Friend Chicken

Yep…you read it right, “Friend chicken.” With an n.

I didn’t coin the phrase, but I use it all the time now.

Anybody who grew up in the South knows we deal with everything…funerals, new babies, illness, new neighbors…by sharing food. Nothing makes us feel good like sharing food. Somebody has a baby? We set up a meal schedule for their friends to take them dinners for a few weeks. Somebody loses a family member? Same thing. Surgery? You guessed it…meals. In fact, one of my mother’s friends has a daughter who discovered the joy of taking food to someone who needed it. After she had delivered the meal, she called her mother and said, “Wow! That was awesome! I can’t wait to get to do it again!” Unfortunately, in her case, she was taking food because of a death in the family, and she realized what she had said, correcting it to, “I can’t wait for somebody to have a baby!”

Another friend, Joe, had a father who was very patient with his wife (Joe’s mom). They lived in a small town in Alabama, and the dad was very well-liked by people (including the widows) in the community. The mom would often joke that if something happened to her first, the widows of the community were going to “casserole him to death.”

Friends have delivered food to us on many occasions: birth of a baby, loss of my dad, my husband’s brain surgery, the loss of my mother…and I’m sure I’m missing some. And every time, I am grateful.

And I’ve been “fooding people up” for years. To me, nothing says “I care about you” like a good meal. And here’s where friend chicken comes in…

Several years ago, I met a woman from Memphis when I was visiting Los Angeles. She told me she had a friend in Charlotte and asked if I knew her. I told her I did not know her, but I knew we had a mutual friend. The Memphis woman and I became Facebook friends soon thereafter, and I noticed that often, her friend in Charlotte and I would comment on the same posts on her page, so I “friended” her friend. She didn’t accept my request immediately, instead sending me a message asking how we knew each other. I explained the connection, and we became Facebook friends too!

In fact, after becoming her Facebook friend, my Facebook feed became infinitely more fun and interesting! I follow her worldwide travels with fascination and read her beautifully woven stories, often laughing and crying along the way. She is a remarkable woman…a physician, a world traveler, a mother, a wife, a friend to the homeless, and lucky for me, an incredible storyteller.

And then one day, the Facebook friend in Charlotte posted that her husband was having surgery. Being from the south, I did what I do…I offered to take them a meal, and she graciously accepted! I set it up for a Wednesday, because there is a place near my house that has the world’s greatest fried chicken every Wednesday night. I knew I could cook something for them, but since I knew she was from Kentucky and her husband is from Alabama, they were likely to enjoy the fried chicken more than anything I could prepare.

Wednesday came, and it was pouring down rain. Her husband had gone home from the hospital that morning. She texted me, telling me not to get out in the rain, but I would have none of that. I lived in Mobile, Alabama, for years, where it rains all the time. I wasn’t going to let a little rain stop me. I picked up the chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, mac and cheese, and biscuits, and I drove to her house. When I arrived, she greeted me warmly on her beautiful front porch, and I helped her carry the food into her kitchen. It was our first face-to-face meeting, but we felt like old friends because of Facebook. We chatted a few minutes, but I knew they didn’t need company after coming home from the hospital, so I left.

Soon thereafter, I received a message from her thanking me for the “friend chicken,” a typo, but an accurate description, nonetheless.

Now, whenever I opt to get takeout from that particular place for someone who has had surgery, or a baby, or is dealing with a death in the family, I tell them I will be bringing them “friend chicken.” Because really…what better way to say “we are friends” than with some good old, homestyle comfort food?!?!

So, I made a friend in Charlotte through a friend in Memphis, whom I met in LA…and I’m so glad I did! I learn a lot from her Facebook posts, but she also coined the term, “friend chicken.”

There are lots of good places in Charlotte to get good fried chicken (or “friend chicken”). Here are a few:

Price’s Chicken Coop, website here.

Mert’s Heart and Soul, website here.

King’s Kitchen, website here.

South 21 Jr, website here.

Publix, any location.

My favorite places for fast food fried chicken are Bojangles’, Popeye’s, and Hart’s Fried Chicken in Mobile, Alabama.

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One Year

Today marks the one-year anniversary of my mother’s passing. One year. And I have felt it at all the times I would expect to feel it, and I have felt it when I least expected it.

I didn’t sleep at all last night, staring at the clock, thinking of Mother.

I lost my daddy 12 years ago, so I gained some coping skills from that, but grief is grief. It’s going to happen, one way or another. I have been able to keep moving forward more than I did when Daddy died, but I’ve had moments.

I miss her all the time. She gave good advice. She had a calming demeanor. She wasn’t perfect, and she would be the first to admit that, but she was the perfect mama for me and my brother. I never knew exactly how much she loved me till I had my own child.

When do I miss her most?

I stayed in bed most of January. Friends brought meals, and I gave myself permission to give in to the grief for one month. After that, I rejoined the living. Here’s when I’ve missed her most:

  • Every time I’ve gotten in the car. I used to call her and talk (Bluetooth) every time I drove somewhere. Living 400 miles away, I didn’t get to see her all the time, but I called her all the time. I’ve almost called her a thousand times since.
  • When the Alabama Crimson Tide won the National Championship in January, she would have been thrilled. I missed her then…even cried that she missed it.
  • In February, my parents’ wedding anniversary rolled around on the 18th. They married in 1961 on my maternal grandfather’s birthday. Every year, on their anniversary, we would talk about their small wedding and how her Aunt Ola came through to pull it all together. And we talked about her daddy…truly one of the most patient, God-loving men who ever lived.
  • I missed her when my cousin, Patti, was searching for the perfect home for Mother’s dog. In the end, everything worked out, and Sam, the dog, went back home. It worked out the way it was supposed to, but I missed Mother, because I knew she loved Sam, and Sam loved her. I’m sure Sam still wonders about Mother, but she is living a happy life with my nephew in Mother’s home.
  • In March, we vacationed with my brother and his family.  Mother would have loved how much we laughed. She loved when we were all together. We missed her.
  • During our daughter’s eighth grade basketball and lacrosse seasons in winter and spring, she would have wanted regular updates. When something exciting happened, I always wanted to call her.
  • My birthday is in May. She always laughed at how excited I get about my birthday. Nobody loves a birthday like I do, and she would start singing to me days in advance. Missed out on that this year.
  • In the summer, our daughter traveled to Iceland for two weeks. It was not easy for me, but she needed to do it. Mother would have suffered along with me during those two weeks. She would have called me every day, asking about updates from the trip leaders. She also would have been happy my husband and I took our own vacation during that time…visiting South Florida with my brother and sister-in-law. And Mother would have been as excited as I was when our daughter was back on US soil.
  • I also had an eclectic garden in the summer…growing tomatoes, corn, and sunflowers, all favorites of my parents. She would have been amazed at the success I had. I wanted to call her daily and tell her about it.
  • As summer came to an end and school sports teams tryouts came around, she would have suffered through that with me too. Our daughter, a freshman in high school, tried out for varsity field hockey on August 1. I sat in my car, waiting for my daughter to come out after the tryout… to find out if she made the team or not. I wanted to call Mother, but since I couldn’t, I called my friend, Jane, who said all the things she knew my mother would have said. Our daughter made the team, and they won the state championship! I wish Mother could have seen her play.
  • When one of my brother’s sons visited us in Charlotte, I would have loved to share photos with Mother. And when the other one started a new job, a job that can lead to something real for his future, I know she would have been thrilled.
  • When I met Dominique Wilkins, former NBA superstar, in a restaurant several weeks ago, I got in the car and dialed Mother’s number before I realized it. She loved sports and would have loved my photo with Dominique.
  • Any time anyone in the family has gotten sick, I’ve missed Mother, a nurse. Two weeks ago, after an allergic reaction to a manicure (who knew?!?!), my hands broke out, and I sneezed for two days. A couple of days later, I woke up to find an enlarged lymph node in my neck. Fortunately, my pharmacist sister-in-law calmed me down. The next day, I went to the doctor, just like Mother would have advised. She would have called checked on me a few times a day. The node was enlarged because of an infection…viral or bacterial…and yes, it went back to normal after a few days.
  • And the holidays. She would have loved our family gathering at my brother and sis-in-law’s lake house. We all laughed, played games, told funny stories, and ate too much. Mother would have loved it.

I miss that tiny little firecracker of a woman. Occasionally, people who knew her will tell me something I said or did brought back memories of her. If only I had her gift of calm listening.

Now…if you still have your Mother, call her or give her a big hug right now.

 

 

 

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I’m Thankful for a Turkey…Drop

Thanksgiving…that time of year we all give thanks, which is something we should be doing all the time anyway.

Don’t get me wrong. I get it. Thanksgiving is a great holiday. Well, it’s an OK holiday. Lots of my friends love a traditional Thanksgiving. They say it’s a low pressure holiday. Me…not so much. The meaning behind it is great, but frankly, the traditional day…meh. Don’t judge! I don’t really like turkey. I love cornbread dressing, but I can only eat so much of the stuff. As for Thanksgiving itself…I know there’s historic significance. I know about the pilgrims and native Americans. I know, and I’m thankful for the pilgrims and the Native Americans. I just think the traditional Thanksgiving is boring. {GASP!} We spend hours cooking with family and/or friends, and the meal is over in an hour. And the cleanup! Whew! Sure, we visit with all the folks around us, but shouldn’t we be making time for them all the time anyway? If someone is important to you, shouldn’t you be putting them on your calendar? 

At the end of Thanksgiving Day, I always find myself thinking, “Is that all there is?” Frankly, there are lots of other days that I truly feel thankful.

Living in the United States, we have a lot to be thankful for: freedom being at the top of the list, I suppose. I’m thankful to God and to the veterans who have protected and continue to protect that freedom.

Obviously, I’m thankful for my family. I’m thankful I had my Daddy for the first 39 years of my life, and I had my Mother for the first 50 years of my life. I’m thankful for my  brother and his awesome family. I’m thankful for family and friends near and far. And of course, I’m thankful for my husband and daughter.

But here’s a list of ten things I’m thankful for that might be a little different than the usual:

  • Waking up. I’m thankful for every day that I wake up! Every day is a gift. Yes, it sounds corny, till you think about the folks who didn’t wake up today. By thinking of how grateful I am to wake up every day, it also makes me think of those I’ve lost…those I wish were still here. They would want me to be grateful to be alive.
  • School nurses. This week, there was a medical emergency at school, and while I always appreciate our school nurses, I was especially grateful we had them on campus this week. Aside from the fact that they can save lives, they also comfort the rest of us when we need it. There is comfort in knowing they are there.
  • Sweet moments. Now that our daughter is 15, those truly sweet moments are not as plentiful. She knows I’m not a superhero. She knows I can’t sing. She knows I’m not a supermodel. But occasionally, we have those sweet moments again. She falls asleep with her head on my shoulder. Or she texts/calls me to comfort her about something. Or she holds my hand in the car. Or when I witness her helping someone else. Or she asks my opinion…and really listens. Or she and her friends sit around the kitchen table with me, talking and laughing. I’m thankful for those moments.
  • Unexpected gifts. This past Saturday, as I was walking out the door, I grabbed a coat that had been hanging in the closet since last winter. After I put it on, I reached into the pocket, and I pulled out $40! Yes! That’s a win!
  • Soap operas. Yes…particularly, The Young and The Restless. I watched it years ago, and only recently, I started recording it to watch it at night. Why am I thankful for it? I’m thankful, because it’s mindless, ongoing television. I get enough of reality, and sometimes, I get tired of it. I love a mindless distraction, and that’s what The Young and The Restless provides.
  • Other moms. What would I do without other moms? They help me survive. Teenagers are a different breed, and while I remember being 15, the lives of teenagers are different now, in some ways, than they were when we were young. Sometimes, we all need some support.
  • Modern conveniences. Oh, yes. Thank God for air-conditioners, electricity, running water, automobiles, jets, online shopping, and everything else. Survive a few days without electricity, and you’ll have a new appreciation for something we take for granted every day. My family members who live in the wake of Hurricane Michael can tell you all the modern conveniences are blessings. And yes, I’m even thankful for Facebook, because there are so many people with whom I would have never connected or re-connected without Facebook. (I just ignore the politics.)
  • Morning coffee. My husband brings me coffee in bed every single morning. He knows I’m nicer after a cup of coffee, so he facilitates that niceness. Recently, when my daughter and I were staying in a hotel for a lacrosse tournament, the coffeemaker in our room didn’t work. I knew room service would take forever, because well, it wasn’t a hotel that’s known for great service. It was a lacrosse tournament hotel. I had to schlep downstairs for a cup of coffee, and fortunately, they had it in the lobby. Whew! Day saved!
  • Memories. Yes, I’m thankful for memories, good and bad, but most thankful for the good. I’ve lost both parents, but I have great memories of them. I have great childhood memories, high school memories, and college memories. I have great memories of friends in my 20s, 30s, and 40s, and now, my 50s. Yes, sometimes I can’t remember certain events, but that’s where friends come in…their versions of stories might be different, but they’re usually good!
  • WKRP in Cincinnati‘s Turkey Drop. Thus, the title of the blog. I know it sounds trivial, but nothing makes me laugh like Les Nessman at the WKRP Turkey Drop…a great moment in 1978 television. If you’ve never seen it, you must. It was based on an event in a town that would drop turkeys from trucks, creating mayhem. But I’ve also read about a turkey drop (from an airplane!) in Yellville, Arkansas. You can read about that here. To see a clip from the episode, click here. Or watch the whole episode on Amazon Prime Video here for $1.99. It’s the 7th episode of the first season. And while you’re at Amazon, you might as well scroll through the Turkey Drop paraphernalia here.

So Happy Thanksgiving Day to all! Take a moment to be thankful for everything you have (which you should do every day). Enjoy your meal…whatever it may be. We go out with friends we love on Thanksgiving…friends who are regularly on our calendar…no cooking, no turkey, no cleanup…just good company and lots of laughter. And we thank God every day for life. As my parents used to say, “Every day is Thanksgiving at our house.”

Life is a gift. Enjoy it. Be grateful. Not just on Thanksgiving, but every single day.

My Favorite Holiday Gifts 2018, Part 7: Teens/College Students

Everyone knows how difficult it is to find the perfect gift for a teenager or college student. After talking with a few of them, I’ve compiled some gift ideas at a lot of different price points that I hope will help. So, here we go: gifts for TEENS AND COLLEGE STUDENTS.

College Sweatshirts/Hoodies. My teenage daughter, who is a freshman in high school, and her friends love college sweatshirts, and it doesn’t really matter which college it is! Of course, most teens have favorites colleges, but the teens I know wear hoodies from schools all over the country! Sometimes, I see a college hoodie on sale somewhere, and I buy it, just because it will fit her. I regularly check Fanatics.com to see what they have, but I’m sure there are other sites too. Prices at Fanatics.com for men’s college hoodies (it’s what they prefer) start under $15. Check out their offerings here.

 

Lululemon Leggings. Teens and college-age girls love these things. Heck, moms love them too! They’re pricey, but they will be very well-received, because students can live in these things! It’s a constant request at my house. Whenever our daughter gets some extra money in her hand, she loves to spend it at Lululemon. She has learned, though, to buy them when they’re on sale. They’re shorts are popular too. And their sports bras…apparently, the best ever made. Prices for full-length leggings start at $98, but there are usually some on sale.

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Customized Starbucks Cup. We all know teens and students love their Starbucks. Mine doesn’t even drink coffee, but she loves those frappucino drinks. They also love things with their names on them. Things aren’t like they were when we were young, when almost everybody could find their names on those pre-personalized bicycle tags or stickers: Kelly, Jennifer, Mary, Joe, Michael…you get the point. Now, names are more unique. CoffeeTime Designs on Etsy offers personalized cups for hot drinks here at $7.99.  Funkytime Weddings offers cold drink personalized cups here for $11.47.

 

Keurig.For those college students or even high school students who like coffee, Keurig makes an awesome single-cup coffee maker, and it’s priced at just $49.96 at Walmart. It comes in several different colors. You can pick it up in the store or order online here. Just make sure you order some K-cups from Amazon or pick them up in your local store.

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Mini Fridge or Portable Fridge. Everyone knows teen boys and men can eat a lot. Teen boys eat all the time. They need a fresh supply of food and beverage on hand, whether they live at home or in a dorm. Girls love to keep their favorite cold beverages (and sometimes snacks) on hand. These two fridges are great for boys and girls, and both can be purchased at Walmart. One is a portable fridge that holds up to 12 cans ($49.99). Plug it into your car or home outlet. Great for tailgating! The second is a true mini fridge ($79.99)…perfect for a teen’s TV room, bedroom, or dorm room. Purchase here.

 

Long Distance Friendship Lamp. These are just awesomeness. Purchase one for yourself and one for your best friend or loved one who lives far away. Or maybe give two to your college student, so she can give one to a faraway friend. When you touch the lamp to adjust the hue in your home, it adjusts your friend’s lamp as well, letting them know you’re thinking of them! I love it, because I think it’s important for us to let folks know when we think of them. Priced from $85 to $170 at Uncommongoods.com here.

