My Holiday Memories

My holiday memories.

At 53, I have lots of holiday memories…some better than others. Why write about my holiday memories now? Well, it’s almost Thanksgiving…my least favorite holiday, but I’ll get into that another day…and right after Thanksgiving, we start barreling toward Christmas, my favorite holiday.

I’m just feeling nostalgic, I guess. With this whole COVID pandemic, don’t we all just wish we could celebrate the holidays without getting government warnings and guidelines about how many of us can gather in one place? Don’t get me wrong. I’m not making a political statement…simply an observation. I’ve laughed a million times at a video made by Mark Mathis, a meteorologist with KUSI-TV in San Diego. He pokes fun at California Governor Gavin Newsom by pretending he is “King Newsom.” You can see it on TMZ here. I think it’s hilarious, but then, I think almost everything Mark Mathis does is hilarious.

But back to the nostalgia…the good old days when the holidays were fun and worry-free, and we could gather with lots of people, even stadiums full of them! Remember when we could go to football games with 100,000 people we didn’t even know??? This year, I’m just hoping there will actually be a live game played in a fan-free stadium somewhere, so we can watch it on TV. What else is there to do after all the festivities on Christmas Day?

Truthfully, I don’t remember watching football on TV on Christmas Day when I was a little girl…definitely on Thanksgiving, but not on Christmas. And I remember a lot about Christmas and all the great TV specials leading up to it…Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, The Year Without a Santa Claus, It’s a Wonderful Life, Holiday Inn…and later, A Christmas Story…so many greats.

I remember helping decorate our Christmas tree. For years, we could only have our artificial tree, because my younger brother was allergic. I can still remember standing in our living room in Brewton, Alabama, putting the tree up in the big picture window for all the world to see as they drove past on North Forest Hill Drive. We would assemble the tree’s “trunk” first, which was really just a few pieces of wood fitted together. Then we took the color-coded “branches” that looked like they were made from wire coat hangers and place them in the appropriate color-coded holes in the “trunk.” We would add lights, garland, ornaments, that silver tinsel stuff, and finally, the plastic angel on top. I thought that angel was absolutely beautiful, but in reality, a five or six-year-old’s idea of “beauty” is different than an adult’s idea of beauty. The angel really looked like a cheap knock-off Barbie doll with some lights around her. I’d say it was likely a pain in the butt to get her on top of the tree, but since our tree was only six feet tall, and Daddy was 6’3″, well, it was likely no big deal. Honestly, I thought that angel was so beautiful that I would stand in front of that tree just admiring her. Did I mention this was the old days when those fat Christmas lights got really hot and had a certain smell? Anyone who was alive in the 70s probably remembers that smell. It wasn’t bad. It just smelled hot. And the ball ornaments back then were made of glass, so if you dropped one, it shattered. I know, because it happened lots of times. But no matter what…as soon as we finished decorating the tree, we would walk outside and view it through the window…just to see what it looked like to passing cars or neighbors. In reality, that six-foot artificial tree with the knock-off Barbie on top probably looked pitiful from the road, but we thought it was the prettiest tree on the block!

Our family would decorate outside too, but our house wasn’t the one everyone wanted to drive past. Sure, there was lawn decor, but it wasn’t anything special. One year, we did all blue lights on the shrubs in front of the house. Maybe blue lights were on sale that year? Many years, we had white lights on the shrubs. And most years, we had our Noel candles out front, next to the front porch steps. Actually, at our house in Brewton, there was no porch step, so we just put them on the little entrance to the porch. But those Noel candles were my favorites. I don’t know why I loved them so. In fact, I have them stored away at my house now. I used them one year, but I’m a little afraid of the electrical components in them. Maybe I’ll get them out this year and only use them when we can keep an eye on them.

On Christmas Eve every year, after dinner, we would pile into the car and go drive around town to look at Christmas lights. We would drive through neighborhood after neighborhood, admiring the decor. And the whole time, I could hardly appreciate all the lights, because I was too busy watching the skies to make sure Santa wasn’t passing over my house. What if he came while we weren’t home? Would he know he needed to leave us gifts? Would he know kids lived there? In Brewton and later, in our house in Spanish Fort, we didn’t even have a chimney! I always worried about Santa finding his way into the living room with the six-foot artificial tree with the knock-off Barbie on top! After we got home from our drive, we would hop into bed and have lots of difficulty going to sleep. I would remind my parents at least twenty times to leave the front door unlocked for Santa.

