“Cheater” Charcuterie Boards

“Cheater” charcuterie boards.

Charcuterie boards have become popular over the last few years. Anyone who has not been living in a cave knows that. I became absolutely obsessed with creating them a little over a year ago, and I have made lots of different ones with lots of different ingredients.

Sometimes, I want to have people over and serve charcuterie, but I don’t have time to shop for it! What to do? I do what I call a “cheater charcuterie board.” I order from a business in Charlotte that will deliver charcuterie boxes and/or boards to my home with lots of fantastic, locally-sourced ingredients. I was having a crazy week a couple of months ago, but we had friends coming over on a Friday night. I wanted to serve charcuterie, but I didn’t have time to go to the store beforehand. So I searched online with “charcuterie boards, Charlotte,” and I found Off the Block Charcuterie. (If you live in another city, simply search online for “{your city}, charcuterie.” to find something similar in your area.) After perusing the Off the Block website, not only did it appear they offer quality ingredients, but I also discovered they would deliver to my home for no additional charge! Score! And I quickly placed an order.

I ordered their Large Signature Box, which features a selection of North Carolina sourced cheeses and meats plus house-roasted nuts, house-made crackers, and seasonal items. I have now ordered it several times, and the cheese have been plentiful…and included my personal favorites of bleu cheese, brie, and goat cheese. If you don’t like those cheeses, you can specify when you order. The meats have included prosciutto and other cured options. And the seasonal items have been olives, blackberries, orange slices, strawberries, raspberries, figs, and dried apricots…different items on different dates. I have not been disappointed. In fact, I have been absolutely delighted every time I have ordered, and the lady who has delivered to us is lovely. The Large Signature Box is $65, and it serves 5-6 people appetizers. We tend to use it for three or four of us as a meal with wine. Let me mention here that the price also includes the delivery to my home! It’s a bargain!

When the box arrives (on time, every time!) I get out one of my own beautiful charcuterie boards and arrange the items how I want them arranged, and I even add a few of my own favorite items from my own pantry: praline pecans, salted caramel chocolate pieces, and various crackers. (My favorite crackers are Blue Diamond Nut Thins…I usually get the artisan flavors and the almond thins.) Don’t worry. I don’t try to pass everything off as my own. I always own up to the fact that I created a cheater charcuterie board, but everyone enjoys it. I usually wait until I get a compliment on the fresh items on the board, and that’s when I say, “I have to admit it’s what I call a ‘cheater’ board, because I didn’t gather the ingredients myself…”

But that’s not all Off the Block Charcuterie offers. They also offer vegan and vegetarian boards, caviar boxes, crudité boxes, charcuterie cups, and more! At Easter, I ordered a special board from them that included cookies from Honeybear Bakeshop cookies that were fantastic! To see Off the Block’s website, click here. I’m definitely ordering for Easter…and I plan to have quite a few add-ons…maybe some caviar and chocolate.

Everything we have had delivered from Off the Block Charlotte has been outstanding, and every guest has given it rave reviews! Even our very picky teenage daughter loves them. If you would like to assemble your own cheater charcuterie board or would like to order a pre-arranged board full of locally-sourced, delicious, high quality ingredients, place your order now, and they will bring it to your home (in Charlotte) at a time you select! Serve it all with your choice of wine, and voila! You have delicious appetizers or a delicious dinner…however you choose to serve it. We have ordered so many times now that I told our delivery lady yesterday we need to invite her over for drinks one weekend.

Cheers!

***I mentioned my “beautiful” charcuterie boards above. When I say I have beautiful boards, I mean they are gorgeous. A family friend I have known for 45 years retired recently, and he is making charcuterie boards by hand. He makes them from different types of wood and finishes them in FDA-approved finishes, so they are food safe. Seriously, I get compliments on them every time I use one. If you’re interested in one, contact me at kellymattei@msn.com for more information. Photos below. ***

***Again, to see the website for Off the Block Charlotte, click here.***

The Glory of Hem Tape

The glory of hem tape…OK, so they call it “Fabric Fuse Tape,” but I call it hem tape, because that’s what I use it for.

I’m on a college parents Facebook page. It’s a page on which parents of students at my daughter’s future college can post about different things. Sometimes…occasionally…I get helpful information. I also see lots of ridiculous posts where parents are looking for roommates for their kids or trying to do other things for their kids that they should be doing themselves. It can become quite comical. But recently, someone posted that her daughter needed to know where she could get a long formal dress hemmed within 24 hours. Good luck with that. If she had Fabric Fuse Tape, she wouldn’t be in a panic.