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Portable Lap Desk. You can go to Amazon and find lots of different lap desks, no doubt. And I’m not hooked on one particular one, but I do believe teens want one that’s big enough to hold a laptop computer. When I was in college, lap desks were frequent gifts between friends, and we used them…a lot. Lap desks are great for middle school, high school, and college students. Personally, I could see my teen sitting in the swivel chair mentioned below…with a lap board, doing homework in her room. Pictured below is one that starts at $17.32, purchased through Amazon Prime. You can purchase it here.

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Sports Blankets. Everybody needs a good blanket sometimes. For the young sports fans, blankets emblazoned with their team logo are great gifts. My daughter has an Atlanta Falcons blanket we use all the time…in the car, at sporting events, just hanging out at home. Whether your sports fan loves college or NFL football, baseball, or basketball, there are lots of different team blankets at Fanatics.com. With prices starting under $20 for some blankets, it makes a great gift for them at a great price for you! Check them out here.

Faux Fur Throws. For the teens/college students in your family who would rather stay warm without thinking about sports, West Elm has a wide assortment of faux fur throws starting at just $49. They’re beautiful, soft, and warm! Check them out here.

 

Weighted Blanket. A-maz-ing. While we are talking about blankets, these are good for stressed out high school and college students. Weighted blankets have been proven to help users sleep. The weight of the blanket has a calming effect. Students are known to have a little stress in their lives…exams. This could change their lives. There are lots of different ones out there, but the only one I’ve ever used is the Calming Comfort Weighted blanket, which you can purchase here. Prices start at $129. I’m getting one for my daughter for Christmas. Other brands can be purchased through Amazon.com.

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Personalized Stationery. Everybody needs it, and lots of us love it. I have a friend from college, Lori, who recently opened her own Etsy stationery shop called Proper ID Please. She has personalized notecards in 94 different designs. Each set contains 12 notecards, and they are priced at $20 per set. She can have them ready to ship in 3-5 days, but get your order in early for best selection! Order here.

LL Bean Boots. Honestly, these are classics. They never go out of style. LL Bean Boots were great when I was in high school 30+ years ago, and they’re still great. But order as soon as possible, because they make them to order, and sometimes, there’s a backlog. They’re great for men/women/boys/girls…everyone on your list. Prices start at $100, so they’re not cheap, but they are well-made and can be worn forever. See them here.175064_1914_41

Patagonia Black Hole Duffle. I discovered this awesome bag last summer when my daughter went to Iceland with a group. The most popular one is their 60L bag that sells for $129. It’s durable and roomy, and it’s water repellant. Lots of mesh pockets help keep packing organized. This is the best in the business. Great for outdoor travel, and it’s a great carryon too. Shop it here.

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Longchamp Bags. You’ve seen these in other lists, but I can’t stress enough how useful they are! Teens and college students love these, because they are lightweight, functional, and durable. They come in lots of shapes and sizes, so check think about function: shopping? overnight? weekend? And the colors! They come in so many colors! Shop them at Nordstrom here.

 

Spikeball Set. Apparently, this is a popular competitive game that was featured on Shark Tank, and students love it. I haven’t seen it in person yet, but several people have told me how much their teens love it. Activity and competition are good ways to work off stress, so if you have a stressed-out student on your hands, this could be a good distraction. When I was in college, my friend, Angela, and I played Yahtzee for stress relief. This would have been fun too. Priced at $59.99 on Amazon, it includes free shipping for Prime members. See it here.

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Magnetic Dart Board. Back in the day, we just used pointy darts. I’m sure my mother reminded us regularly, “You’ll put an eye out.” Just like Spikeball, darts are a good stress reliever. These aren’t pointy, though. These are magnetic, removing the risk of putting out an eye (for the most part). Amazon has these priced at $29.98, which is a bargain. Order here.

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Hammock (and stand). For the past few years, teens have loved ENO hammocks. Prices for them on Amazon.com start at $27.99. (Click here.)These hammocks are lightweight and easy to hang. My daughter and her friends often hang theirs in trees around the park in our neighborhood and hang out. But I you don’t have trees around your house, you can purchase a stand for the ENO, and if you purchase one made by ENO, they are priced at about $249. (Click here.)But if you’d like to get a hammock chair with stand for less, you can get it from Wayfair here for $111.99, including the stand.

 

Shower Caddy. Y’all remember living in a dorm…the small room, the roommate, the noise, the fun…and the community bathroom. Oh, the community bathroom. Remember having to carry all your shower stuff down the hall for a shower? Well, lots of college students are still doing that now, so they need shower caddies! You might be thinking, “My student already has one.” Well, yeah…but think about it: a shower caddy gets wet, so it needs to be replaced regularly. Pottery Barn Dorm has some great shower caddies, with prices starting at $14.99. Some are even eligible for personalization. Check them out here.

Crocs. I know, you thought (or maybe hoped) these had gone by the wayside. Well, for a while, they did, but they’re baaaaaack. Nobody ever claimed Crocs were attractive, but they are durable and useful, for sure. My teenage daughter and her friends started wearing Crocs again last year…to the pool…to the beach…and in the shower at camp or in dorms. Crocs come in lots of different colors, so find out the recipients favorite color first, but this is a gift that will get used. Pricing for Crocs starts at under $15 on Amazon.com. You can shop their Croc selection here.