I have lots of Christmas morning memories. I’ve written before about how my brother would get a toy train for Christmas every year, and we would play with it so much that the little engine box would overheat and die on Christmas Day. It might have been because we always played with it on high speed. Or maybe it was because Daddy was playing with it so much. We weren’t a sweet little quiet family. We liked to have fun! Go big or go home! And so those trains always burned up on the first day. But we always knew there would be another one the next year.

While I love my childhood Christmas memories, even better are the memories from our daughter’s childhood Christmas mornings. She’s 17 now, so some of the excitement is gone, but back in the early days…it was on! Her first Christmas, she was only 10 weeks old. We took pictures of her by the tree. Her second Christmas, in 2005, she was just 14 months old, but she was fun. She got a dollhouse, a play kitchen, a doll and stroller, and some red cowboy boots, but her favorite gift was from our neighbor. She gave her some toy cupcakes, and our daughter played with those things for hours! She carried them around everywhere…so cute! She also received The Muppet Movie, and on Christmas Day, we settled in to watch it with her. It was the first time she ever actually fell asleep watching something on TV…I guess all the excitement wore her out. I’m sure the nap didn’t last long; she has never been one to enjoy her sleep.

We have made lots of fun Christmas memories with her over the years. We even have some not-so-good memories, like the year she came down with the flu while we were ice skating with friends on Christmas Eve. We were up all night with her, because she was vomiting, and since I couldn’t leave her side, I had no idea how Santa would drop off her gifts. Fortunately, that year, I had been super-organized, and I had all her Santa gifts in a big black garbage bag upstairs in the guest room. All my husband had to do was go up and bring it down, and as soon as our daughter fell asleep for 30 minutes at 6am, I hurriedly put the gifts out in the living room for her to find later. She awoke an hour and a half later at 7:30am, and we stumbled in to watch her open gifts, but after just three gifts, she was too sick to continue and had to go back to bed. Poor baby. After three days of the flu, she and I checked into a local hotel, where we stayed for three more nights and ordered room service till she felt better.

And in 2017, we didn’t even spend Christmas Day together. My mother had fallen at her home in Alabama the night before, so I got up early Christmas morning and drove to be with her in the hospital. She passed away on the 30th of that year…a sad holiday season, indeed.

Here we are in 2020, the year of COVID. It’s going to be a different kind of holiday season, but we will make the best of it. I’ve put up our little aluminum tree and color wheel upstairs on the indoor landing, and right after Thanksgiving, we’ll put out some exterior decor and our real Christmas tree. So things will be different this year, but we’ll all be grateful for each other as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

Holiday Gift for Someone Who Needs Sleep

Holiday gift for someone who needs sleep.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Girly Gift Idea for Christmas

A girly gift idea for Christmas.

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

Haute Shore.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Razzle Dazzle!

Razzle dazzle!

Several weeks ago, at the end of September, I took a much-needed vacation to the Los Angeles area. I had not been on an airplane since the whole COVID shutdown started, and I was having withdrawals. I needed to get on a plane and go where I wanted to go. So I did.

My dear sister-friend, Jennifer, flew in from Ohio and met me for the first couple of nights, and we had the best time talking, laughing, and drinking champagne…lots of it! She could only stay for two nights, but I stayed a couple more nights after she left, and that’s when I razzle dazzled the maître d’ at one of my favorite restaurants. I had made a dinner reservation for one (I don’t mind dining alone), and when I arrived, he greeted me warmly. He then looked down at my very shiny, glittery gold shoes and exclaimed, “Razzle dazzle!”

Apparently, prior to my arrival, he and the hostesses had been discussing how a little “razzle dazzle” can add some excitement to life, and when I arrived in my shiny shoes, I brought it with me! As I dined near some old school Hollywood types (a Corleone and a very tan man), I laughed thinking how I had brought the razzle dazzle. These two very famous gentlemen were dining at the next table, but I had the razzle dazzle! And I knew the maître d’ had learned something I’ve known for a long time…a little razzle dazzle can brighten a mood, add some excitement, and improve my outlook.

