Long Distance Friends

For Easter weekend, my daughter had a friend fly in from Ohio to spend a few days with us. The friend is the daughter of one of my friends.

The girls have been friends since they were about two. Their birthdays are one month apart. They are both only children. My friend, her husband, and her daughter moved to Ohio from Charlotte when our girls were four. We were brokenhearted when they moved, but we’ve made a point to vacation together every year since.

A few weeks before Easter, I texted my friend, Jennifer, and asked if her daughter might be able to come spend Easter with us. She promptly booked the flights, and on Good Friday, my daughter and I drove in the pouring rain to the airport to pick up her friend. We opted to park in short-term parking, so we could walk in and meet her. When we got inside the baggage claim area, we discovered the flight was more delayed than we thought. We waited. And we waited. And finally, we saw it had arrived.

We all hugged in the airport and headed home.

Here’s the point of this story: the two 15-yr-old girls acted like they had never been apart. They haven’t seen each other since January, but they picked up exactly where they had left off. When we got home, they went up to my daughter’s room and chatted and laughed. They made cookies. They ate late-night snacks. And they laughed.

The next night, another childhood friend slept over at our house. She is also a beloved friend…the daughter of another friend who lives local. The three of them laughed till their stomachs hurt…it was like music to my ears.

They woke up on Easter morning and came down to see if the Easter Bunny had visited, and indeed, he had. They rummaged through their baskets to find candy, soaps, lotions, a garden gnome, bunny slippers…and Kooky Klickers, a childhood toy they all hung on their book bags in elementary school. Everybody loves nostalgia. And after we had taken some photos, I was their short-order cook: pancakes, fried eggs, scrambled eggs, bacon, cheese grits…anything they wanted. I had all those “little girls” together again. Sure, they’re fifteen, but every time I looked at them, I saw the giggling four-year-olds. Happiness. Comfort. Love. That’s what I saw.

Fifteen is a tough age for girls. If you ever were a 15-yr-old girl, you remember it. They can’t drive, but they want to have social lives. They try to make plans, but their plans have to coincide with their parents’ plans. They are in high school and still figuring out who they are. We have to let them make decisions, and sometimes they make bad decisions, but they learn from them. As freshmen, they are the low people on the totem pole in high school…and they are very aware of it.

Last year, I went to hear a well-known psychologist (and author!)speak about teenagers. Her name is Lisa Damour, and she is full of all kinds of wisdom. She’s not bossy or judgy…she’s real. You can see her Facebook page here. (She writes a monthly column for The New York Times.)What I remember most is that she compared the world to a big swimming pool. Basically, she said we have to let our teenagers swim out into that pool (the world). Sometimes, they get too far from the side or they feel like they are going to drown, so they hurry back to the side. We, as parents, are the side of the pool.  After they hang on for a minute, they swim back to the center of the pool. And that’s how it goes with teenagers…they swim out and come back to us for a moment of support, and then they swim back out there.

Over Easter weekend, I think my daughter felt like she was back in the kiddie pool with her childhood friends. She didn’t feel like she had to be out in the big pool. She was happy to be right there with them, and she never needed to swim to the side.

Her friends had to go home after a fun weekend, but my daughter had gained comfort and new confidence from swimming in the kiddie pool for a few days. She was ready to go back to school and tackle the rest of the school year.

And now, she just has to make it through five more weeks of school to make it to the freedom of summer. We will vacation with our Ohio friends this summer. We don’t know what we’ll do, but we will definitely spend some time with them, because the best friends to have are those who want nothing from you but your company…and they are those, indeed.

 

Advertisements

In a Pickle

Last month, I was scrolling through Instagram, and Hungry Girl (@hungrygirl) Lisa Lillien had posted a photo of a pickle bouquet. Yes, a pickle bouquet. Apparently, she got the idea from Grillo’s Pickles (@grillospickles)…a Valentine’s Day bouquet made of pickles. I thought it was funny and innovative. There’s no way I would do it, because the pickles would dry out, but I do love pickles. But it could be a fun green gift on St. Patrick’s Day.

Anybody who loves pickles as much as I do knows they are a good low calorie snack. Sure, lots of them are high in sodium, but they sure are tasty! When I snack on pickles, I just make sure I drink a lot of water too. I eat pickles all the time…every day. Feeling a little hungry in the afternoon? I grab a pickle.

