Holiday Gift for Someone Who Needs Sleep

Holiday gift for someone who needs sleep.

Last week, I was watching Shark Tank. I rarely sit down and actually watch it. Usually, my husband is watching, and it’s just background noise for me. But this time, a product got my attention…the Sleep Pod from Hug Sleep.

I’m forever looking for the next product to help me sleep. In my whole adult life, I can likely count on one hand the number of times I’ve slept through the night. Therefore, I always have my ears and eyes open for new products or ideas to help my sleep. And I’ve tried them all…some work better than others. Some things that have helped: MyPillow brand pillow, low-dose melatonin, and a little lavender spray on my pillow. I’ve mentioned a weighted blanket before. While my husband loves his weighted blanket on his legs while he sleeps, I don’t. I just get hot, and it’s just too much for me. It’s great when I’m just sitting watching TV, but not so great for sleeping. But from what I understand about the Sleep Pod, the fabric from which it is made is very breathable and not hot...important.

So when I saw the makers of the Sleep Pod on Shark Tank, it got my attention. I know, “sleep pod” sounds weird, and at first glance, it is weird. You step into it like you’re putting on pants and pull the stretchy fabric up over your shoulders, creating a sort of cocoon. According to the website, it’s “designed around the science of Deep Touch Pressure Therapy that can help you fall asleep faster, and stay asleep longer.” As soon as I read that, I was sold.

The site also says the pod applies a “gentle, calming pressure to your entire body, much like a hug.” Don’t we all know hugs help reduce anxiety? In fact, I think hugs can even help lower blood pressure and pulse rate. And haven’t we all been missing out on some hugs during the whole pandemic isolation? I know I have. I like to hug my friends and family, and even when I’m able to meet friends for lunch at outdoor dining areas these days, I can’t hug them.

I’ve ordered Sleep Pods from Hug Sleep for my whole family for Christmas. But there is a catch. Right now, their demand is through the roof, so you can get on the waitlist by placing an order through their website here. You don’t even have to pay right now. They’ll get payment information from you when your order is ready. The regular price for the Sleep Pod is $110, but if you place your order now, you can get it for $79.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t know when they plan to have these things ready. I’m hoping they are ready for the holidays, but if they’re not, I will make cards for my husband and daughter, letting them know their Sleep Pods have been ordered. My husband thought they looked awesome on Shark Tank too, so I’m hoping he will be excited. Yes, I ordered one for me for Christmas too.

So yes, I’m making this recommendation based solely on what I saw on Shark Tank. I never do that, but this product really got my attention. And if you’re like me and will do almost anything for a good night’s sleep, you’re ready to sign up for your Sleep Pod too! Order now at the link above, so you don’t fall farther down the wait list!

A Girly Gift Idea for Christmas

A girly gift idea for Christmas.

I’m slightly behind the curve on my Christmas shopping this year. Usually by the first week of November, I’m well underway and have most of my shopping done. 2020? Not so much. But I do know one brand that will save me this year for any friends and family with whom I exchange gifts.

Haute Shore.

That’s the name of the brand…Haute Shore. I discovered it in June when I made one of multiple trips to the beach. On this particular trip, I was in the Florida Panhandle, and I stumbled upon these adorable neoprene (yes, neoprene) handbags that I simply couldn’t resist. Literally, the first one I saw was displayed on a chair just inside the door of a lovely boutique called Willow in Inlet Beach. I could not walk past it the camouflage crossbody bag with an orange and pink striped handle. It was love at first sight. So I bought it. And it’s in my handbag rotation. When I need a larger casual, crossbody bag, I go with that one. It’s the Peyton bag. I have since purchased the Casey bag, a smaller crossbody that just holds my phone, cash, ID, and credit cards. And I always get compliments on both.

My teenage daughter and I don’t always agree on bags, but even she admires my Haute Shore bags. She isn’t one to carry a handbag…it’s a generational thing, I think. But she definitely always needs a weekender bag. Right now, she is using a cute purple weekender I got her for Christmas years ago, but in my opinion, it’s time to retire that thing. I tried to retire it by purchasing her a Longchamp weekender a few years ago. She used it a couple of times, and then I realized she wasn’t using it anymore, so I adopted it. It’s personalized with an “M,” which could be for her last name or first name, but I think it’s fine for me to use it, since my last name starts with “M.”