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Privacy Pop Bed Tent. Personally, I think this is a great idea for kids or teens. It provides privacy and can provide seclusion for siblings who share rooms or or sleep better in a cozier space.They come in sizes ranging from toddler bed to king bed, and they come in a variety of colors. Easy to install, they fit right under your regular mattress, and they come in a variety of colors.  Priced from $119 to $199. Purchase here.44075242744702p__1

Charm Bracelet. High school and college are the perfect times for a girl to start a charm bracelet. It doesn’t mean they have to wear it, but it’s a great time to start collecting mementos from places they’ve traveled. After my mother died, I found a charm bracelet from her youth with lots of charms from places I knew she had visited, and it made me feel connected to her. I don’t wear it, because I’m afraid I will lose it, but I have it. Unfortunately, I never started my own charm bracelet, and I wish I had. It would be fun to have charms from special times in my life or places I’ve visited. You can get charm bracelets at lots of places, and you can get them in gold or silver. I’m listing two in sterling silver. Right now, Kay Jewelers has a heart charm bracelets on sale for about $60. At Tiffany & Co, the ever-popular Heart Tag Charm Bracelet starts at $310 in sterling silver.

 

BACtrack S80 Pro Breathalyzer OR BACtrack Mobile Pro A breathalyzer is a great gift for a college student, and honestly, some might like it for a teenager. As much as parents want their kids to make good decisions, we all know they don’t always do that. If you have a son, daughter, niece, nephew, or friend who imbibes, this might be the perfect gift to help them make good decisions. I’ve listed two, because both get excellent ratings. From what I can tell, these are the best ones out there. Just look at the two, and decide which one is best for your recipient. The BACtrack S80 Pro is priced at $129 (on sale from $149 at time of writing), and it has been tested by and meets the requirements of the DOT/NHTSA for a personal breath alcohol screening device. The BACtrack Mobile Pro, priced at $99,  has other features, working with your app and cell phone. It even estimates the time at which your BAC will return to 0.00. To learn more and/or purchase, go to the website here.

 

PBTeen Groovy Swivel Chair. Teens and college students often love a little extra seating in their rooms, but they don’t want conventional chair or don’t have room for them. These Groovy Swivel Chairs come in different colors and fabrics, and they are a fun alternative to regular chairs and bean bag chairs. My daughter likely will be getting one this Christmas…what a comfortable place to study and do homework! Prices start at $279 for the faux fur chairs (on sale right now) and go up to $399. Check them out here.

 

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Smart TV with Roku. If your college student (or teenager) doesn’t have a Smart TV, it would make a great gift this holiday season. A Smart TV with Roku doesn’t even have to be connected to any cable or satellite service. They can stream movies and shows straight through Roku with a Sling subscription. They can also watch Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and several other streaming services through the Smart TV. Of course, there are lots of different versions on the market. I found them starting at $169 at Best Buy for a 32″ TV. To check at Best Buy, click here. 

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Amazon Fire Stick and Echo Dot. I mentioned this in my favorite gifts for travelers, but they’re great for teenagers who already have televisions. The Fire Stick will enable them to stream shows and movies without cable or satellite service, but they will need Wi-Fi. In my previous post, I mentioned the $39.95 deal for the Amazon Fire Stick with 2nd Gen Echo Dot, but now they’re offering a special deal on the New Amazon Fire Stick with 3rd Gen Echo Dot for $59.95 (regular price $99.95), in stock at Amazon on November 26. Purchase now as a bundle from Amazon, and they’ll send it when it’s in stock!. Your teen or college student can plug the Amazon Fire Stick directly into the HDMI of their existing TV, and use the Echo Dot in conjunction with it. Get it here.

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Experience Gifts. I’m always telling people experiences are more memorable than things, and they make great gifts! Maybe you have a teenager or college student who has always wanted to skydive or indoor skydive. Maybe they’ve wanted a racecar experience or rafting experience. There’s a website that can sell you the experience, but if you know of an experience off the top of your head, maybe you contact the place directly. I know we have a new company coming to Charlotte called iFly which offers indoor skydiving, which I’ve wanted to do for a long time. They offer gift cards in various dollar amounts. Or maybe you purchase someone a gift card from experiencedays.com, and they can choose their own experience from their offerings. See experiencedays.com here, and iflyworld.com here.

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Sled. This one is a tradition at our house. Every year of her life, our daughter has received a sled from Santa for Christmas, and as far as I’m concerned, that will continue as long as I can do it. She has quite a collection of awesome sleds now, so when it does snow once or twice a year in Charlotte, she is always prepared. In fact, sometimes we just have ice instead of snow, but that doesn’t stop us! (I say “us,” because yes, I go sledding too.) We have had a lot of luck with Hammerhead sleds, so this year, she will be getting a newer version of the same type sled. These sleds are lightweight, durable, steerable, and most importantly, fast. You know what they say, “Kid tested, Mother approved.” It’s not cheap, coming in at just over $177, but if you can spend it, it’s worth every penny when it snows. You get a lot more that $177 of fun out of this thing. There are some less expensive versions on Amazon too. If you want to see this one, click here. Amazon will ship it to you for free, if you’re a Prime member.

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Cash is king. Not gonna lie. Teens want what they want, and we don’t always get it right. I don’t even try to buy clothes and shoes for my daughter anymore. And sometimes, they just want cash so they can get exactly what they want. While it seems impersonal, teens and college students love cold hard cash. But to make it even more exciting, do what my sister-in-law does: wrap it up. And I mean wrap it up. Start with an envelope. Then wrap it in a ball of plastic wrap. Put that ball in a box. Wrap it in newspaper. Put it in another box…and so on and so on. Keep it interesting! Make that package as complicated and big as you can make it!

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Stocking Stuffers. For more ideas, please refer to my stocking stuffers post. There are lots of good ideas on there for young people too. You can see that post here.

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Teenagers and college students are tough customers, but hopefully, you’ll find some things here that will go over well with yours. We want them to have a Merry Christmas too!

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My Favorite Holiday Gifts, Part 6: Stocking Stuffers

Every year, I end up dashing around at the last minute to come up with good stocking stuffers. You can’t just have empty stockings hanging by the chimney on Christmas morning! So, this year, I’m planning ahead. I’m listing something fun for everyone here. Aren’t Christmas stocking supposed to be fun?! Without further ado, here are my favorite STOCKING STUFFERS:

Festive Cracker Set from L’Occitane. Holiday crackers have been around for a long time, but these festive crackers from L’Occitane are special, because they contain fabulous L’Occitane beauty products. Each set contains four crackers, each containing beauty products of a different scent: Sweet Cherry Blossom; Delicious Almond; Fragrant Lavender; and Nourishing Shea Butter. They can be used as stocking stuffers as a set, or break it up and put one cracker in each stocking. Priced at $34 for the set, order from L’Occitane here.

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Sports or Concert Tickets. These always go over well in my household. We tend to prefer sporting events over concerts, but we’ve given each other some great concert tickets over the years: The Eagles, Sade, and more. And when our daughter was younger, she loved getting tickets to see Big Time Rush and Taylor Swift in her stocking. There are some great concerts coming up over the next year: Pink, JoJo Siwa, Justin Timberlake, Ariana Grande, George Strait, and more.  For sports in Charlotte, we’re fortunate to have the Hornets, the Checkers, the Panthers, and the Knights, plus some college sports too! For sporting event and concert ticket information, go to Ticketmaster.com here, or VIPNation.com here.

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Scratch Off Cards. Some of you will think I’m crazy, but Santa puts Scratch Off Cards from the North Carolina Education Lottery in our stockings every year! The most any of us has ever won on one card is $100, but hey, that’s something! One year, when I was buying them, the guy helping me told me his aunt won $40,000 on a Scratch Off on Christmas one year. I don’t sound so crazy now, do I? Prices start at $1 for NC Scratch Offs, and I usually buy about $100 worth to split among our stockings. Get them at Harris Teeter or anywhere they sell NC Lottery Tickets. If you live in another state, perhaps your state has a lottery with scratch-offs, or maybe a neighboring state. I know my friends in Baldwin and Mobile Counties in Alabama have been known to drive to the Florida line for lottery tickets…and others to the north have gone to Georgia. To see the different types of Scratch Offs, go to the North Carolina Education Lottery Page here.

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Foot Massage Roller. Anyone who spends much time on their feet can use a foot massage. This foot massage roller is perfect for do-it-yourself foot massages. Just put it on the floor, and roll it with your foot for instant relief. After walking around lacrosse or soccer fields during a weekend tournament, this will do the trick! And my daughter uses it after playing in those tournaments. Is your spouse a doctor or nurse? They’re on their feet all day…they’d love this. Have a friend or family member who travels a lot? It’s great after trekking through airports or after long flights. Weighing under 6.5 ounces, it’s light enough to carry in luggage without adding bulk. Purchase from Amazon for $18.99 here.

 

Little Stinker Bag of Reindeer Farts Cotton Candy. If you have little boys in your house, you know they love potty humor. Heck, even big boys love potty humor. What’s funnier than a bag of reindeer farts? Well, obviously, they’re not really reindeer farts, but they’ll get a lot of laughs on Christmas morning. Priced at $9.95 for three ounces (cotton candy is light) from Amazon. Purchase here.

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Firebox Head Case. Some folks will think this is absolutely crazy, but when my friend, Mary Ann, told me about it via Facebook, I was all over it! Nothing says “that’s my bag!” like your own giant face on your suitcase. I don’t have my own yet, but I will have one soon! When it comes off the luggage carousel on my first trip after Christmas, I will recognize it immediately…and everyone else will know it’s mine! I think this is a great stocking stuffer for anyone who likes a good, crazy gift. My teenager daughter would be mortified, but I know my crazy sister-in-law will love it! It’s a fabric case cover that fits over your bag. It comes in three different sizes, and the handles are still easily accessible. Purchase at firebox.com here. 

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Lypsyl Lip Balms. My daughter and her friends recently brought these fabulous lip balms to my attention. Available at Walgreen’s, Walmart, and Amazon.com, they are made of Swedish Beeswax Lip Balm. According to the teenage girls who hang out at my house, they are the best lip balms on the market. Guess what will be in the my daughter’s Christmas stocking this year? But Lypsyl’s not just for women. They are offered in the original formula and in Yummy Sticks too. Purchase at your local Walgreen’s or Walmart, or purchase on Amazon.com here.LypSyl_2018_lineshot

Kendra Scott Moody Mood Necklace. I mentioned these in the Christmas accessories post, but they are worth another mention. Doesn’t every woman love to find a little jewelry in her Christmas stocking? This is fun, because it will remind some of the old mood rings of the 70s. Aside from that, they’re just pretty! Priced at $75, the mood necklaces come in silver, gold, and rose gold. Kendra Scott also offers mood rings for the same price. Purchase here.

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Restaurant Gift Cards. This is almost too simple to mention. We all know about gift cards, and they make great stocking stuffers for just about everybody. For teenagers, there’s Starbucks, ChickFilA, Shake Shack, and more. For adults, you can go more upscale, or just something they like: Starbucks (again), Cafe Monte in Charlotte, Bricktop’s in Charlotte, or The Palm. Or maybe you know a hotel they frequent? Lots of hotels and spas offer gift cards, as well.

 

Dylan’s Candy Bar Hot Chocolate. Dylan’s Candy Bar has an assortment of hot chocolate mixes that are fun for the whole family. They offer several “mystery color” hot chocolates that turn red, pink, or green in your cup, making for an interesting hot cocoa experience. And they offer flavored hot chocolates as well: Fir Real (Double Chocolate Christmas Hot Chocolate), Just Hangin’ (Salted Caramel Christmas Hot Chocolate), and Sweet But Twisted (Peppermint Christmas Hot Chocolate). For any family member who has seen the movie or the musical, Mean Girls, they offer a hot chocolate called You Go Glen Coco pink hot chocolate mix. Purchase directly from Dylan’s Candy Bar here.

 

Claus Porto Musgo Real Soap-on-a-Rope. Soap-on-a-Rope has made a comeback in recent years. Because I love Claus Porto soaps, it’s the one I recommend for men. The Classic Scent is fantastic and fresh, but not flowery, and Claus Porto uses Shea butter in all their soaps, making them great for moisturizing too. Get this at Neiman Marcus for $28 here. OR get it in a set with cologne directly from Claus Porto for $90 here.

 

Lush Bubble Bar. Starting at $5.95, these beautifully-scented bubble bars create a relaxing bath experience. Some of them are even reusable. There are different shapes and scents, and who doesn’t love a bubble bath? Shop Lush Bubble Bars here.

 

L Erickson Grab and Go Pony Tube. Best ponytail holders ever! I discovered these several years ago when I was waiting to check out at Anthropologie in Los Angeles. You know how they have all sorts of little accessories near the checkout? Well, I grabbed one of these tubes, and I was so glad I did! My daughter and I both use them, and they hold our hair without damaging it. Anybody in your life who ever wears a ponytail will love these. Priced at $18 for the tube of 15 ponytail holders, they’re not cheap, but they are worth it. Get them at Amazon Prime here. Or from Nordstrom here.

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Bluetooth Beanie. Bluetooth Beanies are a hot item this Christmas, and they are the perfect size to shove down into the toe of a Christmas stocking. You know how you have to have something you can push in to the toe to support everything else in the stocking? Well, here it is! Bluetooth beanies are great for listening to music while attending sporting events, running, skiing, and more. Amazon offers lots of them, but here is one that gets great ratings…the Everplus beanie, starting at $14.95. Get it at Amazon here.

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Duluth Trading Larry Flashlight. I have one of these, and it comes in handy. Sure, we have flashlights on our phones, but they’re not like this. I’ve used this one at the beach while we looked for ghost crabs at night. I’ve used it while I walked the dogs at night. It gives off a lot of light, and it’s lightweight too. Makes a great stocking stuffer for any member of the family. Don’t all little kids love flashlights?!? Don’t teens and college students need flashlights? Priced at $14.95, it’s a great deal. Purchase from Duluth Trading Company here. 

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City Clues. One Christmas, we planned a trip to New York for our daughter, so we decided to fill her stocking with clues about the trip. Since she was 11 or 12 at the time, we went with clues a girl her age would associate with NYC. That meant her stocking contained a magnet from the Empire State Building, an 8″ replica of the Statue of Liberty, come candy from Dylan’s Candy Bar, some frozen hot chocolate mix from Serendipity, an Eloise doll (from Eloise at the Plaza), Yankees tickets, and tickets to see Matilda on Broadway. Oh, and an I Love NY t-shirt. She figured it out, and she was thrilled. Planning a big trip? Find some souvenirs online to put in your family member’s stocking.

 

 

And there you have it…stocking stuffers! Get busy shopping! Christmas is just over a month away, and you don’t want to miss out on the good stuff!

***Next time: TEENS AND COLLEGE STUDENTS!***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Favorite Things About Adulthood

Remember when you were a teenager? I vividly remember being a teenager and all the stuff that went with it. I remember thinking adults had it made. I thought all adults had freedom to go wherever they wanted for lunch. I thought they had it made, because they could choose how late they wanted to stay out. I thought adulthood must be the best thing ever.

What I didn’t consider at the time was that adults have real responsibilities. We have to provide for our families. We have to pay bills. We have to worry about our children when they are with us and when they aren’t with us. We lose sleep when our children are sick. We feel every bit of pain our kids feel…and on and on.

But there are some great things about being an adult, and here are some of my favorites:

  • We can eat lunch wherever we want, some of the time. Of course, if you’re working in an office, it has to be somewhere near your office, so you can get back quickly, but still…choices. Sometimes, I’m so busy with meetings or errands that I eat lunch in a hurry…like a protein bar…but I guess that’s still getting to choose where I eat. I remember when I had to eat in the school cafeteria. We thought it was the worst thing ever. I actually try to remember that sometimes when I’m enjoying a lunch at Ilios Noche or Cafe Monte. I try to “relish the moment.” My 14-yr-old self would be so jealous.
  • We can stay out as late as we want, as long as we don’t have to be back in time to get a babysitter home safely, or as long as we don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn the next morning to get our kids to a soccer game. Sure, we can stay out as late as we want, but usually, we don’t want to stay out later than 10pm. I remember when my nights (in college) didn’t even start till 11pm. We are officially adults. We can even drink whatever we want, as long as we aren’t driving, and again, as long as we don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn the next morning.
  • We get to decide what’s for dinner. The catch? We have to prepare it…or pay for it. Either way, it’s our responsibility. But yeah, we get to decide. If I want to cook chili for dinner, then I get to make that decision. I might be the only one who eats it, but I decide it. My daughter might make herself a grilled cheese instead (but maybe I get her to make one for me too since it would go great with chili).
  • We get to pick vacation destinations. Yep…almost every time, but most of the time, we discuss it as a family. There are times we’ve done exactly what my daughter wanted to do for vacation, because I will admit, it’s fun to see her face light up about being at a special event.
  • We have the freedom, and we feel the freedom to be who we are, be who we want to be, and be with whom we want to be. We feel the freedom to say “no” if we don’t want to do something, but we also know sometimes we have to do some things we don’t want to do. We have wisdom…wisdom we use to help others and help ourselves. That comes with age and experience.
  • For me, the greatest thing about being an adult is that I get to be a mother. There’s no catch here. I really love being a mother. Yes, I only have one child, but she has the energy of three. And I love almost every minute of it. I love talking with her. I love laughing with her. I love traveling with her, and I even love helping her with her problems. I love watching her play sports, and I love seeing her learn new things. I just love being with her while she’s growing up.