But different people like different pickles, so I’m going to share my personal favorites.

Grillo’s. Since they were the originator of the pickle bouquet, I felt it would only be fair to include them in the list. The problem was that I had never tried Grillo’s Pickles before, so I went online to find out where to buy them, and I was able to pick up a jar at my local Harris Teeter grocery store in Charlotte. One thing you need to know is that Grillo’s are made from a 100-yr-old family recipe, and they are made in Boston.  I had a friend (may she rest in peace) who grew up in the Boston area, and she was a fantastic cook…recipes passed down through her Italian family. I knew they would be good even before I tried them, and Grillo’s Pickles Italian Style Dill Spears do not disappoint! They’re crisp and tart…exactly what a pickle should be! And they might be the only pickle company with a Patrick Ewing shoe called “The Pickle.” See their website here.

Wickles. My neighbor in Charlotte introduced me to Wickles years ago. They originated in Dadeville, Alabama, and they are the product of a 90-yr-old recipe. Their original pickles are my favorite. And I should tell you they are named Wickles because they are “wickedly delicious pickles.” They’re sweet. They’re spicy. And they have the perfect amount of crunch. They’re great on sandwiches and in recipes, but my favorite way to eat them? Right out of the jar! Is it bad to eat an entire jar in one sitting? I’m asking for a friend. See their website here.

16oz-Wickles-Delicious-Pickles-v3_445x600

Boar’s Head Dill Spears. Yesterday, I went to the grocery store, and while I was standing at the deli case, I noticed a jar of Boar’s Head Dill Spears in the refrigerator case. The packaging was appealing, so I picked it up to look through the jar. Dill and some veggies at the bottom made me curious, so I purchased them. When I got home, I stuck a spaghetti squash in the oven, and I decided to try the Boar’s Head Dill Spears…right out of the jar. I will be going back to the grocery store today to get more! They are sour, but not too sour. They have a nice garlicky, dill flavor, and they are crisp! There’s nothing worse than a limp pickle. I found myself going back for pickle after pickle throughout the afternoon. Two thumbs up for Boar’s Head Dill Spears. See their website here.

Oh Snap! I discovered Oh Snap! Pickling Company last year in my local Target store. I was looking for sandwich meat and the Oh Snap! package caught my eye, so I grabbed two of them. Oh Snap! offers pickled carrots, pickled peppers, pickled beans, and yes…pickled cucumbers. They are sold in individual serving size packages. I tried the Dilly Bites and Hottie Bites…eating them right out of the bag. They’re cold, crisp, and delicious. The Hottie Bites are a little too hot for me, but I’m sure my friend, Mary Ann, who loves nuclear-level spicy food will like them. The Dilly Bites are perfect for me…tangy with a  little kick. I keep them in my refrigerator for quick snacks. See their website here.

slide-3-3.png

Mt. Olive Simply Relish Deli Style Dill. My mother loved sweet relish in her salads…potato salad, chicken salad…always sweet relish. But as an adult, I wanted dill relish in mine. For years, I used Mt. Olive Dill Relish in all my salads. It’s made in North Carolina, and it tastes good, so I was making good salads and supporting the state economy. But then one day, I was in my local grocery store and ran across Mt. Olive Simply Relish Deli Style Dill. When I got to the register with it, the lady who was checking me out asked if I had ever tried it before. I told her I hadn’t. She said, “You will never use another relish after you use this.” And she was right! While the original dill relish is good, this is perfect for salads. It adds more flavor and crunch. Highly recommend! See their website here.

a966f84b-8ab9-4dd4-b8b5-8c5792b6f0d5_1.d060cce606ae45dd2709a7d1dd7c8fed

 

So if you’re looking for a gift idea for someone who loves St. Patrick’s Day, a green pickle bouquet could be the ticket! Or maybe The Pickle shoe? I kinda dig the shoe.

Eat more pickles!

***Next time: Get Busy Living***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*

I’m Leaving On a Jet Plane (Spring Break!)

“I’m leaving on a jet plane…don’t know when I’ll be back again…”

John Denver wrote about it in 1969, but Peter, Paul, and Mary’s version of the song is the most popular. If you’re not familiar with it, you can hear the song here.

