized I had wrapped every single one! Not only that, but I had also purchased every gift! I had spent countless hours shopping online and in local stores, trying to find the perfect gifts for friends and family. And the gifts were all neatly wrapped with beautiful handmade bows (I have a little talent) and placed carefully under the tree. Nope, there wasn’t a wrapped gift for me. My gift was the expensive vacation my daughter and I took right before Christmas…and it was the perfect gift for me. So every gift under the tree had been wrapped by me. And all those stocking stuffers that magically made it into the stockings? Also me. This year, somehow, I had been prepared. I had everything wrapped and ready to go a week before Christmas!

Of course, as things go, there were a few hiccups. I didn’t have time to go grocery shopping when we got back late on Christmas Eve, so on Christmas Day, we had refrigerator and cupboard surprises! Whatever was in there is what I prepared. Chicken/Bean Soup? Yum! Beer Bread? It was gone in two hours…the whole loaf! Chicken Pie from the freezer? Check! Grilled hot dogs? Yep. Chips and my fabulous Fiesta Party Dip? Everybody loved it!

There were gift hiccups too. Our daughter had opened all her wrapped gifts, and afterward, she asked, “I guess you didn’t get a chance to get the stuff from Lululemon?” Panic struck. Had I remembered? It didn’t really matter, because I know she isn’t “doing without,” but I needed to know what had happened! Had I completely forgotten? Or had I ordered it and forgotten what I had done with it? I thought I remembered ordering from Lululemon, so I said, “Let me check.” I grabbed my phone and checked my email, where I found that I had, indeed, ordered from Lululemon…and it had been delivered! I excused myself and went to the room where I had done all the gift wrapping. And there I found the package from Lululemon, still in the shipping package…just as it had arrived. I took it into the living room, where my family was waiting, and I acknowledged my error, but at least I had the goods from Lululemon! I wasn’t completely crazy! In a few minutes, our daughter asked about a necklace she had requested. Hmmm. I knew she had sent me a link. I checked the email again and found that, indeed, I had ordered the necklace. But as I read the email, I realized it wouldn’t arrive till January. Whew! In the overall scheme of things, though, the daughter would have been fine without the Lululemon stuff and the necklace. Her life wouldn’t be any different with or without them. She knows that. I’m sure she just kept expecting to find them, since she had sent me the links, just as I asked her to do. I was glad she had asked! And thankfully, at least I remembered to order them, even if I couldn’t remember what I had done with them!

Various friends dropped in throughout the day, and because I enjoy a good cocktail with friends, the Mimosas (prosecco or champagne + orange juice) and Poinsettias (prosecco or champagne + cranberry juice + a splash of Cointreau orange liqueur) started flowing pretty freely. I played bartender and brought out snacks while we all talked and laughed. We even played a silly game I found online called Merry Dissmas, and we laughed even more! And there’s nothing else I would have wanted to do. It was great fun.

Of course, between the cooking, laughing, talking, and game playing, just like most moms do, I picked up all the wrapping paper (with some help from the hubby and daughter). My husband flattened all the boxes and took them out to the garage. Since we had just returned from vacation twelve hours before we opened gifts, I unpacked suitcases and did a few loads of laundry. But I have to give my husband credit: he cleaned the kitchen really well.

And honestly, I love doing everything for Christmas Day. I love shopping. I love wrapping. I love trying to find something to please the recipients of the gifts. And just like most moms, I love doing everything I can do for my family. It’s part of what makes it a Merry Christmas for me. I hope I’ll get to keep shopping, wrapping, making bows, cooking, tending bar, and everything else for Christmas Day for many years to come.

It’s what moms do.

And on December 26, after Christmas Day is over, we rest…unless our kids are still small, and then there’s no rest for Mom.

A Holiday Village

A holiday village.

Today started as a a standard Saturday morning. I got up at about 8:30 and prepared breakfast. OK, so I don’t do that every Saturday, but I should. Our daughter had a 10am lacrosse game, so I wanted to make sure she had plenty of energy…scrambled eggs, bacon, grits, and “special” toast. (I’ll post info about that later.)