I just love life, in general. Sure, there are bad things that happen and bad things about life (those bills I mentioned earlier), but adulting is not all bad.

Frankly, I’m just glad I am an adult. We should be thankful for every day we wake up. Every day is a gift.

Relish the moments!

Happy Birthday To Me!

They say it’s your birthday!
It’s my birthday too, yeah!
They say it’s your birthday!
We’re gonna have a good time!
–The Beatles, Birthday

Every year when my birthday rolls around, I sing that song to myself. It makes me think of the movie, Sixteen Candles, which was released when I was sixteen (almost seventeen). You can see a quick clip of that scene here. And what 16-yr-old girl didn’t love Jake Ryan then?

TOMORROW, I turn 51. Nothing special about 51, but nobody loves a birthday like I do! Do I need fancy gifts? No. Do I need adoration? No. I just like that it’s MY day…well, it’s my day and lots of other people’s day. I have a friend in California who has the same birthday and a friend in Pennsylvania who has the same birthday too, so it’s their day too.

I love a birthday. Always have. Between the ages of two and five, Happy Birthday to Me was my favorite song. I walked around singing it all the time…year round. In fact, my family teased me mercilessly about it. As an adult, I start celebrating before my birthday and keep celebrating for a while. My husband’s birthday is six days before mine, so I wait till his is over, and then, it’s on!

I remember lots of childhood birthdays, but my sixth birthday really sticks out in my mind for lots of reasons. It was 1973, and my birthday fell on the Sunday following the Friday that was the last day of kindergarten.

1973 was a big year in my life, especially those weeks around my birthday. Not only was my birthday coming up just as school was getting out, but I was going to Walt Disney World (that’s what we called it back then) for the very first time the week after my birthday! I had two big things happening almost at once, and I was beyond excited!

My mother planned a birthday party at our home. We invited my entire kindergarten class. We ate cake and played Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey, because that was what we did at parties then. Mother’s friend, Martha, was there to help her with wrangling all those kids, and fortunately, we had a big backyard, so they could move us outside. I had gotten a piece of playground equipment for my birthday…a whirlybird. I had begged for it. We all got to play on that at my party. (See photo below) We also played on the swingset, but back then, swingsets had metal slides, and in south Alabama, those slides got pretty hot. Lots of kids blistered their backsides sliding down those slides in the 70s, but I don’t think anyone got blistered at my party.

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I also remember that I got in trouble. Having your entire kindergarten class over for your birthday when you’re turning six is a big deal. Apparently, I thought it made me the boss of the world. I have a vivid memory of my mother pulling me aside…literally pulling me aside by my arm…and whispering in my ear, “You’re being bossy. You need to settle down and be nice.” I remember feeling a little shocked, because somehow, I didn’t realize I was acting like a Queen Bee, but I’m sure I was. Some people, right now, are thinking, “Some things never change!”

Maybe that day it was the pre-Disney excitement. I’m sure everyone at my party also had to listen to me say repeatedly, “I’m flying to Walt Disney World in six days.” They probably wanted to punch me in the face.

Walt Disney World was just the Magic Kingdom back then…no Epcot, no Hollywood Studios, no Animal Kingdom..and it had only opened about 20 months prior, so I was among the first of my friends to go. Big stuff, especially since I had loved Mickey Mouse my entire life.

Six was a big birthday.

There were lots of memorable birthdays for obvious reasons: 16, 18, 21, 30, 40.

And then 50 came around last year. Wow! Half a century! What a glorious birthday! Lunch and Smokey & The Bandit with friends! Surprise dinner with friends! Brunch with the family! And I went on a fabulous birthday trip and stayed in my favorite hotel with my daughter and one of her friends. We had a wonderful, relaxing suite, and I loved every minute, drinking champagne with every meal and lounging on the patio of our suite. We ate at some of my favorite restaurants in Los Angeles, and it was a birthday to remember.

But as I think about past birthdays, I realize the best thing about birthdays, aside from celebrating another year of life, is the people…people who send Facebook messages, people who call, people who celebrate and/or send gifts or cards. All those things mean someone thought of me.

My mama isn’t here to celebrate 51 with me, but I have great memories of her on my various birthdays. She was there for all my childhood birthdays and made lots more of them special. For my 40th birthday, the first one after Daddy died, we had brunch at The Grand Hotel in Point Clear and spent the day there. Ten years later, when I turned 50, she found great joy in my excitement about that milestone birthday. It’s a great memory: Mother laughing at how happy I was to be 50. Even though she couldn’t go on my birthday trip with me, I sent her pictures and videos from the trip, and she enjoyed listening to every detail.

I know she would want me to enjoy this birthday too. My friends and family should hope I don’t get too bossy, though, because Mother’s not here to pull me aside and tell me to chill out.

So, what do I want for my 51st birthday? This weekend, I just want to do whatever comes to mind. I want to relax. My husband knows I just want some rest and relaxation. Well, that and some cake. I do love birthday cake. And some Champagne. I do love Champagne too. OK, maybe brunch with the family…that rounds it out. Oh, and I want my brother to call me and sing the Little Rascals birthday song from the episode titled Feed ‘Em And Weep. It’s what we do…for every birthday. If you aren’t familiar with it, you can watch it here.

But seriously, one of the best gifts my husband ever gives me is that first cup of coffee in bed every morning. He really doesn’t need to do anything else for me as long as he continues that practice. He started doing that a couple years ago, and I am a much happier person because of it. It makes me feel like every day is my birthday!

Happy Birthday to me!