When I was in first and second grades at Brewton Elementary School, in Brewton, Alabama, we would swing as high as we could on the swingset on the school playground, and when we did, we would sing that song. Well, we sang that and Bad, Bad Leroy Brown, but that’s another story.  When I think of I’m Leaving On A Jet Plane, I think of happy childhood days.

And I think about it a lot…mostly when I’m preparing for a vacation. While I’m packing, I walk around my house singing, “All my bags are packed, and I’m ready to go…” I can’t help myself. I get excited about vacations, and I guess that song represents the joy of childhood and the joy of a vacation for me.

Our next vacation will be spring break…just two weeks away. I need spring break. I need it every year. My friends laugh at me, because I start making plans in October or November. By the time we’ve celebrated New Year’s Eve, I’m already looking forward to spring break. I count down the days, and as of right now, we will be leaving in fourteen days. Bring it on!

Before I continue, you should know I do a lot of travel research before I plan a trip. Friends also make fun of me for that, but I don’t really care, because it’s rare for me to have big surprises about hotels or destinations. My very favorite site is TripAdvisor, because it has reviews on hotels, airlines, restaurants, and places to visit. I read carefully, and if I have questions about something, I call resorts or hotels directly, or I call friends who have visited the same place before, if I know someone who has been.

We are doing a beachy, sunny vacation this year, and I need it. We’ve had so much rain this winter in Charlotte….it’s depressing. I need the warm sunshine on my face, so I can produce some much-needed Vitamin D. Aside from that, I need worry-free time. I need to be away from the city in which I live. Seriously, I love Charlotte, but occasionally, and I don’t care where you live, you need to get away from the same four walls, the same people, and the same scenery. I just need a break. I need a week of no homework, no sports practices, no cooking, no cleaning, no obligations…just a week to do whatever we want to do.

Here’s the thing about Spring Break, though. For me, it doesn’t have to be somewhere glamorous. The main thing for me is that it has to be somewhere that’s easy to get to. Because it’s just a week, I don’t want to waste a lot of time on the getting there and getting home. I want to get to my destination quickly and get home just as quickly.

This year my daughter is taking a friend with her, and I am taking a friend too. My husband is staying home…he doesn’t enjoy traveling as much as we do. I offered…he didn’t want to go. He’ll probably enjoy the quiet time he’ll have at home without us!

I’ve already arranged our airport transfers and reserved our poolside cabana. Having the cabana ensures we will have a spot by the pool every single day we are there. I don’t want to have to get up at 7 o’clock in the morning while I’m on vacation, just so I can have a chair by the pool. It also makes it easy for my daughter and her friend to find us if they need us. But who am I kidding? They will avoid us like the plague!

I hope to come home rested, tan, happy, and ready to tackle the rest of the school year…a little over two months after the break is over, but we do have a nice Easter break in there. Once spring break is over, I’ll be counting down to that…for the record, that break will start 25 days after spring break ends.

Two more weeks till we get the party started! Maybe I should call now to order a bottle of champagne for our cabana…

“So kiss me and smile for me…tell me that you’ll wait for me…”

Old Stuff And Banana Cream Pie?

If you didn’t know, today is National Old Stuff Day and National Banana Cream Pie day. Which one sounds better to you? The great thing is you don’t have to pick…I plan to observe both.

National Old Stuff Day comes at a perfect time for me. I’ve been listing things to sell on Ebay all week. Sure, I could sell it on Poshmark.com or The Real Real, but I already know how to list on Ebay, and frankly, I’m too old (Get it? National Old Stuff Day?) to learn how to list on another site. Some of my friends list on Facebook sell sites and have folks pick up their purchases from their homes…no thanks…I don’t want strangers showing up on my front porch. I think people believe shipping with online sites is complicated, but it’s not. The post office will deliver packing supplies to your home, or you can run into your local office and pick them up…for free!

If you’ve never shopped Ebay, Poshmark, or The Real Real, it’s high time you checked them out. I’ve loved Ebay for years, and I’ve gotten some great buys on some fabulous high end items. And Poshmark…I’ve purchased some awesome pre-owned designer things there too. There’s no shame in buying pre-owned. Whenever I get a compliment on something I got for a steal on Ebay or Poshmark, I say “thank you” and smile even bigger! Knowing I didn’t pay an arm and a leg for it makes me especially happy!

So I’ll be celebrating National Old Stuff Day by listing more things on Ebay. It’s a great way to get a little extra WAM (Walking Around Money). Anything of any value that we don’t use anymore gets listed on Ebay, and it adds up! I paid for a big vacation last year with my Ebay “earnings,” even though I’m really selling things at a loss, technically…I got my use out of them. And sometimes, it’s possible to sell things for more than you paid for them…especially if you purchased them on Ebay and resell them after you use them…or if you get a good bargain on something and resell it.

Banana Cream Pie Day sounds delicious, but I won’t be eating a banana cream pie. You know what they say…”A moment on the lips; a lifetime on the hips.” I’ll celebrate Banana Cream Pie Day by eating Dannon Light & Fit Greek Yogurt in Banana Cream flavor. It’s delicious! My daughter loves it, and my husband was surprised at how good it is…and only 80 calories in every 5.3 ounce serving. I top mine with a dollop of Redi-Whip to make it seem even more like dessert. You can purchase it in the dairy section of most grocery stores.

If you’re wondering how I know what National Day it is, you can find out too by clicking here on the National Day Calendar website. We have some good National Days coming up too…Fat Tuesday being a biggie. So today, do some online (or in-store) thrift shopping to celebrate National Old Stuff Day. Or maybe purge some old things from closets and donate them to a local charity. Or even prefabricate them into something else! But whatever you decide to do, enjoy some Banana Cream yogurt too!

Now, if I could just find a low-calorie King Cake for celebrating Fat Tuesday…

 

 

 

 

 

 

*

My Favorite Valentine’s Day Gifts 2019

It’s a problem for some people every single year…what do I get my spouse/significant other for Valentine’s Day? It’s less than a week away, folks. While some people are full-on romantics, others like silly gifts, and some like gifts somewhere in between. And this year, for the first time in years, the traditional candy hearts from Necco won’t be available. Necco went out of business. Another company did purchase the rights to make the hearts, but they didn’t have enough time to make the hearts for this year. They should be back for Valentine’s Day 2020, though. I’ve come across some awesome other ideas in lots of price ranges…and varying degrees of seriousness.

Shari’s Berries. Y’all think you know everything there is to know about Shari’s Berries, but you don’t. You probably know they have delicious chocolate-covered strawberries. I know it, because my husband has sent them to me before. But did you know they have heart-shaped cheesecakes and mini cheesecake bites? Did you know they have flowers and Mrs. Field’s Cookies? Well, they do. If you haven’t checked out their website, you need to look here. But there’s more! When you get to the website, if you look just above the search box near the top of the page, you’ll see a place to click BLOG. Click there for access to lots of great Valentine’s ideas, including some printables that include 102 Reasons Why I Love You. (Or you can click here.Who wouldn’t love a sweet treat from Shari’s Berries plus a booklet of 102 Reasons Why I Love You. My husband will definitely receive some chocolate covered strawberries this year (it counts as a serving of fruit, right?), and I’ll print the printables, but instead of putting them in booklet form, I’ll hide them all over the house and in his car for him to find at different times. Maybe one in a house slipper. Maybe one in a jacket pocket. Maybe one under his toothpaste. Maybe one in the car console. You get the picture.

Shutterfly Personalized Gifts. I love personalized gifts, and frankly, I love Shutterfly. I discovered Shutterfly when our daughter was an infant, and back then, it was the easiest way for me to share photos with faraway family. It also became my go-to for personalized gifts. They offer a myriad of gifts you can personalize with photos…blankets, photo books, notecards, coffee mugs, and more. My personal favorite it the photo book. You can do it the easy way with “auto-fill” or put in a little more work and organize the photos yourself. Maybe gather photos from your first date to now? Or a few photos from every year of your marriage? If my husband gave me one of these, I’d be thrilled. Shop Shutterfly here. There’s still time if you pick express shipping.

