Holiday Travel 2021

Holiday Travel 2021

Travel is back!

We were some of the odd people who traveled last Thanksgiving…during the pandemic. I just couldn’t take staying home anymore. Call me reckless, but when we got home, we didn’t have the virus…all my teenage daughter’s friends did, because they had gathered with local people. Travel was pretty easy back then, because the airports simply were not crowded. Same in February, when we flew to New Orleans over Presidents’ Day weekend, and we were still unvaccinated. Again, the airports weren’t crowded, and we got lucky and avoided the virus. When Spring Break rolled around in March, I was half-vaccinated, but I was determined to try to enjoy a vacation with our daughter and some of her friends in Miami. Success…we came home illness-free.

Soon after that, the whole family got vaccinated, and we moved around all summer. Sure, we were careful to wash our hands and wear masks indoors, but we lived life again. And it seems lots of other folks are doing the same.

We just returned from a Thanksgiving trip to California, and the airports were packed again. We flew out of Charlotte the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and the Charlotte airport was wall-to-wall people. Same thing when we flew back…wall-to-wall people in the Los Angeles airport. But most people were wearing their masks correctly in the airport and on the flights. I had some concerns before we traveled, because of recent airline issues. I was afraid our return flights would be canceled, so I purchased some one way refundable tickets on another airline for the return, just in case, before I realized I could stay an extra few days and enjoy more vacation for the amount of money I was spending on those tickets!

We ended up having no issues during our travels. But I planned things carefully. To avoid issues, here are some tips for Holiday Travel 2022:

  • Book Early. This advice goes for airline tickets, hotels, and even rental cars. As availability decreases in each of these areas, prices increase. You can thank supply and demand for that. So book early. I just realized today that I had not booked a rental car for our Christmas trip, and when I looked, I knew I had made a big mistake. I will likely use Uber while we are there, because I refuse to pay ridiculous prices for a rental car. If you are going to need a rental car and haven’t booked it, book it now.
  • Try to travel on off-peak days. Everything I have read says the peak days around Christmas for air travel are December 22 and December 28 this year, but I’m guessing the 26th is going to be a busy day for those who have to get back to work on Monday. Try not to book your flights for those dates. I’m guessing December 24th will be a little crazy too, since Christmas is on a Saturday this year. My family will be traveling on Christmas Eve, so if you see us in the airport, we can commiserate.
  • Arrive at the airport early. You have likely heard it for years when you were traveling during the holidays: arrive early. Well, this year, you absolutely need to arrive early. There could be personnel shortages at the airport, causing a backlog in so many different areas of the airport. While the usual recommendation is to arrive two hours before your domestic flight, I recommend arriving three hours before, especially if you’re flying out of a busy airport. Obviously, if you’re flying out of somewhere like Pensacola, Florida, you don’t need as much time, but I flew out of Birmingham recently, and even with my TSA PreCheck clearance, I was in line for a while at security…longer than I’ve ever waited in Charlotte. I know, some will call arriving that early excessive, but what is it going to hurt for you to get there and relax for a little while before your flight boards? I can’t relax till I’m through security, but once I’ve cleared TSA, I feel so much better. A long security line gives me anxiety, if I’m pushed for time. Save yourself some anxiety…arrive early.
  • Do not check bags. I say this with a little hesitation. When I say “do not check bags,” I mean pack in appropriately-sized carry-on bags. Do not carry on the kitchen sink. My daughter and I each had a carry-on bag and a backpack for our recent trip to LA. We didn’t want to risk losing our luggage, and we didn’t want to have to wait in baggage claim forever when we got there. In the past, we have waited a long time for luggage in LA and Charlotte, so we avoid it now. Again, with personnel shortages, wait times could be longer. But whatever you do, please stick to the appropriate size limits and number of bags…that means one carry-on bag and one person item. Check airline websites for size restrictions. Obviously, if you are traveling with gifts for friends and family, you will likely need to check bags, unless you consider shipping everything (keep reading).
  • Pack medications and necessities in a carry-on. If you do opt to check luggage, make sure you have all your medications and any necessities in a carry-on bag. It’s always a good idea to have a change of clothes and a toothbrush/hairbrush in your carry-on, as well. Things happen. Connecting flights cancel, and bags are not accessible. Bags get delayed or lost. Trust me on this.
  • Consider shipping luggage and gifts ahead. To cut down on the amount of “stuff” you carry with you, ship any gifts, and possibly your luggage, ahead of time. That way, if you want you can wrap them ahead of time too. Otherwise, wrapped gifts will need to go in checked bags, and if TSA decides to open them, they can. You can ship via UPS, the United States Postal Service, or FedEx, or you can use a luggage shipping service like ShipGo. See their website here.
  • Get TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. If you’re traveling domestically, make an appointment now to get TSA PreCheck. It will save you lots of time and stress at the airport. You don’t have to take off shoes (unless your shoes cause cause the metal detector to “beep”). You don’t have to go through the body scanner. The lines are shorter. And if you’re traveling internationally, Global Entry can save lots of time on re-entry to the US. To make an appointment for TSA PreCheck, click here. In most cases, you’ll have your Known Traveler Number within two weeks after your appointment. For international travelers, Global Entry appointments can be made here.
  • Download MyTSA App. On the MyTSA app, you can store favorite airports and see up-to-the-minute wait times at various checkpoints at different airports. The app also includes a list of things you can bring onboard aircraft in checked bags and carry-on bags. There are also ways to request passenger support for travelers with disabilities and/or medical conditions. The app is a great place to get lots of information.
  • Carry snacks. December is prime time for weather issues. Be prepared. Always have some snacks (including some with protein) to keep you going when airports are full of people and it’s difficult to get food. You don’t want to get hangry.
  • Traveling by car? If you’re traveling by car, check your tires and oil before you leave. And if you’re traveling in cold climates, have a couple of blankets in the car, just in case. I used to think my daddy was crazy when he made me keep blankets in the trunk of my car, but I have friends who have had to sleep in their cars when they got caught in ice storms and/or snow storms. One was even caught in torrential rains/floods and had to sleep in her car. Having some bottled water and a few snacks on hand would be a good idea too. You might think it can’t happen where you are, but a few years ago, my daughter and I made it back to Charlotte from Birmingham, Alabama, just ahead of an ice storm. And be patient. The roads are going to be crowded. Have some backup routes in mind too. One year, when I was coming back from Atlanta, I realized it was going to take twice as long as it should if I stayed on the interstate, so I opted to take some “back roads.” It was quite an adventure, but I got home more quickly…and on less crowded roads. I wasn’t jockeying for position the whole time.

Happy Holidays and Happy Trails!

The Holidays Have Begun

The holidays have officially begun!

Thanksgiving marks the official beginning of the holiday season, and if our Thanksgiving is any indication of how our holidays will be…we are in for a delightful holiday season! This year, we had planned to have a quiet Thanksgiving at home…just the three of us, but then the family of one of our daughter’s friends invited us to join them!

My daughter and I returned from vacation Wednesday night. After a four hour flight home, I ran a few errands and unpacked one of my two bags before watching a recorded episode of The Young and The Restless (Chance Chancellor is alive!) and crawling into bed. It’s the flight that makes me tired. I just can’t sleep on the plane, so all that time just sitting makes me weary.