Now, razzle dazzle has become a part of my daily lexicon. I read an article recently about words you can add to your daily lexicon to sound “more literate.” Sadly, razzle dazzle wasn’t included in the list! No surprise there, but I don’t feel the need to sound more literate. I want to sound more exciting…more fun! Life can get so boring. It can be so monotonous. And during the COVID shutdowns, it gets downright lonely and depressing sometimes. Am I right? But if I’m lonely and depressed, I can remind myself to razzle dazzle, and if I turn on the right upbeat music, or have a glass of champagne, or put on my shiny shoes, or even sport some bling-y jewelry, well, my mood improves immediately! I know it’s silly. But sometimes life calls for silly. I’m a firm believer that we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously. Again…depressing.

So for my next big razzle dazzle, I’m going to put up my aluminum Christmas tree with its color wheel. Yes, I know it’s just the first week of November, and believe me when I say I normally don’t go all holiday crazy before Thanksgiving. But in 2020? I think we need a little holiday razzle dazzle to brighten up the end of what has been a dismal year.

I purchased this particular tree earlier this year from Vermont Country Store. You can see it and order here, and get the color wheel here. ***Did you know the color wheel was invented to keep people from stringing lights on the aluminum trees, because it would have been a fire hazard?*** Several years ago, I had a tree/colorwheel that had belonged to my grandparents. I remember it in their living room back in the 1970s…and as a little girl, I thought it was absolutely glorious! The beautiful colors of the light wheel reflecting off the silvery tinsel of the tree! It was mesmerizing to me. In fact, if you’d like to see some photos of “mid-century” women enjoying their aluminum Christmas trees, click here. After my grandparents died, I got the tree and the wheel. I put it up one holiday season and kept it illuminated, but after that, I was afraid of it. It was old and dusty. And I wasn’t sure about the electrical components. Frankly, I was afraid it would catch fire. So this year, I purchased a new one, and I can hardly wait to put it up and razzle dazzle my family and friends with it. My husband likely won’t approve, but he’s not a big fan of razzle dazzle like I am. It won’t be our only tree. It’s just going to be our early tree…the one that will razzle dazzle us through Thanksgiving. We will put up our regular traditional tree after that, but I will keep the aluminum tree up too…just for the razzle dazzle effect…and maybe just to drive the husband crazy.

And when I put up the aluminum tree this week, I will be wearing my shiny shoes. In fact, I will be wearing different pairs of shiny shoes throughout the year, but especially during the holiday season, so if you see me, please feel free to yell, “Razzle dazzle!”

This year, I’m especially glad the holidays are approaching. We need some light! We need some brightness! We need some razzle dazzle!

Memorial Day

Memorial Day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Memorial Day to you and your family.

 

 

 

Easter Baskets in Social Distancing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

What a Motley Crew!

Over the holidays, I traveled to the Los Angeles area with my teenage daughter, her friend, my 20-something nephew, and his friend. So that’s five travelers, ranging in age from 16 to 52…that highest number being mine.

We came together for meals while we were there and just a few other activities, but we did our own thing a lot. During the final dinner of our trip, I asked my fellow travelers to go around the table and tell what their favorite part of the trip was, and I expected to hear lots of different answers, but they surprised me.

They all answered the same thing…our day in Malibu. The day we were in Malibu was also the 2nd anniversary of my mother’s death. It was the one day we all spent together, and I was thrilled to know everyone enjoyed it. While we were in Malibu, we dined at my very favorite restaurant…on the deck, right on the beach, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Those of us who were old enough had some fun cocktails. We drank a toast to Mother, and we took lots of photos. After leaving the restaurant, we walked down to Malibu Pier…a favorite landmark and another great photo op. The walk was only about a half mile, but we laughed and talked all the way to the pier.

Like I said, before I asked, I thought they would all have different answers. Throughout the trip, we had seen lots of celebrities! We had eaten great meals. We had shopped till we dropped. My nephew and his friend had never been there before, so they did more sightseeing…I thought that might have been their favorite part of the trip. But nope…they all enjoyed the day we were all together. As a mother and aunt, it made me very happy. And knowing it was the second anniversary of my mother’s passing made me more grateful for the time we all spent together. She had to be smiling down on us as we laughed and ate and drank and walked and laughed some more.

My daughter is 16, and I always think she just wants to be away from me. She loves me, but I remember 16…I remember wanting to have more independence. She certainly enjoys any independence she has, but it warms my heart to know her favorite day was the day she was with her old mom and her cousin and their friends. We were a motley crew…the conservative-looking 52-yr-old mom/aunt, the two 16-yr-old girls who are too cool for school, and my 20-something hippie-looking nephew and his girlfriend. No one would have put that group together in a million years, but that motley crew had a great time!

It was a great way to celebrate my mother’s life, and it was infinitely better than the first anniversary of her death. It’s much better to spend days like that with people who are important to you…people you love…people who always have your back. So if you ever find yourself facing this kind of “anniversary,” remember to spend it with people who will wrap you in love. Avoid people who won’t.

It warms my heart to know they all enjoyed being together. I can hardly wait for the next trip!

How Did I Miss Out on This?!?!

How did I miss out on this?!?!

Throughout life, there are times that I’ve thought, “How did I miss out on this?!?!” But by the time I reached age 52, I thought I had likely seen it all. Surely, unless it’s something new, there’s nothing that’s been going on for years around me that I didn’t even notice. Sure, at 40-something, I learned about the little tabs on the end of the aluminum foil box that hold the roll in place, but that was before I was 50. I wasn’t surprised about the flat tire icon on the car dashboard or the little arrow that shows which side the gas tank is on. If you don’t know all those things, you need to get busy Googling.

But earlier this week, I learned about something that is supposedly southern that I didn’t know about. That thing? Pineapple Casserole. Never heard of it till Sunday or Monday of this week, and as I type, it’s Wednesday. I grew up in Alabama. If it’s a southern dish, how did I manage to make it to 52 without ever having heard of it?!?

So I did what I do. I went to my personal Facebook page and asked my friends if they grew up eating/knowing about Pineapple Casserole, and if they did, where did they grow up?

I got lots of responses saying they grew up with it. Lots of folks from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, and surprisingly (to me), Alabama…even a friend from High Springs, Florida, which is actually in the part of Florida that’s still “southern” had grown up with it! My people (an aunt and cousins) in the Florida Panhandle (a part of Florida that is still very southern) had not grow up seeing it, just like I’d never seen it. One cousin said she had it as an adult when a friend made it, but otherwise, my family had somehow missed out on Pineapple Casserole. Maybe it’s a familial thing??? I’d never even had it at my grandmother’s house in Birmingham, but according to a cousin who now lives in California, she had served it to her and her friends she referred to as the “soup ladies.” Even my friend, Amy, from Selma, Alabama (does it get any more southern than Selma?!?), said she did not eat it growing up. I promptly decided we must be related, since we both grew up in Alabama and had never heard of it. I now refer to her as Cousin Amy.

But just so you know, friends from Indiana, Philadelphia, and Delaware also had it when they were growing up, so now I’m wondering just how “southern” it is. But that’s beside the point. Everyone except one South Carolina girl gave it two thumbs up, so you know I have to try it.

I will make it later this week, and I can hardly wait! But for the holy grail of Pineapple Casseroles, I’m going to ask my friend, Crazy Jane, to make it for me when she visits. Crazy Jane is the best cook in the world, so even if we followed the exact same recipe, her version would be far better than mine. She just has a special touch.

I’ve asked several friends what I should expect. Some say it’s the perfect side dish with ham. Others say it’s almost dessert-like, because it does contain sugar…and not just a little of it. Plus, pineapple is sweet and a little dessert-like, right? It also contains butter, flour, cheese, and other stuff. Sounds disgusting, right? But my friends know good food, so I’m trusting them when they say it’s delicious. I thought the recipe for the Mississippi Pot Roast (click here) sounded disgusting too, but I absolutely love the stuff!

So I know you’ve been waiting for the recipe. I went to the Southern Living website for the recipe, because it’s a site I trust. If Southern Living posts a bad recipe, they hear about it from lots of southern ladies, so I think they’re pretty careful. You can see the recipe here.

If you’ve never had Pineapple Casserole and decide to make it, I’d love to hear your feedback! I’m starting to question my southern roots, since I’ve never had it! How did that happen?!? I’ve been to lots of church covered dish lunches and family potlucks, and I’ve never seen it. Or maybe when I was a kid, I saw it and thought it looked disgusting. That’s likely. I’ll let you know what I think after I make it.

I’m also wondering if I can get Hungry Girl to do some ingredient swaps and bring down the calorie count on this crazy sounding dish?!? Maybe I’ll send the recipe to their test kitchen!

 

 

I Won’t Get Jewelry for Valentine’s Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hoping you have a Happy Valentine’s Day!

We Save $$$ Traveling with Friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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