Since I still need to make her retire the old purple weekender, I’ve decided she is going to receive a Haute Shore neoprene called the Morgan. The one I like for her is the Morgan Elite…it’s camo with pink striped straps. It measures 21″ x 10″ x 12″…the perfect size for a weekender. I think she’ll love it, and at $140, it’s a bargain. Heck, I might even get one to wrap up for myself at that price! I think it would be a hit with any teenage girl…or mom…or aunt…for that matter!

But my love for Haute Shore doesn’t stop there. I love everything they offer! The Buttercup, a well-known boutique in Charlotte, sells some Haute Shore products. I know they offer a huge assortment of totes from Haute Shore, and they’re priced right at $105! The store is located at 353 Providence Road in Charlotte, or you can order online here. If you go into the store, though, you can peruse their awesome selection of gifts, so I highly recommend a visit!

If you’d like to see the entire collection of Haute Shore products, you can check out their website here. Sale prices for some smaller items start at $25. There are so many great colors and bag size options that I have difficulty deciding on just one! From wristlets to weekenders…the choices are amazing! Therefore, in addition to the Morgan Elite I will be giving my daughter, I know I will be gifting a few Casey bags to some friends and family members who can use a cute little crossbody bag for when they are out and about.

Haute Shore is making it easy for me to get lots of my holiday shopping done this year!

Holding Out for Puerto Rico

Holding out for Puerto Rico.

My 2020 vacations, so far, are a bust. I haven’t left the city of Charlotte since January…well, except for a brief drive into South Carolina just to see what an open economy looked like earlier this month. Just like most of the people in the United States, I’ve been stuck at home since March. I was supposed to go on a spring break trip with my daughter and some friends, but we cancelled two days before our departure date, because of the coronavirus. It was the right thing to do, but dang! I miss going places! I miss travel!

Different people have different things they miss about “normal life.” What do you miss? I know lots of people, including me, miss sports! The world just isn’t the same without live sports! Sometimes I get my sports fix by watching an old game or turning on an ESPN 30 for 30, but it’s just not the same. I know lots of people miss their coworkers. My daughter misses her school. Yes, she misses her school. There was a time, when she was in 8th grade, that she thought she wanted to change schools. She has gone to the same school since transitional kindergarten, and I get it…she thought she wanted to change. I think 8th grade is a time when kids want more independence and control. I took her to visit a couple of schools, and I let her make the decision. Sometimes kids need a change, and sometimes they just think they do. She decided to stay where she was, and earlier this school year, she told me she knew she made the right decision. She said, “I go to the perfect school for me.” It was like music to my ears! I think she just needed to know she had some control of her own destiny. In just two short years, she will be a proud graduate of her school, but right now, she misses her school…and her friends there…and her sports there…the staff there…her coaches…and yes, her teachers too.

I miss all that, but I really miss vacations. Our first couple of trips for summer have cancelled, simply because they were in coronavirus hotspots. I don’t know if I’ll even get on a plane this summer, and that’s heartbreaking, but yes, I know it’s a first world problem. I know. I am thankful my family is healthy. I am thankful we live in a place that we have been able to go outdoors during all this. But it’s OK if I miss vacations. We all have things we love that we are missing, and I’m missing vacations…new experiences…new people…even familiar experiences and people.

Sure, we are going to the beach a couple of times, and we will have lots of fun, but I will miss the bigger trips.

I have a vacation planned for the middle of July with a friend from college and our teenage daughters. We planned a trip to Puerto Rico months ago. My friend’s daughter just graduated from high school…she’s one of the the high school grads of 2020 who didn’t get to have a real graduation ceremony…or a prom…or lots of other special memories. When we planned the trip, coronavirus was barely on our minds, and while we haven’t worried about our trip, because it’s entirely out of our control, we are constantly saying to each other, “I hope we can go.”

My daughter and I went to Puerto Rico in 2017 with some friends from Ohio, and we loved it. As it turned out, Hurricane Maria hit the island a couple of weeks after we left. We know it’s not the same, but we want to go, because we know the people are wonderful. We know it’s a beautiful island with lots of friendly people, history, and great food. Honestly, I remember telling my friend, “I’d come back just for the food!” No joke…the food is the best! And the people! Without making this piece sound like an advertisement for Puerto Rico tourism, I can honestly say it is one of my favorite places ever. It’s easy to get to, and there are no long lines for customs and immigration, because it’s a US territory! The historical sites on the island are incredibly well-preserved. The beaches are beautiful. There’s a big city and a beautiful rainforest! The bioluminescent bays are natural wonders. And did I mention the people and the food?!?! I have met lovely people there, and they love their island; they want other people to love it too! To learn more about Puerto Rico, click here.