But I awoke bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on Thanksgiving morning, because I got plenty of sleep. We weren’t due at the friends’ house till five in the afternoon, so I had plenty of recovery time…time to catch up with some friends and family by phone (after the vacation) and time to put together the only thing we were contributing to the meal…a buttermilk pie for dessert. (I will post the recipe at the end, if you’re interested.)

I have written before about Thanksgiving and how it’s not my favorite holiday. I have always thought it was overrated. I have several friends who say Thanksgiving is their favorite holiday (Maureen, I’m looking at you), but I’ve never felt the same way. However, after yesterday, I had a change of heart. I realized we just weren’t doing it right! Yep…I no longer think Thanksgiving is overrated, because we had a great time with our new friends! We talked, we laughed, we dined…and I even enjoyed the turkey! Just like I’ve always thought Thanksgiving is overrated, I’ve felt the same about turkey, but I must have been eating the wrong turkey, because last night, our hostess prepared a delicious turkey…and our daughter’s very favorite macaroni and cheese.

In fact, the macaroni and cheese was one of the topics of conversation. Our daughter has never eaten macaroni and cheese…no matter how hard I tried to get her to eat it over the years, she would always put her foot down and refuse. But one night, she came home from this friend’s house and declared that she loved his mom’s macaroni and cheese! A breakthrough! After that, I offered to make macaroni and cheese for dinner, and she informed me that the only mac and cheese she likes is the friend’s mom’s mac and cheese. After having it last night, I understand…the mac and cheese was divine! In fact, everything was great…especially the company!

So I no longer think Thanksgiving is overrated. At the age of 54, I have discovered that Thanksgiving is fun! I think it’s a time to bring people together. I think it’s a time we should all count our blessings…no matter how big or how small. Yes, I still believe we should all be thankful all year. I think we should spend time with people we love and make new friends all year. I think we should enjoy life all year. But Thanksgiving is a reminder…it’s a gentle reminder that life is what we make it…so make it good.

Now, let’s get these holidays underway! Let’s drag the Christmas decorations down from the attic and sing Christmas carols while we decorate! And let’s make lots of new friends!

***Buttermilk Pie Recipe***

Ingredients:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tblspns plain flour
  • 1 stick melted butter, slightly cooled
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tspsns real vanilla extract
  • 1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell

Topping ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup seedless blackberry preserves
  • 1 tblspn Chamborde liqueur
  • OR you can use any fruit reduction

Directions: Beat eggs slightly. Mix sugar and flour well and add to eggs. Mix until creamy. Add melted butter, mixing well. Add buttermilk and flavoring. Pour into pie shell and bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour until custard is set.

Topping Directions: Put preserves in saucepan and warm on medium heat, stirring constantly with wire whip until smooth. Remove from heat and add Chamborde. Let cool to lukewarm and serve over warm pie.

Holiday Gifting 2021 (Part 7): Gifts for Mom

Gifts for Mom.

Yes, like the Saturday Night Live video from last year, Moms often get robes for Christmas. Personally, I love a good robe, and I always welcome one as a gift, but sometimes it’s nice to get something else. Therefore, I’ve compiled a list of items that might make great gifts for the Mom on your list…at lots of different price points. Don’t be alarmed or run away when you see the first one, priced at $549.99…there are items in all price ranges.

  • Dyson Air Wrap Complete Styler. This one is a pricey gift, but Mom will definitely appreciate it…if you hurry up and get it, because this particular hair “system” is in hot demand and limited supply. Priced at $549.99 (yep, you read that right), it’s a hair dryer/styler/brush all in one. Somehow it dries hair but uses less heat than traditional hair dryers, causing less damage. Add in the fact that it dries hair while you style it, saving Mom lots of time, and it could be her very favorite gift ever! I purchased one for myself this past summer after several friends told me how much they loved theirs, and I have to say I give it five stars! There was a little learning curve, but once I got it all figured out, I love it. Right now, I see it is still available online at Ulta here. If you purchase from Ulta, make sure you sign up for Ultamate Rewards, because you can get free stuff in exchange for points later!
  • MikWright Gifts. I have been a fan of MikWright products for years. They make the funniest greeting cards and gifts using old family photos. And sometimes, the “greetings” are a little naughty…making them even funnier. I love their bar towels and would welcome them as gifts. Priced at $7.95 and $9.95, they could make great gifts for the mom who has a fun sense of humor. See MikWright’s website here. The towel show below come with the caption “#almostdrunkenough to wish you were here”
  • Brookstone Heated Shiatsu Foot Massager. If I didn’t have one of these myself, I’d likely laugh if you asked me if this would make a great gift. If I didn’t have one myself, it would sound like one of those things someone gives someone…and it never gets used. But at my house, it gets used! My husband bought this for me a few years ago when I was having aching feet after working on a project that required me to be on my feet a lot. He surprised me with it, and frankly, I thought he had lost his mind, but then I tried it. It is a great, great thing…probably one of the best gifts I’ve ever received! It heats, kneads, and massages feet. There are nights that I find myself having trouble falling asleep, so I go into the living room and put my feet into the feet massager. After 10 or 20 minutes, I’m much more relaxed and fall asleep pretty quickly. It’s a great gift. Get it for Mom if you can. She might thing you’re crazy at first, but she will find out it’s a great gift. Priced at $199.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond right now, it’s not cheap, but it’s worth every penny. And remember, you always have those 20% off coupons from Bed Bath & Beyond. If you don’t have one, you can get one by entering your email address at the website. Trust me…Mom will thank you. See it here.
  • St Tropez Award Winning Kit. If Mom likes to keep a little “color” year-round, she might like St.Tropez Bronzing Kit with Mousse, Gradual Tan-in-Shower Lotion and a Luxe Double-Sided Applicator Mitt. Again, this is something I have at home…I keep it on hand all the time, because I have found I feel better if I have a little “color.” When I look in the mirror and see pale face, I don’t like what I see…and my makeup doesn’t work so well when my face doesn’t have some color. If Mom likes to have a tan in winter, this would make a great gift. Priced at $49 at Ulta right now, it’s a deal and a great gift. See it here.
  • Giant Hoodies. This is not the first time I’ve recommended Giant Hoodies. There’s a reason I recommend them repeatedly: I love them! They make great gifts, because no size selection is required…they are one size fits all (most). They’re comfy. They’re cozy. They’re perfect for hanging out on the sofa watching football or Mom’s favorite TV shows. And the price is right. See the Giant Hoodies website here. OR if you prefer their bleach-dyed versions (my personal favorite), you can get them for $60 on Amazon here.
  • Cadence. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you realize you haven’t seen it all! Created by a woman who, on a camping trip, realized she and many others needed a solution for carrying all the little things one has to carry. She developed Cadence, magnetic capsules for carrying all those little things you need: skincare, haircare, makeup, meds, and more! The magnetic capsules stick together to form a larger “honeycomb” of sorts! Perfect for your carry-on bag when you travel, for going to the gym, or for camping trips, these capsules are environmentally friendly, because they’re reusable…instead of all those sandwich bags you throw away after every use, the mom on your list can use Cadence! Prices start at $14 for one capsule, or build a bundle of seven for $84! Pick Mom’s favorite color! See the website here. (Thanks to my friend, Meg, for telling me about this!)
  • Family Art. Mom love their families, and they (we) love anything that makes us think of our families or depicts our families. Uncommon Goods offers lots of options for family art…Personalized Family Fire Pit Art, Personalized Beach Family Art…all kinds of options…even family dance sculptures! And from what I can see, prices start at about $75. Remember, it’s personalized…Mom loves knowing you put some thought into the gift. See the offerings here.
Family Campfire Art from Uncommon Goods
  • Bala Bangles. I’m obsessed with the thought of these…I say “the thought,” because I haven’t purchased them yet. I’ve added them to my own personal wish list for Christmas…maybe my husband will read this. These cute bangles are wearable weights that can amp up a work out. They come in lots of colors, so they look cute while you exercise. I’ll take the Blush Pink, thank you very much. They come in one-pound or two-pound weights, priced at $45 and $65 on Amazon, respectively. See them here.
  • The Mini. I’ve sung the praises of Away luggage all over the place, but now I’m singing about the Away Mini. This little accessory is designed to stow your small travel essentials, like hand sanitizer and tiny toiletries. It’s made of the same durable polycarbonate shell as the suitcases I love, but this case is just 6.5″ x 5″ x 3″. It’s a great companion to the Away luggage or any luggage (till you decide to break down and purchase the Away brand), and at $45, it’s priced right. It comes in several colors. I could use a blush pink one to match my carry-on bag. See it here.
  • Marc Jacobs Snapshot Bag. I’ve mentioned the Marc Jacobs Snapshot Bags several times before, and those are as popular (and convenient) as ever. But now they’ve upped the game, and they’ve offering a “shaggy” version that I love! Offered at $350 for a confection pink version or a bonfire orange version, these cute bags are eye-catching and fun! I’ll take one of each, please! See them at Neiman Marcus here.
  • Ugg Scuffette II Sparkle Shearling Slippers. Y’all know I love shiny, and you know I love comfort. Put those two things together, and you get the Ugg Scuffette II Metallic Slippers that any mom would love. My daddy would have laughed at them, but my mother would have loved them. Priced at $100, they’re a great buy for a gift Mom is sure to love. I always hope to have one pair of good slippers under the tree each year, and this year, I hope it’s these. See them here.
  • Sorel Go Mail Run Multicolored Faux Fur Slipper. Or if you’d like to spend a little less on a cool slipper for Mom, this Sorel slipper is different and stylish for just $75. Highly recommend. See it here.
  • French Riviera Trinket Tray. I keep a trinket tray on my nightstand, so I can drop little things there at night that I’m going to need the next day. Maybe I’m too lazy to get up and put my earrings in the jewelry box before I doze off? Maybe I keep a pen handy at all times? Maybe I just need to put my reading glasses there before I drift off for the night? I love a good trinket tray, and who wouldn’t love to see the French Riviera before they fall asleep at night? This is a favorite, and at $40, it’s a steal. See it here.
  • Great Escapes USA Book. Mom loves seeing beautiful places and beautiful photography? If so, she will love this book of hotel photos by Angelika Taschen. Priced at just $60, it is literally a beautiful gift. Mom can appreciate the beauty as it is presented or plan a getaway to some of the glorious hotels featured. That’s what I plan to do. Purchase this lovely gift here.
  • Instant Pot. Don’t shoot me for putting a kitchen appliance on the list. I’m always hesitant to do this, but I have so many friends who love kitchen appliances…I’d be remiss if I didn’t have one on here. The Instant Pot is here to stay. I remember when people first started buying microwave ovens…and they’re still here. I also remember when folks started purchasing Instant Pots. If you don’t have one, you’re behind the curve. If mom likes to try to pressure cook things faster (that roast? that spaghetti squash?) this could be the perfect gift for her. Get it on sale at Target here.
  • Hermes Mini Jardin Collection Coffret Set. Who doesn’t love opening a gift to find a lovely Hermés gift box? Mom will be pleasantly surprised. And the fragrances inside the box reflect the scent of gardens. At $55, these bottles of eau de toilette will be one of Mom’s favorite gifts this year. Purchase it here.
  • Hermés Esperon d’or Scarf 45. Another orange-box gift option? A scarf. This lovely silk twill scarf offered by Hermés is pricey but not as pricey as one would think. It’s offered in four colors, and it’s $205. Mom will be proud to say she got it for Christmas. Purchase it here.
  • Memories. If you want a guaranteed Mom-pleasing gift, give her a memory gift. I posted about them recently, and any of the “memory” options would make Mom happy. See them here.

That’s a wide array of gifts in a broad price range…from $7.95 to $550. Happy Shopping!

****Coming next, my favorite: Stocking Stuffers!****

Holiday Gifting 2021 (Part 6): Gifts for Men

Gifts for men.

Every year, I find it difficult to decide on gifts for my husband. Generally speaking, we don’t give each other big gifts, because we get what we want throughout the year. Truly, he knows I just need a few good vacations throughout the year, and I’m happy. You know what they say, “Happy wife, happy life.” Just send me on vacation, and I’m happy…so he’s happy.

But we do like to exchange gifts at Christmas. And I aim to please, but like I said, it’s not easy.

Here are a few things I’m thinking about this year…

  • Freezable Glasses. I’ve loved Rabbit Freezable Glasses for years. I have some that I’ve used for whiskey, and I just found out Rabbit makes freezable glasses for beer! Now, that’s a game changer! And unlike the standard frosty mug, these freezable glasses come with silicone grips, so your hands don’t get cold. They’re great for indoor or outdoor use, and they come in sets of two for $35 from Amazon here. Have a beer drinker in your life? He might like finding these under the tree this year! See them at Amazon here. And don’t forget Rabbit makes whiskey glasses you can find on Amazon too…two for $30 here. Add their favorite whiskey to the package if you get them the whiskey glasses, and add a 12-pack of beer, if you get the beer glasses! Voila! The perfect gift!
  • Kanga Kase Mate. Have a beer drinker on your shopping list? The Kanga Kase Mate, an iceless, insulated cooler for beer, could be the perfect gift! Even a hard seltzer drinker would like one! The Kase Mate starts at $39.95 for the 12-pack size and goes to $49.95 for the 24-pack size. You can even get one to hold a 30-pack! They come in different colors, so you can pick the color that will be right for the man on your list. But order soon, because these are low in stock and could disappear soon! I know a couple of guys on my list who would love this! See the Kanga website here. And they have some exclusive designs available here.
  • Patio Heat. My husband loves having cocktails out on the patio in the evenings. During the cold winter months, we still want to enjoy the patio, but we need to stay warm. There are ways to fix that. I love wood-burning fire pits, but the husband? He hates the smoke. He always says, “I hate going back inside smelling like I’ve smoked a pack [of Marlboro Reds].” But I found Solo Stove, a “smokeless” wood-burning fire pit. At first, he was not a believer, but after a couple of demonstrations by me (yes, me!)…showing how easy it was to get the fire going and how little smoke it produced…he was sold! He realized he didn’t go inside smelling like he’d smoked a pack! In fact, he started enjoying the Solo Stove more than he ever thought he would. See the website here. Patio heaters are also an option. If you’d rather have heaters operated on propane gas, you can purchase the heaters at Lowe’s or Home Depot. We have two that we use when we are going to be outside for less than an hour…we don’t want to leave a fire burning in the Solo Stove unattended. The heaters are great; they’re not quite as warm as the Solo Stove, but they do keep the chill off! See them at the Lowe’s website here.
  • MasterClass Pass. If the man on your list loves to learn, a MasterClass Pass could be the perfect gift. In reality, it could be a great gift or anyone who is difficult to buy for. We all know people who have everything they need and can get anything they want when they want it. It’s hard to select gifts for those people. With the MasterClass Pass, they receive access to “classes” about lots of different things. They have a huge variety of offerings. I just took a peek at the site, and I saw classes by Anna Wintour on Creativity and Leadership; Metallica teachers Being a Band; The Power of Empathy by Pharrell Williams and others; cooking classes, dog training, and more! Starting at $15/month and billed annually, MasterClass could be a great gift! See the website here.
  • CrowdCow. I was a little confused when I first heard about CrowdCow, but after reading up on it, I think it sounds great! My brother loves to cook, and he loves a good cut of meat. CrowdCow is a company that finds best-in-class meat producers and connects the consumer to them. Their meats are available through a membership or through one-time purchases. You could send a gift box or gift a membership to the man in your life. They get great reviews. To see more about CrowdCow, click here.
  • Coat. Lots of men won’t just go out and get themselves a new winter coat…they just wear the same one for years and years. There are lots of good coats out there, but here are some I like, at different price points. Duluth Trading has good quality, rugged-looking men’s coats starting at about $150. I got my husband one of their Fire Hose Coats a few years ago, and it has held up beautifully. He doesn’t worry about getting it dirty, and it keeps him warm, which is what it’s supposed to do. See Duluth Trading coats here. For quality plus style in warm jackets, it seems Barbour brand is the ticket. They’re not heavy-duty cold weather coats, but they’re great around town. Starting at about $200, their quilted jackets offer warmth and classic style. See their offerings here. At a higher price point, Canada Goose seems to be all the rage this year. Their parkas for extreme cold weather start at about $750, and while that’s a high price point, they are quality through and through. There’s a reason people are willing to shell out the big bucks for these coats…they look good and get the job done in extreme temps…without a doubt. See Canada Goose here. And if you don’t mind the price point, Canada Goose has just come out with a line of footwear.
  • Everything Duluth Trading. I know I mentioned their coats above, but frankly, I love their website. They have so many great gifts for men; you can surely find something for any man on your list: coats, loungewear, gloves, hats, accessories, sleepwear, gadgets, travel gear, tool bags…and the website it just fun. And the Angry Beaver mascot cracks me up too. Shop Duluth Trading here.
  • Margaritaville Frozen Concoction Maker. If the man on your list likes to entertain or just enjoys a good margarita or other frozen concoction, the Margaritaville Frozen Concoction Maker, prices at about $230 on Amazon, gets great ratings. With a 36-ounce blending jar, it keeps the margaritas coming and blends them perfectly, according to everything I’ve read. This might be on my shopping list this year. See it at Amazon here.
  • Nic Tailor Underwear. Produced right here in North Carolina, Nic Tailor is, according to their website, the “first custom fit underwear for men.” I have friends whose husbands love the undershirts, boxer briefs, and trunks…saying the fabric is top notch, and their husbands/boyfriends love the fit. According to reviews on the website, the fabric is lightweight and “incredibly comfortable.” Prices start at about $34, and while underwear might seem like a boring gift, the man on your list will likely thank you for introducing him to Nic Tailor. See the website here.
  • Portable Charger. I know I’m always pushing the portable charger, but there’s a reason…my portable chargers have saved me and many others over the years. In fact, just last night on a flight, the gentleman sitting next to me asked if he might connect to my portable charger. Of course, I shared the charger, but I also suggested he tell his wife a charger would make a great Christmas gift. In fact, they make great gifts for anyone who has a phone and stays on the go. There are lots of great ones out there. I highly recommend any Anker PowerCore product. They can be found on Amazon here.
  • Man Crates. I discovered this company a few years ago, and I know several people (including me) who have gifted Man Crates to folks on their holiday lists. They “curate high-quality, unique, and unusual gifts for guys they’ll love, shipped in wooden crates, ammo cans, concrete bricks, puzzle boxes, and DIY project kits.” It’s a gift that’s different than the regular run-of -the-mill holiday gift. There are crates for whiskey lovers and pizza makers. They have bacon-themed, golf-themed, and hot sauce making kits. And of course, there are sports-themed crates. You have to check their website here.
  • Sports Stuff. If you have a man on your list who loves sports, you can likely find something to his liking at Fanatics. I’ve been shopping Fanatics for years. They have everything from every kind of team…jerseys, tshirts, hoodies, socks, hats, decor…if you know his favorite team, you can likely find something for him at Fanatics. See their website here. Also, don’t forget sports tickets are often the perfect gift for the man on your list. Check Ticketmaster for sporting events in his area.
  • Favorite Tastes. Perhaps the man on your list has some favorite foods he can’t get locally. I have a friend whose husband is from Wisconsin, and he finds it difficult to find good cheese curds in the Carolinas. I told her about my visit to Mars Cheese Castle in Kenosha, Wisconsin, a couple of years ago…and their incredible offerings of all things cheese. They even have a website for those who are missing their good Wisconsin cheese, and they will ship your order straight to you. Or perhaps the man on your list loves seafood gumbo from Commander’s Palace in New Orleans? Or lobster rolls from Maine? Or cannolis from Mike’s Pastry in Boston? Or Magnolia Bakery Banana Pudding? Tamales from Texas Tamale? Small batch bacon from Bill-E’s in Fairhope, Alabama? Or fresh artichokes from California? You can order all those from Goldbelly. It’s not cheap, but if you’re craving it, they can make it happen. See Goldbelly website here. My mouth is watering just thinking about all those options.
  • On Running. Swiss-engineered running shoes make great gifts, and these are my favorite shoes ever! I should note that I am not a runner, but I wear them for travel and just plain running errands. I see them on other people all the time, and every time, I ask, “Are those your favorite shoes ever?!?!” Every single time, the answer has been a resounding, “Yes!” Personally, I like the original On Running Cloud model, because it’s lightweight and breathable. It almost feels like being barefoot with support. Sounds weird, I know, but that’s what I think. I wear mine with everything…shorts, leggings, even dresses. And when I have them on, I feel like I get a lot more done. Prices start at $129 for the original Cloud. Check the offerings from On Running here.

That’s a wide array of gift options for the men on your holiday list. Happy shopping!

Holiday Gifting (Part 5): Give the Gift of Fun!

Give the gift of fun!

So, we have all been hearing for weeks on end that we need to shop early this year, because the supply chain is messed up. I have seen a few signs that this might be true, so I’m looking to purchase gifts that don’t have to be shipped here from other countries. Near the top of the list? The gift of fun! Someone said to me recently that I remind them of Tigger from Winnie-the-Pooh’s Hundred Acre Woods. At first, I didn’t understand, so I simply asked, “Tigger?!?” My friend responded with, “Yes, Tigger! You’re always looking for the next fun thing!” Well, I won’t argue with that. And I love to share fun with other people! So why not give the gift of fun?!?!

Here are some ideas:

  • Amusement Park Passes. If you happen to live near a good amusement park and have someone on your list who loves rollercoasters as much as I do, a season pass could make a great gift! We are fortunate in Charlotte to have Carowinds, an amusement park with world-class thrill rides and rollercoasters. I used to be a regular there when our daughter was growing up, but in the last few years, I haven’t even been! I’d love if my husband gifted me with a season pass…it would give me an excuse to go!
  • Movie Passes. Movie theaters are finally open again, and we need to take advantage of it! I haven’t been to a movie since the pandemic began, but I plan to change that this week when I go see High Society (it’s the 65th anniversary) on the big screen! And I hope to continue going to movies! If you have someone on your list who enjoys a good movie, movie passes or a gift card to a local theater could make a great gift! And if they happen to love older movies, you might want to check the schedule for big screen oldies here.
  • Sporting Events. If you have a college or professional team in your area and have a sports fan on your list, tickets to a game could be a fun gift! In Charlotte, we are fortunate to have the NFL Carolina Panthers, the NBA Hornets, the minor league Charlotte Knights baseball team, and even some college teams! Not in Charlotte? Look around for other sporting events: rodeos, track meets, and more! If it’s a female friend, maybe you order an inexpensive stadium-approved clear handbag from Amazon (click here) and put the tickets in that!
  • Concerts. A few years ago, someone gave us tickets to a Sade concert as a Christmas gift. My husband loves Sade, but I was never a big fan…till we went to that show! John Legend opened and put on a fabulous show, making me a big fan, and then Sade was incredible! Wow! The lady is a performer! We had a great time, and I knew then that concert tickets make great gifts. Don’t we all remember concerts we’ve attended? How many gifts of “stuff” do you actually remember?
  • Special events. Maybe a local hotel or restaurant is hosting a wine tasting? Or maybe there’s a local Yoga and Mimosa event? Tickets to any type of special event of interest to the recipient make great gifts. A hotel near us, for example, hosts afternoon tea on weekends. Tickets are not required, but I have a friend who loves the afternoon tea experience at this hotel, so I know I could give her a hotel gift card with a note about the tea, and she would love it.
  • Family experiences. If there’s a family with kids on your list, they might enjoy a night at a Great Wolf Lodge! When our daughter was younger, she absolutely loved our local Great Wolf Lodge…the water slides, the restaurants, the kids club room, the arcade…everything about it. And I loved taking her and a friend, because I could relax while they had all the fun they could stand! Top Golf is another fun family experience…give a gift card for the whole family to spend some time together there! For kids, you might give the gift of art at Small Hands, Big Art, where they have art classes for kids of all ages.
  • Classes. I have a friend who loves taking classes. She just loves trying new things! She has taken cooking classes at Sur la Table. She has taken painting classes. She has taken glass-blowing classes and pottery classes. She loves to learn, so I know I can gift her a class of some type, and she will be thrilled!
  • Thrilling experiences. Have someone on your list who is a bit of a daredevil? Maybe they would like to try skydiving? Check with local companies…they might offer gift cards. Or maybe they would just to do indoor skydiving at iFly Charlotte. That’s an experience I’d love to have myself! Or if NASCAR is their thing, give them the Richard Petty Driving Experience! Into whitewater rafting? We are fortunate to have the US National Whitewater Center right here in Charlotte. It’s worth a trip to Charlotte for all the fun there! Or maybe they just like to watch thrilling experiences…like an air show. Air shows are held all over the country; check your local listings…tickets to an air show could be fun for the thrill enthusiast. Or perhaps flying lessons?

Just consider the recipient and think of something that would be fun for him/her. A cooking class sounds dreadful to some people (me), but lots of other people would co crazy over it!

The gift of an experience is something that will be remembered forever.

So this year, instead of worrying about whether or not the gifts you ordered are on a ship in the Pacific, give the gift of fun!

Holiday Gifting (Part 4): Gifts for Teens

Gifts for teens.

Teens…those people who aren’t kids, but they’re not quite adults, either. They can be so grown up and smart…making us (the parents) question ourselves, and then they can be five years old again, making us remember just how sweet they are.

But it’s not always easy to find the perfect gifts for teens. Sure, there are some things that are guaranteed to be big hits…the gifts they ask for. At our house, our daughter gets things for Christmas and birthdays that we won’t buy on regular days. Want some expensive shoes? That’s a birthday or Christmas gift. Get it? I think a lot of people do the same thing. But then we need to have some surprises for them too. And that’s where things can get tough.

Here are a few things teens might like to see under the tree this year:

  • Vintage Tshirts and sweatshirts. Teens love vintage tshirts and sweatshirts. I always know that if I can find a cool vintage concert t-shirt or college t-shirt or sweatshirt, our daughter will likely love it. But you also have to know which groups they want. Generally speaking, there are concert t-shirts from a few groups that are sure things…The Rolling Stones, AC/DC, Grateful Dead, Phish, Aerosmith, Guns n Roses, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, the Doors, Janis Joplin, Prince, and the Ramones are all safe. As much as I loved Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, and Elton John in the day, she does not want their t-shirts. And that’s OK…I’ll save those for me. But where to find vintage t-shirts? Honestly, a good, inexpensive place to find them is a local thrift store. I prefer the Salvation Army on Central Avenue in Charlotte. I have found quite a few really good t-shirts there, and our daughter wore them proudly, even though I paid a dollar or less for each one. Other places to get them? Madeworn is one of my favorite companies, but I am the first to admit their shirts are not cheap. They have an incredible selection, and two of my daughter’s favorite sweatshirts are from there. I threatened her with her life if I see them on her friends, of course. See the Madeworn website here. Another good place to get vintage Ts and sweatshirts is LF Stores. Again, the prices are pretty high, but they tend to have lots of really good sales. Just keep checking their website. My daughter has some awesome old sports sweatshirts from there…even one from the year Alabama beat Miami in the Sugar Bowl for the National Championship! See their website here. A friend recently told me about a website called Istolemyboyfriendsshirt.com, where you can find vintage designs. Check their offerings here. And yet another great place to buy online is junkfoodclothing.com. They offer some cool vintage Ts at pretty good prices. Their selection is exactly what teens want, and most of their items are priced under $50. But make sure you check their sale page, where items are as low as $17! See their website here. Everything old is new again!
Grateful Dead Tshirt at Madeworn
  • Jerseys. Teenage boys (and some girls) love jerseys for casual wear. I see hockey jerseys, basketball jerseys, baseball jersey, and football jerseys on teen boys regularly. You can purchase jerseys…even throwback jerseys…on Fanatics.com, a well-known sports website. See it here. Other places to get vintage jerseys for lower prices? I recommend thrift stores, and I recommend Etsy. Just go to the Etsy site and type “vintage jerseys” in the search bar…you’ll get lots of results, and some of them are at great prices! I just checked out a few for under $50 each. See Etsy vintage jerseys here.
Pittsburgh Penguins jersey as seen on Etsy
  • Sweats. Who’d have ever thought good old cotton sweats would ever come back in style?!? After everyone started wearing sleek leggings and yoga pants years ago, I felt sure we had seen the end of the standard, comfy, loose sweatpants. but I was wrong…and I’m so glad I was! Even I love old slouchy sweatpants! But sweatpants are completely stylish now. One brand is especially popular with girls, but it’s not cheap. It’s called Boys Lie. My daughter has a bright pink sweat set from Boys Lie that I can tell she loves. She purchased it at a boutique where she works here in Charlotte called Piper’s Closet. You can shop there by appointment only by sending a DM to them through their Insta, which is @pipersclos3t. Boys Lie is also sold at Revolve.com here. I am the first to admit these sweats are outstanding quality, and honestly, I’m probably going to ask my daughter to get me one of their hoodies for Christmas!
Boys Lie Sweatshirt
  • Mini Fridge. Teens like to spend time in their rooms. Our daughter does her homework in her room, and much like we did when we were teens, she communicates with friends from her room…whether it’s by Snap Chat, text, or Facetime. She doesn’t want a lot of interference from us, and I get it. I remember being a senior in high school. It’s a time that they are trying to become independent, even though they don’t realize it. I think it’s God’s way of helping us get accustomed to not having them around before they go off to college or work. But back to the mini fridge…my daughter has one in her room, and it was one of her favorite gifts ever. It says, “This is your own space.” You can get them at Best Buy or Lowe’s for prices starting at $79. Your teen will think you’re super cool. See the Lowe’s website here.
Mini Fridge from Lowe’s
  • Airtag. How many times has your teen lost his or her backpack? I found a boy’s backpack after a sporting event at our school, but I didn’t know whose it was. If he’d had one of these devices in it, he could have looked to see where he left it. These little devices are good to have on hand. Made by Apple, your teen can put them in their backpacks, their wallets, or attach it to their keychain to help them locate misplaced items. Purchase them on Amazon for $29 for one, or $98 for four. See them on Amazon here.
Airtag
  • Bluetooth Speaker. If you’re shopping for a teen who doesn’t have a Bluetooth speaker, you’re going to be their hero when they open this gift. Don’t you remember how much you wanted to listen to music as a teen? Well, some things never change. Our daughter loves her Bluetooth speaker, and lots of times, her friends ask her to bring it over for parties. And since it’s connected to their phones, they can use their Spotify or Apple Music playlists! I recommend JBL Bluetooth speakers, simply because we have had good luck with them, and they sound great. They even have waterproof versions! See them on Amazon here.
JBL Bluetooth Speaker
  • Moving Alarm Clock. Our daughter is a pretty sound sleeper. She doesn’t hear her phone alarm most morning, so unbeknownst to her, she will be getting a new alarm clock for Christmas this year. And it’s not just any alarm clock. It’s an alarm clock on wheels that jumps and rolls all over the room while blaring the alarm…till someone catches it and turns it off. We got hers at Sharper Image. To see the one we purchased, click here.
Sharper Image
  • Light Up Basketball. Teenagers love to spend time outdoors. My daughter and her friends have spent time shooting hoops in our driveway, and I know lots of her guy friends shoot hoops regularly as a form of exercise or relaxation. But when it gets dark outside, it can be a little more difficult. And with Daylight Saving Time, it gets dark pretty early. That’s where a light up basketball can come in handy. Check them out on Amazon here.
Glowlight Ball
  • Tickets. Always remember teens love to have somewhere to go and something to do. They love concerts and sporting events. NBA games? Yes, please! Minor league baseball? You bet! If events are sold out, you can check StubHub for resale tickets. It’s one of my very favorite sites. Teens also love concerts, and now that the things are opening up again, they’re thrilled to get to go to shows. My own daughter went to a concert recently and came home talking about how much fun it was to be able to spend time with friends there. Check Ticketmaster and StubHub for concerts coming up in your area…but make sure it’s someone the teen wants to see!
Tickets

Teens are not that much different than we were when we were teenagers. They still like spending time together. They still like hanging out in their own space. They still enjoy music and sports. Sounds like 1985, right?

Happy shopping!

Holiday Gifting 2021 (Part 1): Give the Gift of Travel

It’s time for Holiday Gifting! This year, our first segment is travel gifts! Give the gift of travel.

There are so many ways to gift travel to your friends and family. No, you can’t necessarily buy a vacation for everyone, but there are other things you can do to contribute to their travels.

If you have someone on your list who likes to travel, here are some ideas. Some of them are based on things we have purchased for our own family, and some are just ideas that sound fun to me.

  • Away Luggage. I have recommended this before. It is something we have purchased for our whole family. After lengthy waits for checked bags at Los Angeles International Airport and our home airport in Charlotte, we purchased Away’s original sized carry-on bags with built-in portable chargers…one piece of luggage for each of us…because we had heard great things about the quality. And we were not disappointed when they arrived. We ordered a pink (for me), a blue (for my husband), and a white (for our daughter). They are hard-side bags that roll smoothly and live up to their excellent reputation. At $245 for the original carry-on suitcase with the charger, they’re not cheap, but with outstanding construction and a lifetime limited warranty, they’re worth it. They’ll even let you use one for 100 days, and if you don’t like it, return it for your money back! Away also offers a “bigger” carry-on, expandable carry-ons, and an aluminum edition…plus some soft-side handbags. Highly recommend. To see their offerings, check the Away website here.
Away Carry-On
  • Airline Gift Cards. Yes, many airlines offer gift cards. I know American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and Alaska Air Lines all offer gift cards that you can purchase through their respective websites. Have a family member in another city, and you’d like for him/her to visit you? This could be the perfect gift! It would be a gift that would make the giver and the receiver happy! Or maybe you’re just trying to get your parents or someone else to take an overdue vacation. Receiving an airline gift card could be the perfect gift to motivate them! Make sure the airline you choose is convenient for them, though. If the recipient lives in Charlotte, you might want to use American Airlines, since they have a massive hub in Charlotte. If they fly out of Atlanta, try Delta. If they don’t live in a hub city, check their local airport to see what airlines offer the most flight options.
American Airlines Gift Cards
  • Baboon to the Moon. Silly name, yes. Quality bags… you bet. I ordered two of their mini go-bags…one for me in bright blue, and one for our daughter in bright pink. Also carrying a lifetime warranty, these bags are well-constructed and can be carried as a backpack, a handbag, or a shoulder bag. We got the mini go-bag, priced at $139 each, because it fits the size requirements to be a “personal item” on flights. The colors they offer are super bright, which makes me happy. In addition to the mini go-bags like the ones we got, they also offer larger versions of the go-bags, but we ordered the “small,” and it was too big for us to use in addition to a carry-on bag on airlines. The bags are waterproof and sturdy with strong zippers. The mini we ordered has a 1-3 day packing volume, which is perfect in conjunction with our Away carry-ons. It’s lightweight, yet durable. If you’re in the market for multiple bags, they offer “adventure sets” that come with considerable discounts on their bags. And if you’re into fanny packs or crossbody bags, they have some cute ones! We love Baboon to the Moon, and with a name like that, we’ll never forget them! See their offerings on their website here.
Baboon to the Moon Go Bags
  • Hotel gift cards. Lots of people don’t know hotels offer gifts cards, but it’s pretty commonplace. My daughter and I have a favorite hotel we visit in the Los Angeles area a few times a year, and my husband has given us a gift card from there before, as a way of telling us to go enjoy ourselves. Even hotel chains offer gift cards. Marriott and Hilton both sell gift cards through their websites at Marriott.com and Hilton.com.
Hilton Gift Card from hilton.com
  • Micro Steam Iron. I purchased one of these through Amazon, because I always need an iron. Yes, I can always get a hotel to iron my clothes or even bring me an iron and ironing board if there’s not one in the room, but sometimes I just need a quick refresh on my clothes before I go out to dinner. And sometimes, I’m pressed for time. This works perfectly! Plus, it’s lightweight and doesn’t take up a lot of space in my carry-on bag. It’s perfect for any traveler on your list. Check it out at Amazon here.
Micro Steam Iron, photo from Amazon.com
  • Vagabond Life. Vagabond Life is a company that sells travel bracelet cuffs and travel rings for necklaces. Someone told me about it earlier this year, and I love the site and their products. Travel rings are small stainless steel rings engraved with the names of state, national parks, and countries. The rings can be added to necklaces, and travelers can accumulate quite a collection. It’s a fun way to remember places someone on your list has visited. I’m getting a necklace for our daughter this year…along with rings engraved with the states and countries she has visited. We will be able to add to the collection any time she adds a new state, country, or even a national park! The necklace chains are $18, and each ring is $4.50, but I have found they discount when you purchase multiples. Right now, if you purchase 25 rings, you get 25 percent off, and if you purchase 3 rings, you get 30 percent off. Check out their website here.
  • Travel journal. Travel journals are a great way for travelers to document their adventures. They make great gifts for the wanderers in our lives. There are so many great travel journals out there. My personal favorites have envelopes in the pages for photos and/or mementos. Travel and Leisure Magazine has a great list of journals on their website in a range of prices. Check them out here.
Photo from Travel + Leisure
  • Things every traveler needs. There just some things every traveler needs, and any of these would make great gifts: personalized luggage tags, Dopp kit, packing cubes, and portable chargers. All of these make great gifts.

So get busy shopping for the people on your list who have wanderlust…or maybe even for yourself, if you fall into that category!

Give the gift of travel!

Which Gilligan’s Island Character Are You?

Which Gilligan’s Island character are you?

If you’re about my age, you likely remember Gilligan’s Island. It was a favorite when I was a kid, and frankly, I can even laugh at episodes now. Interestingly, I guess I saw it in reruns (also known as “syndication”), since it only ran for three seasons, from 1964 to 1967. I was born at the tail end of its run, so I certainly don’t remember it from its first run. If you’re familiar with the show, you probably remember the personalities of each character. Remember the characters? Gilligan (the first mate), Skipper (the captain) Thurston Howell III and Mrs. Howell (the millionaire and his wife), Ginger (the movie star), the Professor and Mary Ann (the farm girl)…all on Gilligan’s Isle.

I took my daughter and some of her friends to Miami for Spring Break a few weeks ago, and a friend met us there with her daughter. One day, we chartered a boat to take us out on Biscayne Bay for a day of boating and swimming. On the way to meet the boat, my friend and I were laughing that we were going out for a three hour tour, based on the Gilligan’s Island theme song. In case you don’t remember it, it went like this:

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip, that started from this tropic port, aboard this tiny ship. The mate was a mighty sailing man, the Skipper brave and sure. Five passengers set sail that day for three-hour tour…a three-hour tour. (Lightning cracks.) The weather started getting rough. The tiny ship was tossed. If not for the courage of the fearless crew, the Minnow would be lost…the Minnow would be lost. The ship set ground on the shore of this uncharted desert isle with Gilligan, the Skipper too, the millionaire and his wife, the movie star, the professor and Mary Ann…here on Gillian’s Isle.

Yes, we actually sang the song while we rode in the car, and the kids had no idea what we were singing. Sad. Truly sad, because Gilligan’s Island was some comedy genius. I’m sure there are people who would say it was just a series of slapstick gags, but there’s a reason we all remember it…it was funny!

As we drove through Miami, our conversation turned to those very characters. My friend asked me, “Which character are you? Ginger or Mary Ann?” I laughed and laughed. I know I’m not Ginger, the sexy movie star. But I don’t think of myself as naïve Mary Ann, either. And then it hit me, and I responded, “Oh honey, I’m Lovey.” If you don’t know who Lovey is…she’s Mrs. Thurston Howell III. Apparently, her legal name was Eunice Wentworth Howell, but I don’t remember hearing her ever referred to that way. Mr. Howell called her Lovey, and everyone else called her Mrs. Howell. She was a little spoiled (ahem), but she was always up for some fun and for trying something new. I’ll take that description of myself and run with it. My friend laughed…and then started calling me Lovey. I wear my “Lovey” name tag proudly. In fact, I might just start calling myself “Lovey” in real life. I wonder if my husband can adjust to that?

We decided my friend had to be Mary Ann…not because she isn’t a sexy movie star, but because she gets things done. Mary Ann was naïve, and my friend is anything but naïve. But Mary Ann was also a farm girl who knew how to get things done. You might remember Mary Ann doing laundry or cleaning up around the place. Well, my friend is no farm girl, but she takes care of business. Ginger could never do what my friend does in a day, but Mary Ann could!

We designated one of my daughter’s friends as the professor. Sure, she’s not a man, and she is a whole lot prettier than the professor on Gilligan’s Island, but she had a solution for anything that came up during our trip. There weren’t a lot of obstacles to overcome, but she was organized and came up with different ways to do things.

All the other teenage girls with us were Ginger. Aren’t all teenage girls a little bit like Ginger? Teenage girls, generally speaking, are a little self-centered and concerned about their appearance…much like the sexy movie star from Gilligan’s Island. They’re also a little delusional about real life…much like Ginger, who always thinks she can solve problems with ideas from some of her movies.

As for Skipper and Gilligan, we found them on the boat. We had a captain who drove the boat, and one crew member who assisted with everything. The captain was knowledgeable, gregarious, and strong, and our “Gilligan” helped us onto and off the boat when we swam in Biscayne Bay, providing us with swim noodles and a kayak. Our “Gilligan” served us our afternoon snacks as we soaked up the sun and poured the champagne for me and my friend.

We had a great time on our little tour. We didn’t encounter rough weather. We didn’t get stranded on an uncharted island. We didn’t have to build our own huts and sleep in hammocks for years while finding our own food. We didn’t have to gather around a radio to listen to news from the mainland, where we had been forgotten. None of that happened. We made it back to shore alive and well. We were all a little more tan. No one was hungry. Everyone was happy.

We had enjoyed a Happy Cruise…that’s the name of the company we hired to take us out, Happy Cruises. If you are going to Miami and would like to charter a fun little boat for a day, see the website here. Tell Captain Derek you were sent by Kelly from North Carolina!

Or just call me “Lovey.”

And don’t forget the Gilligan’s Island closing song: So this is the tale of our castaways; they’re here for a long, long time. They’ll have to make the best of things; it’s an uphill climb. The first mate and his skipper, too, will do their very best, to make the others comfortable in a tropic island nest. No phone! No lights! No motor car…not a single luxury. Like Robinson Crusoe, it’s primitive as can be. So join us here each week, my friends; you’re sure to get a smile…from seven stranded castaways…here on Gilligan’s Isle!

Retro Road Trip

Retro road trip!

I’m 53. I don’t hesitate to tell people my age, because I don’t really care how old I am. I’m just happy to be here. At 53, though, I have accumulated a lot of life experience, and I have a lot of memories.

I don’t remember my parents ever being big on staying in little roadside motels, but I do remember a few occasions when we stayed in them in small towns. I remembering seeing lots of little locally-owned inns and motels in the late 1960s and 70s. There were lots of them lining the beach roads in the Florida Panhandle, a place we frequented. Panama City Beach was full of them, and a few are still there. When I was a little girl living in Spanish Fort, Alabama, on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay, there was a cute little locally-owned motel near the entrance to our neighborhood. Anyone who lived in Spanish Fort in the 70s (and probably the 50s and 60s) remembers the Spanish Fort Motel, and they likely remember the Malbis Hotel Courts too, which had a swimming pool shaped like the state of Alabama. I know, because when I was a little girl, locals would purchase “memberships” to pools at both places. We spent lots of hot summer days swimming there. Both places had great restaurants for breakfast, and they both were on old Highway 90, which was the coastal east-west highway before the interstate, I-10, opened. After I-10 opened, of course, lots of those little places closed. Hotel chains built hotels near the interstates, and travelers opted for those instead.

Lots of those little roadside motels are gone now. But in some parts of the country, you can still find them.

This week, I am going on a retro road trip with a friend. We are leaving the kids behind and hitting the road…in search of every cute, little, retro, roadside motel we can find. We aren’t looking for luxury. We are looking for cute, quaint, old-fashioned fun. We haven’t put a lot of thought into where we will go, but we know we have to go somewhere that’s actually open during the COVID pandemic. We know we don’t need to drive into snow. And we know we need to go somewhere that there are still roadside motels. So, we are headed to Florida.

Originally, we had booked a five-night stay at a nice resort in south Florida, but then we decided to make this more of a retro adventure…a step back in time…and that’s what it will be. Plus, we felt like we would likely be more exposed to COVID at a large resort. Trust me when I say we are going to be careful. My travel buddy has already had COVID and still has antibodies. I don’t want to catch it, so I will be extra careful. But we want to have some fun and make new, silly memories.

Now don’t get me wrong. We don’t want to stay at any roach motels, and we don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night to drug deals going down around us, so we have done a little research. And we will check reviews and ratings before we stop anywhere.

While we are on the road, we also will check out every cheesy roadside attraction we can find. All those roadside attractions the kids would grumble about? We are stopping! And we are going to take lots of photos! So stay tuned…the fun starts Tuesday.

I’m wondering if we should wear clothes from the 60s and 70s…maybe we will find some thrift stores along the way!

We are stepping back in time! Retro road trip!

***The feature photo is from a postcard from the Spanish Fort Motel. It features a photo of the entrance/check-in area.

***The photo below is a postcard featuring the Malbis Hotel Courts…and that pool shaped like the great state of Alabama.***

And I got a robe!

And I got a robe!

If you haven’t seen the Saturday Night Live sketch starring Kristen Wiig about Christmas morning, you’re missing out. You can see it here. Everyone is excitedly opening their gifts and announcing what they are…and the mom keeps saying “and I got a robe.” It’s funny in the sketch, because it’s an accurate depiction of Christmas morning for moms around the world. Typically, moms “handle” Christmas…in this country, at least. Ask my husband how many gifts he purchased and wrapped this year. My daughter purchased one (for me!) and wrapped it, but my husband didn’t purchase one gift or even assist in wrapping. He did put up the Christmas tree for me to decorate, but he didn’t help decorate it, and he didn’t assist with Christmas lunch either. I’m not complaining, though…that’s just how it is. I enjoy doing it, and since he would not enjoy it, I don’t want him to help with it. I think we are pretty typical. That’s why the SNL sketch is so funny.

I was texting with a friend earlier, and she told me she got pajamas for Christmas, but she didn’t get a robe. I told her I didn’t get a robe this year, either, but I would have been happy if I had! I love robes. In fact, all my friends know I have quite an extensive collection of hoodies, but they don’t know I also have quite a few robes…and I love every one. When I told my friend I also have a small robe collection, she called me the “Queen of Comfort.” I will take that title and run with it!

It’s good to be queen!

I won’t go into too much detail about my robes, but my oldest one is a purple one I got from Lands End right after I got married in 2000. It’s monogrammed, and it’s still in great shape…probably because it’s made out of indestructible polyester fleece. We could have an apocalypse, and that thing would survive. I also have a pink one (not polyester fleece) from my favorite hotel in the world and a white one I don’t even remember purchasing. And I have two robes that belonged to my mother. They’re both blue. She seemed to have an affinity for blue robes and pajamas (I have two pairs of blue PJ pants from her). When I wear Mother’s robes, I tell myself she’s keeping me warm. In fact, at breakfast this morning, I looked up to see my daughter wearing one of my mother’s blue robes…a fuzzy one. My daughter had no idea that she was wearing her grandmother’s robe, but it made me smile…especially since today is the third anniversary of mother’s passing. It seemed right that she was keeping my daughter warm this morning. It was a little glimmer of happiness on a day I dread every year. God bless Mother’s soul.

After my friend called me the “Queen of Comfort,” I started thinking, “Is there anything better than being the Queen of Comfort???” No way! I love to be comfortable, but I also would love to think I could be the Queen of Comfort in another way! I hope I am comforting to my friends and family when they need support. That is a quality my mother definitely had. She was nurturing, and she always knew the right thing to say or do to comfort someone. It could be a complete stranger, and Mother would know the right way to offer emotional support. It was her specialty. She died in December 2017, and for three years, lots of different people have told me stories of how Mother helped them in some way. I could only hope to be as comforting as she was. I know how comforting she was…she was my mother, and I always knew I was fortunate to have a wonderful mother who everyone turned to in times of need. God bless Mother’s soul.

While I know I do not possess the same comforting skills my mother had, I hope to develop them over time. I don’t know how to do that, but maybe it will be a personality trait that will come to me as I grow older. I’m “only” 53, so maybe by the time I’m 70, I’ll feel like a real adult, and I will be able to offer comfort and support to others.

And then “queen of comfort” would have a dual meaning! I will be wearing my comfortable, cute hoodies (and robes!) while I offer comfort to others. I wonder if a person seems comforting when they’re wearing a Travis Scott/McDonald’s limited edition hoodie? I think I can still hold the title of Queen of Comfort even in that, right?

But don’t worry. No one will never have to address me as HRH.