Comfy. Some of y’all are going to think I’m crazy. You might have seen ads for this, or maybe you saw it on Shark Tank. The Comfy is awesome. It’s a giant, oversized sweatshirt/blanket with a soft, fleecy inside! I got one for my daughter and one for me, and we love them. Best of all…one size fits most! It comes in a variety of colors, and I think it’s perfect for cold nights at home, cold sporting events (I’ll take it to cold lacrosse games), long flights or car rides, and more! It might look silly, but it sure is comfy! I got us both navy blue, but I have a friend who has a pink one and another friend who has a red one. The red one looks a little like characters from A Handmaid’s Tale, but it’s still cute and comfy too! Get it at Amazon here. Great for males or females!

51VjctO9X7L

Comfy…photo by Amazon

Chick-Fil-A Chicken Minis. I know. It sounds crazy, but this year, Chick-Fil-A will be offering chicken minis and chicken nuggets in a heart-shaped reheatable tray. From what I can tell, there is a possibility it won’t be available at all locations, but I will definitely be checking around to see which ones are offering it! I would be thrilled to get chicken nuggets or chicken minis from Chick-Fil-A for Valentine’s Day…no joke…even if they’re not in a heart-shaped tray! I can say, without a doubt, my teenage daughter would love it.

Header

Experiences. Y’all know I love experience gifts. Gift the gift that will be remembered. I’ve said it before: we rarely remember gifts of stuff, but we remember experiences. There are lots of experience gifts: spa days, amusement park passes, indoor skydiving (I’m obsessed), race car driving, movie passes, concert tickets…the list goes on and on. You could even give an experience you can do together! Fleetwood Mac is coming to Charlotte later in February…that could be a great gift. Significant other likes basketball but doesn’t have season tickets to the Charlotte Hornets? Game tickets make for a fun night out. Another great one is a gift card to Blo Blow Dry Bar on Selwyn Avenue in Charlotte (see their website here)…women love to get their hair done! Check your local events calendar for concerts or special events in your area.

Other ideas:

  • Claus Porto Soaps
  • Cornet Barcelona Wine Glasses with a favorite bottle of wine.
  • Framed Favorite Photo
  • Homemade Baked Goods
  • Favorite Candies
  • Jewelry

You have almost a week! It’s time to get that Valentine’s Day gift for the one(s) you love! Personally, I’d be happy with anything on this list!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

 

 

 

2019 Bucket List

Lots of people have bucket lists for life. I’ve decided I’m going to have one for the year. I’m going to have one for every year. All the things might happen, and maybe they won’t, but at least I’ll have bucket list goals. These aren’t like resolutions. They don’t fall in the same category as “lose weight,” or “learn to knit.” They are one-time things…maybe places to visit, things to do, or dares…yes, dares.

Here are a few things on my bucket list for 2019:

  • Indoor Skydiving. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I’ve done the skydiving over an outdoor wind tunnel, and it was great fun. I laughed and laughed, and my daughter and her friend laughed at how the skin on my face flapped in the wind. They did it too, but their skin didn’t flap…ahhh, youth. According to their website, IFly Charlotte is scheduled to open this spring in Concord. I’m looking forward to it! See their website here.
  • Sleep in a treehouse. A few years ago, my friend, Mary Ann, and I took our kids to Kentucky to sleep in wigwams at Wigwam Village in Cave City (see website here). In fact, Mary Ann turned 40 while we were there. Not many folks can say they turned 40 in a wigwam! This year, it would be fun to sleep in a treehouse, but the kids don’t have to go. They’re teenagers now, so they don’t want to be with us anyway. Maybe I can get Mary Ann to come up one weekend and go with me to Cherry Treesort in China Grove to stay in a treehouse. See their website here.
  • Swim with the manatees. Mary Ann has done this. In fact, there’s a manatee in Crystal River, Florida, that fell in love with her at first sight. Don’t ask me how we know he loved her…just trust me when I say he did. Hopefully, he won’t be there when I go, but just in case, I’ll take Mary Ann with me, so he will ignore me altogether. Of course, I haven’t spoken with Mary Ann about this, but I guess she knows it now. There are a few different companies that offer the opportunity to swim with the manatees. One is here.
  • Mother/daughter vacation with friends. We do this every year, but I’m keeping it on my bucket list, because I hope my friend, Jennifer, and her daughter will join us for a trip this summer. We started the new year together in LA, but I’m counting that as last year’s mother/daughter trip. We’ve been talking about what we can do, but we haven’t locked in reservations anywhere yet. Coming soon…
  • Big vacation somewhere new. I have a destination in mind, but since I’m not sure we will find the time to do it this year, I’m not going to name the place. It will take a lot of planning, and since a lot of summer is already planned, we might have to wait till summer 2020 for the trip I have in mind. If we can’t do that one, I’ll plan something else for a new destination this summer, but we are definitely doing something different. Fingers crossed. I’m looking at lots of websites for possible destinations, in case my first choice doesn’t play out. Some websites are Conde Nast Traveler for worldwide destinations and Forbes for US destinations.
  • Take a day off. I used to be really good at this. Every school year, I would designate a weekday that would be my day…no volunteering, no obligations, no doctor appointments, no hair appointments…just a day to do what I want to do. And it was awesome. I’m re-instating that plan right now, and my day off for the rest of this school year is Thursday. People used to think I was crazy when I first started telling them I took a day off, but then they realized it was genius. In fact, I was talking with a friend recently who said she is doing the same thing in 2019. Because I plan a day off in advance, it makes it easy to plan lunches or coffees with friends…something else I plan to do more of in 2019…time with good friends.