One thing that will definitely be in my daughter’s “emergency kit” (not her first aid kit, but the kit with safety pins, extra buttons, rubber bands, etc) will be hem tape. And before we take her to college, I plan to make sure she knows how to use it. Call it trashy. Call it cheap. But hem tape has saved me on more than one occasion, so we keep it in our house all the time.

What is hem tape, you ask? It’s special double-sided fabric tape you can use to hem clothing items. Since I’m 5’2″ on a tall day, I have to hem pants on the regular, and if I don’t have time to take them to the alterations place, I do them myself…with hem tape. The kind I use (link shared at end) comes straight from Amazon. When I need to hem an item, I turn it inside out and fold it where it needs to be hemmed. Then, I cut two-inch sections of hem tape and apply them one by one around the inside of the new hem, pressing them firmly in place with my hand/fingers as I go. No ironing needed…just firm pressing…and it holds. It’s no joke. I have “hemmed” a pair of pants in less that ten minutes when I needed to get out the door. It works even through washes.

A couple of weeks ago, our daughter had her Sadie Hawkins Dance at school. She had purchased a lovely dress that crossed at the hem in front. It was a short dress, so if the crossed hem opened while she was walking or sitting, it would have been indecent. She asked if she should pin it with a safety pin, and I said, “No. I have the perfect thing.” I got out the hem tape and cut a short tape. She was already wearing the dress, so it was easy to figure out where to place the tape. We held the two pieces of fabric together and placed the hem tape strategically…and she didn’t have any issues with it the entire evening. No, it will likely never detach, but it’s not an issue, because she can get into and out of the dress with it there.

I have lots of pants of different weights on which I have used hem tape. Heavy denim fabric? Check. Lightweight fabrics? Check. And i’ve used it when jeans came with frayed hems I didn’t like. Just fold under and apply hem tape…it will hold indefinitely.

So yes, we have hem tape all over the place at our house…in my bathroom drawer…in “the” kitchen drawer (you know, the one with all the paper clips, safety pins, thermometer, etc). I had never used it before a few years ago when I ordered it. I had gone to the alterations place at prom time, and the line was out the door. I didn’t have time to wait, so while I sat in my car contemplating what to do, I looked on Amazon and placed my first order for hem tape. It totally saved us.

So yes, I have it on the list of necessary items in the college emergency kit…and I think it should be a staple in any home.

To order your Fabric Fuse Tape (hem tape to me) from Amazon, click here.

Holiday Gifting 2021 (Part 7): Gifts for Mom

Gifts for Mom.

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

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

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

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

Holiday Gifting 2021 (Part 6): Gifts for Men

Gifts for men.

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

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

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

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

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

Holiday Gifting (Part 4): Gifts for Teens

Gifts for teens.

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

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

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

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

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

Happy shopping!

Holiday Gifting 2021 (Part 3): College Students

Gifting for college students.

This is on my brain for a reason…our daughter is off to college next fall. This holiday season, we plan to start getting her prepared for dorm life. Yes, dorm life! I know all college students don’t live in dorms, so this list has lots of ideas for the college student who lives in a dorm and for the college student who doesn’t. I did a lot of research and gave it a lot of thought, and here are my gift suggestions:

  • She’s Birdie Personal Alarm. I saw this on Shark Tank, and it immediately made me think of my younger years. I remember being in college and having to park in a dark area in the parking lot at night…then jumping out of the car and running as fast as I could to my dorm. Even after college, I remember going out in Buckhead (Atlanta) with friends and walking to my car alone. It was scary. I wish I’d had a She’s Birdie Personal Alarm then. It’s a small keychain alarm that is equipped with a loud alarm and strobe lights. Walking from the library to the dorm at night? Hold the She’s Birdie alarm in your hand and simply press the button if you need the alarm. Priced at $29.99 on Amazon, it’s a bargain for some peace of mind. Our daughter will receive one of these for Christmas this year. And frankly, I will probably get one for myself too! To purchase, click here.
She’s Birdie personal alarm
  • Crunch Cup XL. I love this idea, and I think it’s perfect for the busy college student. It’s advertised as a portable cereal cup…no spoon, no bowl. “It’s cereal on the go.” Honestly, I think my daughter could use this right now, her senior year of high school. She will definitely find one of these under the tree this year. I don’t know that she will use it “on the go” in college, but I do think she will use it in her dorm room. Priced at $24.95 on Amazon, it comes in several different colors. See it here.
Crunch Cup XL
  • Games. