Ready for the New Year?

Ready for the new year?

I don’t know that I’m ever actually ready for a new year, but most years, I am ready for New Year’s Day, and this year is no exception. I think different cultures have different traditions/superstitions for New Year’s Day, and growing up in the American South, I have a few of my own:

-“Rabbit! Rabbit!” I make sure to say this at some point on the first of every month, preferable first thing in the morning. But let’s face it, most mornings, when I first wake up, I don’t know what day it is! Lots of people say “Rabbit! Rabbit!” on the first day of every month for good luck. Apparently, rabbits are considered good luck. I tried to find an explanation online, and I found an NPR episode in which Martha Barnette, an etymology author, says the phrase dates back to at least the early 1900s. Some folks believe rabbits are good luck because of their fertility, which can be associated with new beginnings. Whatever. I just do it, because I’m always welcoming any good luck that comes my way! But it seems especially important on the first day of the year!

-Black-eyed Peas. A few years ago, I returned home from vacation late on New Year’s Eve, and I had not had an opportunity to go to the grocery store to prepare for New Year’s Day. Lucky for me, I had a can of black-eyed peas in my pantry. I can’t imagine what made me purchase canned black-eyed peas, because I prefer to cook dried ones, but the canned variety will do in a pinch! In my family, and across the American South, it is believed that eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day brings good luck and prosperity. Even when I was a little girl and didn’t care for them, my parents made me eat a spoonful of black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day. According to Modern Farmer, black-eyed peas came to the US on slave ships, and slaves planted them in their gardens. The same source says the Union Army took everything edible when they raided the south, but they didn’t take black-eyed peas. They were looked at then as “poor people’s food,” but after the war, they became popular all across the south. Some people in the south believe they represent coins. And some southerners cook them in Hoppin’ John, a southern rice dish. Personally, I love them…especially on New Year’s Day. I purchased them early this year…dried ones that I will start cooking early on New Year’s Day, so we can enjoy them in the afternoon. As for a recipe, I don’t make Hoppin’ John. I just soak the peas before I boil them with Goya pork seasoning and salt. I throw in the spinach, and while I normally try to keep them healthier, I’ll likely throw in some pork for New Year’s Day.

Greens. In the south, when most people say they eat “greens” on New Year’s Day, I think they mean collard greens or turnip greens. Some folks mean cabbage. I’m the outlier…I eat spinach on New Year’s Day. It’s still a green, and it’s iron-rich. I just can’t bring myself to cook turnips, cabbage, or turnips in my house, because I remember how our house smelled when I was growing up and Mother cooked greens. Collard greens, turnip greens, and cabbage taste good, but they smell rancid when they’re cooking. I can’t do that to my family, so we have spinach. Of course, I’m the only one who eats regular sauteed spinach, so I have to mix the spinach with the black-eyed peas. Greens represent money. And who doesn’t want more money in the new year? This year, I might add some extra spinach, in fact! And remember the year I had canned black-eyed peas? I was also lucky enough to find canned turnip greens in my pantry (Glory brand is seasoned really well).

-Pork. I don’t care what kind of pork it is, everyone who doesn’t have a religious exemption should eat a bite of pork on New Year’s Day. All my life, I’ve believed eating pork on New Year’s Day brings good luck, because that’s all I’ve ever heard. I looked into the reasoning, and according to thespruceeats.com, it’s considered a sign of prosperity in some cultures because “pigs root forward.” I guess that means we will continue to move forward if we eat pork. When I was growing up, my mother would cook a ham. My family won’t eat a whole ham, so I just purchased a couple of ham steaks to prepare on New Year’s Day. I’ll throw some of it in the black-eyed peas for seasoning. As for the preparation of the ham steaks, I will just cook them on the stove top in a skillet with a little butter and seasoning.

Cornbread. My parents used to make thin, fried cornbread when I was growing up. I’d never be able to do it. There was skill involved, and it was delicious. My cousin, Patti, still makes it, but I need a special brand of fine cornmeal that I can’t find in Charlotte. I’ll get Patti to bring me some next time she comes to town. Interestingly, the fried breads are round, which would be great if I could make them, because round foods are considered good luck in some countries. We used to eat it till we just couldn’t eat any more. I’ll make cornbread, but it will be regular baked, buttermilk cornbread. Why cornbread? Apparently, because of the golden color, it represents gold. I see a theme here. Southerners seem to want luck and prosperity in the new year!

-Champagne (or prosecco). Yes, I have bubbly not just on New Year’s Eve, but also on New Year’s Day, because it’s a celebration, after all. I have always believed we should start the new year on the right foot…celebrating. And bubbly goes great with all the foods listed above. And if you don’t like the foods listed above, it’s a lot easier to wash them down with bubbly!

Clearly, my traditions, except “Rabbit! Rabbit!” are all based around food! The good news for me is that these are some of my very favorite foods. For my family, though, it’s not one of their favorite meals, so they’ll choke down a few bites. We’d normally have lots of leftovers, but my nephew and a friend are coming to town this year, so I know they’ll help me eat it. I’ll have some pickled onions on hand, too, because they go so well with all of these foods! My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

Love, Loss, and the Holidays

Love, loss, and the holidays.

Last night, I received a call from my dear friend, Jane. When I answered the phone, I knew immediately something was wrong. She was crying, and she said through her tears that someone had died, but I didn’t understand her the first time she said it. Painfully, I had to ask her to repeat it. And when she did, I cried too. I didn’t know the gentleman who had passed away, but I knew of him, and I knew him to be a good soul…a good friend to Jane. I also know she had inadvertently made a connection between him and a lady she knows just a few months ago. She had introduced them through some work she was doing, and a great friendship formed immediately.

His new lady friend was with him when he fell ill. She called 911 immediately and called a mutual friend who was a doctor, and they got him to the hospital as quickly as they could, but he didn’t make it.

When Jane was telling me about what had happened, she said, “I just needed to call you, because I need you to say something that will make it OK.” Jane is a close family friend. She knew my mother, who passed away four years ago, and she knows that somehow, my mother always knew the right thing to say to make someone feel better. She knew what to say to bring peace to a situation. Hopefully, with age, I will develop that gift, but I certainly don’t feel like I have it now. I simply said to Jane, “This won’t make it OK, but you can thank the Lord that you introduced those two and they were able to enjoy each other’s company for the past couple of months. You can know he [the gentleman who passed] spent the last couple of months engaging in good conversation and having fun with his new friend.” It was all I knew to say. I don’t know that it helped my friend in the moment, but it really does warm my heart that he got to spend his final months with a special lady…someone who is near and dear to Jane, and therefore, near and dear to me. I can’t name names, but all of these wonderful people are oddly connected…people you wouldn’t think belong together as friends, but somehow, they do.

Jane later told me the gentleman told her a few days ago that his new friend (the one Jane introduced him to) had helped him learn how to live for the Lord. Maybe that’s why they were brought together. I told Jane that is what should make her feel better…knowing she brought them together.

December is a tough month for a lot of people…including me. I lost my mother on December 30, 2017. She had fallen ill on Christmas Eve and never recovered, but Jane was with me every day at the hospital while Mother was lingering. I miss Mother every day, and especially this time of year. Sadly, both my grandmothers died on December 26, in different years, but still…same day. My daddy didn’t die in December, but he had his first obvious symptoms of pancreatic cancer in December 2005 and died the following October.

So while December is a joyous time, it’s also tough for people who have lost loved ones during the year. It’s tough for those of us who have painful memories. Yes, I have lots of good December memories too, but I’ll never forget all the terrible phone calls I have received in various Decembers.

I will give a few extra hugs on into the new year. I will try to think of those friends and family who have experienced loss. Some of those friends are experiencing their first holiday season without a loved one. There’s not anything we can say to “make it OK,” but there are things we can do to ease the pain a little. Hugs go a long way, and they are almost always welcome and appreciated.

A Holiday Village

A holiday village.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holiday Gifting 2021 (Part 9): Hostess Gifts

Hostess gifts…another favorite gift category!

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

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

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

Holiday Gifting (Part 8): Stocking Stuffers!

Holiday Gifting (Part 8): Stocking Stuffers!

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

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

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

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!