And now, we have plans to go back. We might not get to go to some of the destinations we wanted to visit this summer, but we’re holding out for Puerto Rico. Plus, their economy was ravaged by the hurricane in 2017…now this pandemic. Let’s support our friends in Puerto Rico!

Fingers crossed.

 

Memorial Day

Memorial Day.

It’s more than just a day to gather for a picnic with family and friends. It’s more than just the beginning of summer. It’s more than a day off from work.

Lots of folks think Memorial Day is a day to honor all veterans. Nope…that’s Veteran’s Day, observed in November. This federal holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, is for honoring and memorializing military personnel who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country…they died while serving our country.

Don’t get me wrong. there is nothing wrong with gathering with friends and family on Memorial Day weekend. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating the beginning of summer. But the actual purpose of this particular holiday is to remember and memorialize those made the ultimate sacrifice to make freedom possible and keep it possible in this country.

When I was growing up, we gathered with family and friends on Memorial Day, often at my grandparents’ house, but my parents always made sure we, at the very least, talked about the meaning of the holiday. My grandfather served in World War II, but we were fortunate he came home safe and sound, as did his brother. I can’t remember hearing of any family members who lost their lives in the line of duty, but my parents always made us aware that our freedom “wasn’t free.” People lost their lives so we could be free.

I think, this year, with the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have learned a little something extra about freedom. It has forced me to spend a lot of time thinking about freedom and how fortunate we are to live in a country where we have freedom. Sure, it has been limited in the last couple of months, but we know this is temporary. Can you imagine what it would be like if these limitations on our freedom were permanent? If we risked arrest for leaving our homes without permission? Or if we risked living out our lives in a work camp for speaking out against our government? I don’t claim to understand all the other cultures and governments of the world, but I know that in this country, if we aren’t happy with the government, we can, at the very least, vocalize our unhappiness. Remember, people in North Korea can’t do that. If they speak out against the government, they can be killed or sent to work camps.

Several years ago, I read a book called Escape from Camp 14, by Blaine Harden, based on the life and journey of a man named Shin Dong-hyuk, the only former prisoner known to have escaped from an internment camp in North Korea. It was eye-opening and disturbing. In fact, I’m going to read it again, just to revisit the details. It truly made me thankful that I live in the United States, but I think it will be especially meaningful now. If you’d like to read it, you can order from Amazon here.

While Memorial Day is always meaningful to me, this year, it will have more meaning. I will sit down with my family over breakfast Monday and talk about the meaning of the holiday. Weather permitting, my husband and I will take a walk through a cemetery near our home. Unfortunately, we don’t have any small flags to place on the graves of those who lost their lives in the line of duty this year, but we will remember those who lost their lives while fighting for our country’s (and the world’s) freedom.

Happy Memorial Day to you and your family.

 

 

 

Easter Baskets in Social Distancing

Easter is almost here! Sure, there won’t be any church services inside the actual buildings, but there are services on TV, and a friend in Florida tells me there is a church near her that has outdoor services every Sunday. People stay in their cars in the parking lot and listen to the service over a radio frequency, or they can open their windows and hear it through a microphone, with the minister standing on a big stage in front of the parking lot. If we look for it, we can find a worship service of some sort. Check websites of churches in your area for information.

And no, our children don’t have to miss out on the Easter Bunny experience. It’s not like I can just walk into stores this year and get the goodies for the baskets, but I’ve gotten it done.

I went to the Target website to see what I could find there. Target is where I normally get baskets and candy every Easter, but I’m not going to Target right now, so the website is the next best thing. There, I found some baskets they would ship, and I found the usual candies: Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs, Easter grass, Easter M&Ms, Whoppers Robin Eggs, Twizzlers and Jolly Ranchers, and Russell Stover Easter Milk Chocolate Dip-It Rabbit (with Jif peanut butter for dipping). I also ordered some Neutrogena Makeup Wipes for Easter baskets, because my daughter goes through them pretty quickly! Go to Target.com and order now!