After breakfast, she got dressed quickly and left for the field. After loading the dishwasher, I slapped on a little makeup and threw on some comfy yoga pants and a sweatshirt before going to the field with my husband. The girls won their game, and we all headed home.

As soon as our daughter got home at about 11:25, she told me she needed to get cleaned up before going to a Secret Santa party, but she had to stop and purchase a gift on the way. I felt my pulse quicken and my blood pressure rising, because I knew she would have to drive 20 minutes to the party. There was no way she could pull it all off.

I asked her, “Do you want me to run to a boutique and get a gift? You could stop by there on your way to the party and get it from me.” She agreed that was a good plan, and I was off to the boutique…showerless and in the same yoga pants/hoodie I had worn to the lacrosse game…clothes I shouldn’t have even worn to a Saturday morning sporting event, and I definitely shouldn’t have worn them to a boutique. But there was no time to change. I had planned to take a shower after the game, but that could wait.

I arrived at the boutique and immediately found a gift. Just as I was taking it up to pay for it and get it wrapped, a friend of my daughter’s walked in. I knew she was shopping for the same party, and she knew why I was there. She then very graciously offered to take the gift to the party so my daughter wouldn’t have to make an extra stop. Wow! Things were coming together!

When I got back to my car, I called my daughter and told her she could go straight to the party, because her friend was taking her gift.

My morning had not gone as planned, but disaster had been averted! It had taken a village, but it had all worked out. Of course, as a mom, I was the only one who still needed a shower.

I posted about it on Facebook, and one friend said, “Kinda makes you worry that she’ll be fine on her own at college next year, doesn’t it?” Indeed, it does. But I can’t get too crazy about it, because I was the same person at 18. And I went off to college, and somehow, things worked out.

I was lucky I found a supportive village in college pretty quickly. I made great lifelong friends, and I’m sure they can all tell stories of rescuing me in different situations, just like I can tell stories of rescuing them in different situations. That’s how bonds form, right? And it’s how memories are made in college. Every time I spend time with friends from colleges, we talk about shared experiences…and often the stories involve disasters we averted!

It made me realize that next year at this time, our daughter will be having Secret Santa parties at her university. And I find myself hoping she finds a good village there…a holiday village that helps her…and a village in which she will help others. When she needs that last-minute gift and can’t get it, I hope someone will jump into action for her. And when a member of her village needs help carrying lots of boxes from the parking lot to her dorm room, my daughter will help her. It’s what makes friendships.

We all need villages to help us raise our kids. I thank the Lord every day for the village that helped me get our daughter to 18. I talk often about how I don’t know how I would have survived without my friends in our toddler playgroup. They have been a part of my village for a long time. We all need villages to help us with those last-minute items. We need villages when we’re sick. And yes, we especially need villages during the holidays…like the one my daughter had today.

I hope when she gets to college hundreds of miles away from me, she finds her village.

Holiday Gifting 2021 (Part 9): Hostess Gifts

Hostess gifts…another favorite gift category!

It’s party season! That means you’ll be on the search for good hostess gifts (which can also serve as great gifts for neighbors). Let’s take a look:

  • Neiman Marcus Holiday Platter. I have been a big fan of these for years, and if you look in my kitchen cupboard, you will learn that quickly. Because I love them so much and find them useful and decorative, they are my traditional gift for some family members and friends…and they make great hostess gifts too. This year’s holiday platter is a lovely shade of green and features a nutcracker. I can hardly wait to add one to my own collection. Priced right now at $30 (down from $40), they make great hostess gifts. Order now and take one to the hostess of the next party you attend! Purchase here.
  • Appoline Measuring Spoons. A fun, little, colorful gift that’s useful in any kitchen! Who wants boring measuring spoons when you can have these little cuties? Get the colorful set of four from Anthropologie for $18 here.
  • Mexican Hot Chocolate Set. From Verve Culture, a great hostess gift…a set for making authentic Mexican hot chocolate. The set includes two clay mugs, a whisk, Villa Real hot chocolate tablets, and recipes. Priced at $45 at The Grommet, it’s a little more expensive than some hostess gifts, but it’s fabulous and memorable. Your hostess will thank you! Purchase here.
  • Frosted Cup Set. I love receiving plastic frosted cups as hostess gifts! Swoozie’s in Charlotte and online has a great selection of different ones. They come in sets of ten cups for just $12.95, and they can be holiday-themed or just about anything else! Purchase them at Swoozie’s here.
  • Ghirardelli Premium Peppermint Hot Cocoa Mix. This comes in a two-pound bag that says right on the front “just add hot water for instant decadence”! Indeed! Where do I sign up?!? It’s fabulous, as most things from Ghirardelli are, and any hostess would love this gift. Priced at $22.99 on Amazon. The hostess and all her family members will love it! Package it in a gift bag with a lovely ribbon. Purchase here.
  • Wine Condoms. Yes, I just mentioned these in the stocking stuffers list, but what a fun hostess gift! The package contains six wine “condoms” you can slip over the top of the bottle to preserve the bottle for later. Priced at $14.99 on Amazon, this is a useful gift that will get some laughs! Purchase here.
  • Grecian Bust Pot. I love these planters, and I would love to find one in a gift bag after hosting a party! No, it’s not a hint. It’s just the truth. Made of hand-painted cement, they come in two sizes. The small is 6.5 inches tall, and the large is 10.75 inches tall. I think they make lovely gifts. Priced at $16.30 for the small and $30.80 for the large, the price point is perfect too! Purchase from Anthropologie here.
  • Eucalyptus blooms. Sounds crazy, but a friend told me someone gave her eucalyptus blooms recently, and she loves them! Your hostess can display them in her home for a pretty accent with a fresh scent, or she can hang them from a shower head in for a spa experience! For those of us who live in Charlotte, we can shop locally with Eucalyptus Blooms, a local company. For those who live elsewhere, you’re in luck too. They ship! See the website here.
  • Bath and Body Works. When my daughter was a little girl, she was obsessed with Bath and Body Works hand sanitizers, and that’s when I became familiar with their hand soaps. I had to kill a lot of time in our local store while she decided which hand sanitizers she wanted. They’re inexpensive ($7.50 for a single hand soap, or six hand soaps for $27.00) and come in lovely packaging. Plus, they smell really good! Someone gave me one last week as a hostess gift for a little party I hosted, and I love it! Purchase here.
  • Flour Sack Tea Towels. I love flour sack tea/kitchen towels. They’re soft. They get the job done. And they can add a little color to a kitchen! I’ve given them as hostess gifts in the past, and I’ve given them as party favors too. I found some on Amazon that are priced right at $18.99 for four towels measuring 28″ x 29″ each! You can gift all three or break up the set and just gift one. Either way, they’re nice, inexpensive gifts. Just tie a pretty Christmas ribbon around them! Or you can wrap a hand soap from Bath and Body Works in one and tie the whole thing with a pretty ribbon! Purchase here.
  • Terra Studios Art. Terra Studios is the home of the Bluebirds of Happiness I’ve written about before…small bluebird figurines that represent happiness, love, and hope. You can read what I’ve written here. But Terra doesn’t just make the Bluebirds! They have lots of different art pieces made of different media for sale on their website, and they make lovely hostess gifts! The prices are incredible, starting under $20, and I love browsing their site. Check out their offerings here.

So if you think you’ll be attending some holiday parties this year, start shopping for hostess gifts now. If you take any of the above, your hostess will love it!

Holiday Gifting (Part 8): Stocking Stuffers!

Holiday Gifting (Part 8): Stocking Stuffers!

This is my very favorite part of holiday shopping. Stocking stuffers are all about fun little surprises, and I love finding all the fun little surprises I can find! Without further ado…here are the finds of 2021:

  • Thrive Causemetics. For the teen daughters or ladies on your holiday list, Thrive Causemetics’ Brilliant Eye Brightener could be the perfect stocking stuffer. I purchased several of these when I saw them advertised on Facebook a year ago, and I love them! I’ve always been a person who had trouble with eye makeup…I’m just not a gifted makeup artist. But this Eye Brightener makes it look like I know what I’m doing! The Muna shade is my favorite for shadowing, but I love the Mieko shade for the upper part of my lid and for highlighting around my eyes. Priced at $24 each or get a set of two for $40…the lady on your list will love these! In fact, I’m ordering some for my Christmas stocking now. See them here.
  • Touchscreen Gloves. These are not a new thing, but not a lot of us have them. If it gets cold enough to wear gloves, the last thing someone wants to do is take them off to text or even answer a call. Purchase these at Amazon starting at $10.99 here. And remember, if you have a Prime membership, you get free shipping.
  • Wine Condoms. Funny name for a great product. Any wine drinkers on your list would love to find these in their stockings, and it’s almost guaranteed they will use them. Watch Mom’s face when she pulls this box of six wine “condoms” out of her stocking! They can be used to save any bottle of wine by simply tearing open the package and slipping it over the top of the bottle. Six to a pack for $14.97 at Amazon here.
  • Lifestraw Personal Water Filter. I have been a believer in the Lifestraw Personal Water Filter since I saw Kristen Hampton demonstrate it on her Kristen Hampton Good News Facebook page.
    She was standing in muddy water and actually drank it through this straw! According to their website, the straw protects against bacteria, parasites, microplastics, dirt, sand and cloudiness. I purchased one for a friend’s daughter who was traveling to Cuba on a mission trip a couple of years ago, and they would be great for outdoor adventures. Right now, you can get them for just $12.99 here. They also offer water filter bottles starting at $26! I love this brand.
  • Satin Hair Scrunchies. I can’t possibly be the only person whose hair breaks frequently from putting it in ponytails. Break no more…I now use satin hair scrunchies, which even smooth my hair while protecting it from breakage. And they look cute too! Get them here.
  • CBD roll-on. If you have someone on your list who needs a little help relaxing, CBD roll-ons can help. I did a little research and found Charlotte’s Web has one that is free of major allergens, doesn’t test on animals, and is paraben-free. It can be used on small areas like temples or wrists, and I’ve read lots of great reviews. Get it at Charlotte’s Web here.
  • No-Crack Hand Cream. My husband has used this for years. During winter, his hands get so dry they crack, but this stuff has helped immensely. Highly recommend for anyone on your list who has the same problem or for anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors during winter. It soothes and moisturizes. Get it at Duluth Trading here.
  • Lash Primer. For my birthday last year, Milani Lash Primer was included in a basket my daughter gave me. The first time I used it, I knew it was good stuff. I’ve tried other primers, but they haven’t worked as well as this one. I love it, and I tell everyone I know to get it. At 54, my lashes aren’t what they used to be, but this makes them look a lot better by making mascara go on more evenly and last longer. Get it at Ulta here.
  • Portable Charger. You’ve heard me preach about portable chargers for years, and I’m not stopping yet, because I am a believer in them. They’re great anytime you can’t plug in. Have kids going off to college? They can use these on planes to make sure their phones are always charged. I recommend the Anker PowerCore 26800, because it’s fast and recharges phones up to six times when it’s fully charged. Get it at Amazon here. I also recommend the ZeroLemon ToughJuice 2.0. It’s heavy, but I’ve had one for a long time, and it continuously gives me fast charges and lasts a long time. In fact, I used it on vacation last week for four days (off and on, but charging my phone overnight), and it never lost power. Get it at ZeroLemon for $49.99 here.