And that’s it. Nothing earth shattering. Just a few fun things I want to do in 2019…and maybe some ideas for you. They’re not resolutions. They are simply things I want to do. Well, maybe that last one about a “day off” is more of a resolution. Either way, these are things that will make 2019 more fun, and sometimes, I just want to have fun!

 

 

 

 

*

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! Lots of folks are out there saying, “New year, new me,” but I’m not going that far. Who would I be kidding?!?! Sure, I’ll try to make some small changes in my life, but I’ll still be the old me…take me or leave me.

This year, I started the new year in a different way…with a vacation. I think it is the first time I’ve ever taken a vacation the first week of the year, and I think it was the perfect way to start the year. Years ago, someone said to me it’s important to start the year doing something you enjoy…to set the tone. Well, if that’s the case, hopefully, I’ve set a good tone for 2019.

My daughter and I met my friend, Jennifer, and her teenage daughter in Los Angeles, one of our very favorite places to visit, and we stayed in our very favorite hotel. We ate at some of our favorite places, and we shopped till we dropped. It was great fun. We were happy. We felt great. Even though the arrival of my checked bag was delayed and I had a cold…I still felt great, because of my surroundings and the great company.

While I’m sure there are going to be lots of bumps in the road in 2019, I sure hope starting the year with a fun vacation set a good tone for the next twelve months.

One year when I was in my early 30s, New Year’s Eve was rapidly approaching, and I had plans for the night that just didn’t sound like fun to me. I was talking with an older co-worker (she was probably the same age I am now), who said, “New Year’s Eve should be spent with people you want to be with…doing something you want to do. It’s bad luck to start the new year wrong.” She was right. I changed those plans, and I’ve remembered that every year since.

Don’t get me wrong. On New Year’s Eve, I was home with my husband…a great place to be. Plus, I was anticipating a great vacation. That’s the perfect New Year’s Eve for me…looking forward to something good! I don’t need to be in Times Square, wearing a diaper and watching the ball drop. Heck, I don’t even need to be awake! But it’s fun to know something fun is “just around the bend.” (Cue the song…Pocahontas singing Just Around the River Bend.)

So, if the rest of the year is like New Year’s Eve, it will be filled with excitement and anticipation. If it’s like the first week of the year, it will be fun. I might have a cold for the rest of the year (like I did the first week), but the year will be filled with time with good friends. It will be filled with excitement and trying new things. If it’s like the first week of the year, we will have encounters with exciting people, and we will meet people from all walks of life. We will spend time with old friends and make new friends. And if it’s like the first week of the year, I will sleep well at night and make good use of my time during the day. I will be happier than I was in 2018, and hopefully, I will be a better person.

And my only resolution is to commit one random act of kindness every day. Surely, I can do that?!?! Amazon offers a book that might give me some ideas. You can see it here.

So, while I won’t be saying, “New year, new me,” I will be saying, “New year, better me.” It will still be the same old me, but an improved version filled with more hope and happiness than ever before…spending time with family and friends old and new.