I just have one daughter, who is a teenager, but a local friend sleeps over at our house the night before Easter every year. They wake up together and come downstairs to have breakfast and see what the Easter Bunny left them! Last year, we were lucky to have another friend in from Ohio too, so the three teens were together Easter morning. That won’t happen this year, but I told my daughter we can still deliver an Easter basket to her friend’s front porch on Easter morning. She’ll be surprised, and it will be a little joy for us.

Because I can’t shop in the usual smaller shops I normally would, I decided to try some different things, and here are some things I found:

  • Beach towels. A fun gift that says, “Summer is almost here,” beach towels can be purchased at lots of online shops. I found some really cute ones at Life Is Good. You can see their selection here. They’re pricey, but they are quality towels. We have some we have had for ten or twelve years, and they all hold up really well. Target has beach towels too. You can see them here. I purchased two of the Llamas in a Car beach towels for our daughter and her friend. They’re really cute and just $10. They offer others too! You can also find some inexpensive ones at Walmart.comSun-Day-Beach-Towel_60100_1_lg
  • Pajama pants. There are cute pajama pants at lots of sites, but I ended up ordering some really cute ones from Life is Good, on sale for just $17.99 each, and you know they’re good quality if they’re coming from Life is Good. See their website here.Womens-Palm-Print-Snuggle-Up-Sleep-Pant_60125_1_lg
  • Cookies. Y’all, I love Cheryl’s cookies. Sugar cookies with buttercream frosting? Yes, please! And Cheryl’s has all sorts of Easter cookie gifts. There are buckets and basket and gift tins. Just go look! And some of them are even on sale! See the website here! In Charlotte, we also have Tiff’s Treats, and they will deliver! My 16-yr-old declared their M&M cookies to be the best cookies she has ever eaten! Order here.
  • Baked by Melissa. A friend gave me Baked by Melissa bite-sized cupcakes for my birthday a couple of years ago, and I was hooked! We order regularly now, and they have some great flavors for spring! And they really are bite-sized, so that means “guilt free”! Order now to get them to your house before Easter! See the website here!
  • Religious gifts. Christianbook.com has some lovely cross gifts starting at under $10.  There are palm-sized comfort crosses, wall crosses and cross jewelry. Crosses make great, meaningful gifts at Easter. They also have Bibles, which always make great gifts. See the website here. 3736049_2_adv

Whatever you decide to do, I hope you have a beautiful Easter with your family. Unfortunately, we can’t gather with extended family, but this is a great year to count our blessings and thank the Lord for what we do have as opposed to the freedom we have lost temporarily. Say a prayer for those who are sick and those who have lost loved ones.

 

 

Practicing My Spanish! (¡Practicando mi Español!)

Practicing my Spanish. (Practicando mi Español.)

When I was in ninth grade, I took Spanish. I don’t remember if a foreign language was required then, but I took it because I knew the Spanish teacher took students with her to Mexico every year, and I wanted to go on that trip. What I didn’t know is that I would love the language and the people of Mexico.

Of course, in the 1980s, we had no way of seeing the future. We didn’t know Spanish would be a hot commodity in the 2000s. Back then, everybody was telling us we needed to learn Russian and Japanese, because it appeared as if Japan would be an economic superpower. Maybe it is. I don’t know, but one thing I do know is that Spanish is something we can use every single day in this country.

So in 1982, I took Spanish just so I could do the Mexico trip with some of my classmates. I’ve written about it before. Five girls from the class went with our pregnant teacher and a friend of hers as our chaperones. The teacher was an awesome Spanish teacher, but we ran pretty unsupervised through Mexico City for days. Mexico City was our first stop, and to this day, I still love that city. After Mexico City, we visited Taxco and Acapulco…back when it was safe to visit Acapulco. I took more Spanish classes as a result of that trip.

I have visited Mexico City (and other cities in Mexico) numerous times since then, and I love it every time. I find that every time I visit, after a few days, my Spanish improves by leaps and bounds. I have friends in Charlotte who are from Mexico, Venezuela, and other Latin American countries, so I get to practice my Spanish some, but it’s a lot of fun to visit  other countries and speak Spanish.

This summer, we are taking several vacations, but the only place I will visit where Spanish is the first language is Puerto Rico. I’ll practice it some, but usually, I find that, in Puerto Rico, when I ask a question in Spanish, they answer me in English. I continue speaking my terrible version of Spanish till they usually humor me by speaking some Spanish back to me. So I have a long list of Latin American countries I really want to visit in the next few years. I’ve been to Costa Rica and Peru, but I have other countries I’d like to visit: Argentina and Panama top the list.

But for now, I’ll get to practice my Spanish in Puerto Rico and just hope some folks there will cooperate. I know a few words I will definitely use while I’m there. I’ll exchange the regular greetings, and then, pretty soon after we arrive, I’ll use this word: churro. Yes, you know that word, and if you don’t, you’re missing out. The hotel where we will stay has some fabulous churros, so I’ll be saying that word really early in the trip when I place my first order! Next word? Alcapurrias! Actually, I’m not even sure that’s a Spanish word, but I’ll be using that word, because I know the pool bar serves great alcapurrias. Not familiar? They’re beef-filled, fried fritters. I can’t make them, but I can eat them! And only one more food word: mallorca! Pan de mallorca is actually a sweet bread made in Puerto Rico, modeled after a bread made in Majorca, Spain. Restaurants make sandwiches with the bread, and my very favorite thing to order is a mallorca con huevo, queso, y jamón (egg, cheese, and ham).

Seriously, I don’t just speak Spanish to order foods. When I’m visiting a country where Spanish is the first language, I try to use my Spanish as much as I can, and I try to learn new words. I love to come home with an expanded vocabulary.

I’m excited about Puerto Rico waaaaay to early, and next year, maybe I’ll make it to Argentina!

 

 

 

I Won’t Get Jewelry for Valentine’s Day

I won’t get jewelry for Valentine’s Day.

That’s one thing I know for sure. My husband and I agreed a long time ago that Valentine’s Day isn’t a time for us to exchange big gifts. It’s a little celebration that means little gifts. In fact, if my husband got me jewelry for Valentine’s Day, I’d be a little upset with him. Long ago, my husband learned that I’d rather have a vacation than jewelry, so he just lets me plan my own vacations, and frankly, I think he loves that the pressure is off.

Every year, we also pretend “Cupid” came by our house on the eve of Valentine’s Day. Cupid always leaves a few little gifts for our daughter, who is now 16 and thinks the whole Cupid thing is ridiculous, but she likes the little treats anyway. Remember how I mentioned my teenage daughter’s eye rolls in my piece about work pants? Well, when we tell her Cupid visited (or the leprechaun visited on St. Patrick’s Day), we get one of those eye rolls.

Cupid is bringing bite-sized cupcakes from Baked by Melissa this year for the whole family! You might still have time to order if you do it quickly! Order here.

Since it’s getting a little late for ordering things for Valentine’s Day, here are some things you can get locally at the last minute:

  • Valentine card. I know, it sounds obvious, but lots of us forget to get or make an old-fashioned Valentine card. In fact, maybe I’ll make a card for my husband this year. I love a good craft. That doesn’t mean I’m always good at crafts, but it’s the thought that counts, right? Country Living has some great DIY card ideas here.
  • Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. Krispy Kreme has some heart shaped doughnuts with icing for Valentine’s Day this year, and my mouth waters just thinking about them. I was talking with a single friend yesterday and told her to go buy some Krispy Kreme Valentine doughnuts to celebrate her love for herself. In fact, I  might have to pick up a dozen for me too!
  • Dunkin’ Donuts. Dunkin’ Donuts also offers heart-shaped donuts for the special day. I love Dunkin’ Donuts too…and I’d love to get Medium Iced Coffee with cream and four Splendas with those Donuts!
  • Chick-Fil-A heart-shaped trays. Chicken is the new chocolate! ChickFilA got in on the Valentine’s Day game a couple of years ago, and this year, they are continuing the tradition. You can get ChickFilA Chicken Minis, nuggets, or their chocolate chunk cookies in a heart-shaped tray. I’d love for my husband to surprise me with breakfast in bed this weekend! What says “I love you” more than some Chick-Fil-A Chicken Minis served in a heart-shaped tray?! Hint hint, honey! You can read Chick-fil-A’s blog post about them here.
  • Papa John’s Pizza. Papa John’s will deliver a heart-shaped pizza right to your house! Right now, they have a special…a heart-shaped pizza plus a brownie for $16! That’s delicious and inexpensive! Order on the website here.
  • Olive Garden. I don’t even know the last time I stepped foot into an Olive Garden, but I do remember some yummy bread and salad from there. Well, they have a Valentine’s Day Dinner to Go for Two that starts at $35.99. For that price, you get breadsticks with a choice of soup or salad, a choice of dipping sauce, an entree for two (Chicken Alfredo or Five Cheese Ziti al forno), and a dessert to share. It’s actually a good deal and a good idea! You can order here.
  • Flowers. Sure, you can order from your local florist, which is always a great way to surprise your Valentine and a great way to support the local economy. But if you find yourself in a bind on Valentine’s Day, you might be able to find some beautiful fresh flowers in your local grocery store.
  • Any Favorite Bakery item. My husband has surprised me with some of my favorite bakery items for Valentine’s Day, and I’m always thrilled by that. One year, he brought me a patty cake sized chocolate cake with buttercream icing, and very little makes me happier than that.
  • Gift card/certificate. I have lots of friends who would love to receive a gift card or certificate for a mani/pedi or for a massage at a local spa. Or maybe your loved one would rather have a night out? You can give a restaurant gift card, and instead of going out on a very crowded Valentine’s Day that falls on a Friday this year, promise to go on another night!
  • Coffee in bed. Lots of people would love nothing more than a good cup of coffee served in bed first thing in the morning.
  • Bottle of Champagne. What’s more romantic than a bottle of Champagne? You can run into your local grocery store or wine store and grab it on the way home on Valentine’s Day!
  • Cheap Valentine’s Candy. Last year I wrote how one of my favorite Valentine’s gifts was a box of conversation hearts from someone I’d only gone out with once. It was perfectly simple and sweet. You can run into any local Target, Walmart, or grocery store and grab some different Valentine’s candies for you Valentine. I love Reese’s Peanut Butter Hearts myself.

It’s just two days away, so we’re down to the wire for Valentine’s Day gifts. Hopefully, you got a few ideas here. Personally, I’d love to wake up with coffee and Chick-Fil-A Chicken Minis in bed, followed by the special Valentine lunch from Olive Garden with a bottle of Champagne, and maybe order a heart-shaped pizza from Papa John’s before having every possible heart-shaped doughnut in town for dessert! Oh, and I’d need some iced coffee somewhere in there too.

Hoping you have a Happy Valentine’s Day!

We Save $$$ Traveling with Friends

We save money traveling with friends…and make some great memories at the same time!

I’m always thinking about the next vacation. My husband just rolls his eyes every time I say, “You know where I want to go next?” He rolls his eyes because he does not have wanderlust, and I do. He loves being home, and he loves visiting the beach where he grew up. That’s fine, but I like to go to different places. That doesn’t mean I don’t repeat places, but the places I like are different than what he likes. No, it’s not a problem, because he doesn’t care when I vacation without him, and I don’t mind when he vacations without me. We’re married, but that doesn’t mean we have to be together 24/7.

My daughter and I travel with friends quite often, and we love it for so many reasons!

Our 16-yr-old daughter is an only child, and I have a cousin and several friends who also have “only children,” so it’s fun to travel with them. I get to catch up with my friends or my cousin, and my daughter has fun with their daughters.

Aside from the fun factor, it saves money for all of us, and we get to do more! How does it save money? Well, we always travel with friends we love…people we enjoy sharing space with. For example, this summer, we are going to a Caribbean destination with a friend from Alabama and her daughter. When we both had daughters, we joked that they would have to be best friends whether they wanted to or not…and fortunately, they love each other! As for the money savings, we share a hotel room or suite. Because we are sharing, we are splitting the cost, making it much more affordable for both of us. It doesn’t save us anything on airfare, but we manage to save a lot anyway.

In fact, this summer, we will do trips with three different friends and a cousin, and it’s all possible, because we aren’t spending a fortune on the rooms/suites, even though we will have beautiful, top-of-the-line accommodations! But we don’t just save on the room. We also save on rental cars, taxi rides, Uber rides, and gas costs. Seriously, it all adds up, and at the end of a five day trip, we are usually amazed at how much we saved by sharing the costs with friends.