  • Phone Soap. And while you’re gifting phone appliances, think about Phone Soap for your family member who touches their phone a lot. Just think about how many germs you transfer from your hands to your phone…and then to your face every time you use it! Phone Soap is a device that sanitizes your phone while it charges. And it comes in difference colors! Get it for $79.95 at Amazon here. And don’t forget you get free shipping with Amazon Prime!
  • Anthropologie Monogram Pendant Necklace. This is a nice personal gift that fits perfectly into a stocking for the people who love pretty little necklaces. It’s delicate, and it’s personalized. Get it at Anthropologie for $38 here. It’s a bargain!
  • Poo-Pourri. Anybody who knows me knows I put Poo-Pourri in stockings at our house every year. I purchase different sizes for different needs, including purse-sizes that can travel with you. It’s a great invention. If you’re not familiar with it, you should be. To see a video commercial, click here. Yes, it’s crude, but it’s funny. I’ve purchased some of the Champagne and Rosé ones this year, and I also ordered some of their hand sanitizers, because I love the scent! To see everything Poo-Pourri has to offer, click here.
  • Keychain Tool. What’s more handy than a keychain tool? Think about all those times you needed a nail file, a pair of scissors, or even some pliers and didn’t have them handy. If you had a keychain tool from Leatherman, you’d always be prepared. Surely someone on your list would love to find this in their stocking! Get it here for under $30.
  • Breathalyzer. A breathalyzer comes in handy in lots of situations, and this one from BACtrack is professional grade. We have two of them at our house. It’s DOT and NHSAA approved. At $129.99, it’s not cheap, but it could save a life or be a good teaching tool. Maybe someone needs it to keep teenagers in check? Sometimes it’s just fun to see how fast your body has metabolized a drink or two. Get it here.
  • Adult Coloring Books. And when I say “adult,” I simply mean they are more detailed than kid coloring books. Sounds crazy I know, but coloring is very relaxing. Remember when you were a kid and could get lost in a coloring book? Well, it can happen for adults too. I’d love to find one or two in my Christmas stocking. Make sure you get some crayons or colored pencils to go with it. Get it here.
  • For girls/ladies: nail polish, fun socks, hair products, nail files, mints, toiletries.
  • For boys/men: razors, shaving cream, after shave, toiletries, nail files, fun socks.
Harry’s Razors
  • For kids: Card games like Uno, Spot it, Old Maid, Slap Jack, Go Fish… kids love finding games in their stockings. Just be prepared to play with them! Other great things for kids’ stockings: old school marbles, jacks, Legos, Polly Pocket, LOL Surprise Dolls, Barbie dolls, Barbie accessories, Little People, Matchbox cars, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, Crayola Bathtub Markers, coloring books, crayons, colored pencils, fidget toys, mittens, winter hats, even retro hand-held games like Electronic Quarterback. Remember that? You can find it on Amazon here.
  • Gift Cards. Think of the recipient and what he/she likes. Do they like fast food? Consider Chick-Fil-A, McDonald’s, Firehouse Subs, Five Guys, Subway, and even pizza places. Coffee? Get Starbucks, Caribou, Dunkin’ Donuts, or a local coffee shop. Do they like dine-in restaurants? Think of a few in your area. Do they enjoy movies? Most theaters offer gift cards. Even airlines and hotel chains offer gift cards.
ChickFila gift cards
  • Scratch-off lottery tickets. These are always in the stockings at our house, partly because you never know if you’ll win, but also because it adds a little more excitement to Christmas morning. Everybody at our house loves finding scratch-offs in their stockings.
NC Education Lottery Scratch Off
  • Candy! We always have candy in our stockings! Even when I was a kid, I loved dumping out my stocking on the floor and finding lots of candy! Now, it’s fun to add some retro favorites. My personal favorites? Zotz! I loved them as a kid, and I loved sharing them with my friend, Wendy, as an adult…she passed away in 2018, and every time I see Zotz, I think of her. You can find lots of retro assortments at Amazon here. Or from Mast General Store here.

There are some ideas for stocking stuffers for 2021. Get busy shopping!