Another way to save on travel? Consult a travel agent. I used to work at a travel agency, so I know they often are aware of specials the general public might not know about. Planning a trip to the Caribbean? Let an agent help you. Planning a cruise? Let an agent help you find the perfect one!

Maybe you want to book your own hotel reservation? One quick thing about hotels: when you are making a reservation, always check the special offers. Sometimes, they offer a fifth night free. Sometimes, they offer suites at a discount, but if you don’t check into it, you might be paying the same thing for a room that you could be paying for a much larger space. And always…always…always…continue to check the rates even after you book your reservation. Last year, after I booked our hotel for spring break, I kept checking, and the rates kept going down. I ended up with a rate that was $500 less (total) than the original rate I booked.

Other good ways to save when traveling? Some credit cards offer extra points for dollars spent while traveling, and you can get cash back. I have a credit card that gives me cash back for every dollar we spend, and we get a greater percentage if we apply it to travel. In fact, we try to pay for everything we can on that credit card, and the savings add up fast! I pay for two vacations a year with the points from that card! And don’t forget your frequent flyer miles and hotel rewards programs. If you haven’t signed up for the rewards programs of hotels where you stay, you are just throwing money away. Registration is always free for the programs, and you get points that can add up to free hotel rooms. Seriously, last year, we had 12 free nights in hotels. That’s real money.

And anyone can check out The Points Guy’s website here. The website has a plethora of information about travel savings, but one of the first points he makes is one of the points I’ve already made: get a credit card that will maximize your cash back or points for travel. He says, “By using your debit card [instead of a credit card with rewards], you are spending money and getting nothing in return.”

Travel doesn’t have to cost you a fortune, and it’s a lot more fun when you make memories with people you love! So if you want a surefire way to save on travel, grab a friend and split some costs! That’s my favorite way to save on vacation costs!

 

Favorite February Things

Favorite February Things.

This is the first year I have heard so many people complaining about January! Everywhere I turn, it seems like people are saying, “January has been the longest six months ever.” Or “When will January finally end?!” Well, it’s over, folks. February is here, and there are so many great things about February. Here are some of my favorites:

Sadie Hawkins Dance. We never had a Sadie Hawkins Dance at our school when I was growing up. At my daughter’s school, they refer to it as “Sadie’s.” In case you don’t know, it’s a dance to which girls invite boys as their dates. It’s fun just to see them all get dressed up. Lots of them go to dinner at a country club, restaurant, or someone’s home. This year, my daughter and her crew are taking pictures at a friend’s house and then going to Waffle House for dinner. I love it. Not familiar with Waffle House? It’s a southern thing. Check the website here. And who knew they sold merchandise on their website? You can get this awesome t-shirt for just $18!Screen_Shot_2019-07-16_at_1.13.00_PM_1024x1024@2x

Ice Cream for Breakfast Day. I wouldn’t be opposed to having ice cream for breakfast every day, but I recently discovered there is actually an official Ice Cream for Breakfast Day. This year, it’s tomorrow, February 1st. To see some lower calorie ideas to celebrate the day, click here.retina_hungry-girl-healthy-banana-split-pie-recipe-20190329-1849-16905-0283

Groundhog Day. I’ve always been a fan of Groundhog Day, February 2nd…ever since my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Ella Mae Peavy, told us about it in 1973. To a five-year-old, there’s something fascinating about an animal predicting the weather. And frankly, there’s something fascinating about groundhogs, in general. Add in the fact that I love the Bill Murray movie, Groundhog Day, and it’s a perfect storm. You know what I’ll be watching Sunday. You can see it for a fee on Amazon Prime here.71+dMjmPLSL._AC_UY436_QL65_ML3_

Super Bowl. There’s a lot of fun at the beginning of the month this year, since Super Bowl Sunday also falls on Groundhog Day. It’s like double the fun! It’s no secret that I love football, and even though I don’t “have a dog in the fight” this year, I will still enjoy watching it. And the commercials! To see some Hungry Girl recipes for some fun Super Bowl food, click here.photo-1566577739112-5180d4bf9390

Valentine’s Day. Some people think Valentine’s Day is just torture for single people, but I’ve never looked at it that way. Single? Go out and buy yourself some candy! Who says someone else needs to give you flowers and candy? I love Louis Sherry chocolates so much that I wrote a piece about them last year. You can see it here. My husband always sends me some flowers or candies for Valentine’s Day, but there’s no rule that says I can’t order a little something for myself too! I love Baked by Melissa mini cupcakes, and I always recommend them as a special treat for friends and family. They’re bite-sized, so the portions are perfect. Order themhere. And if you just want to run to your local Target, you can always grab some Reese’s Peanut Butter Hearts…I know this, because I’ve been eating them for weeks.

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Presidents Day. A long weekend? Yes, please! Of course, we all need to remember the reason we have this long weekend is to honor the folks who have lead our great country. We also need to remember there are some great sales going on during that long weekend! Don’t judge! If I were playing Match Game right now and the clue was “Presidents Day _______,” I would answer “sale”! Not gonna lie!

Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday. This is not a big deal everywhere, but in some parts of the country, Mardi Gras is a big event. Mobile, Alabama? You bet they’re partying! New Orleans, Louisiana? It’s on! Fat Tuesday this year, also known as Mardi Gras Day, is February 25. In Mobile, folks will be catching Moon Pies and other trinkets all day, and there will be parades all day in New Orleans too. In fact, Mobile area schools will have that whole week off! If you’d like a little taste of Mardi Gras in Charlotte, you can visit Cajun Yard Dog in the Arboretum for a slice of King Cake. Or you can order them from Haydel’s in New Orleans here. Or even from Edgar’s Bakery in Birmingham, Alabama, here.Strawberry-King-Cake-5-2-MP-1536x935

Leap Day. Yes, this is a Leap Year, so we get an extra day of February! When I was a little girl, I had a friend whose brother was born on February 29, and I was so jealous, because everyone made a big deal about it. 

February is a fun month. With so much going on, and a long weekend thrown in there too, it might just be one of my favorites.

The Sad Season

The holidays are winding down. Lots of folks get depressed after the holidays…Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or just plain old sadness that the holidays are over. And then there are people like me who have experienced loss…and the unfortunate few of us who have actually experienced loss during the holidays.

Tomorrow is the second anniversary of my mother’s passing…two years without my mother. She fell ill on Christmas Eve 2017, and I received a phone call at 8:30 that night…she was in the hospital in Alabama. My little family rushed through opening gifts in Charlotte that night, and before the crack of dawn on Christmas Day, I left to go be with my mother. As I drove to Alabama, I was thinking of how I was going to tell my mother that she was coming back to Charlotte with me. I was thinking of how angry she would be that I wanted her to leave her house. But I never got to tell her she was coming home with me. The doctor made it clear to me on December 26 that she would not recover, and since both my grandmothers had died on December 26 in different years (eerie, right?) I needed Mother to make it past that day. I asked the doctor if she was likely to make it to the 27th, explaining why I was asking, and he assured me she would…but not much longer. I didn’t want her to die at all, but if she had died on the 26th, every year after that, I would have been waiting for something to happen to me on the 26th. We needed to break the cycle. She made it to the 30th.

Last year, the first anniversary, was a terrible day…terrible. I didn’t sleep at all the night before, and it was just a terrible day. But this year, I am bound and determined to make it a happier day. Of course, I’m still sad my mother isn’t here, but instead of crying all day, I hope to be celebrating her life…drinking a toast to her memory.

In fact, as I type, I’m on a plane to Los Angeles…a vacation with my daughter, her friend, and my nephew and his friend. Mother would have loved knowing my nephew is vacationing with us. We have a lunch reservation tomorrow at a fabulous restaurant, where we will remember Mother. We might even order a Bailey’s and coffee, her favorite, after lunch.

And as hard as I will try to be happy, positive, and upbeat, I know a little sadness will creep in. I know that, because I just tried to read a piece by Sean Dietrich (see Sean of the South on Facebook here), and I couldn’t get past the first couple paragraphs about his dad, who he lost years ago.

So right now, for this second anniversary, I’ll take “mostly happy with a little sadness creeping in.”

All this is my way of reminding everyone that some people are sad right now. Some are suffering. Some are just trying to push through the season. And then some will be even more sad at the thought of starting a new year without a loved one. I hope I will show mercy and offer courteous goodwill to those who need it. I hope I will try to help my friends and family into 2020…with some love, patience, hope, and clarity. And I hope they will do the same for me.

Let’s make 2020 a good year.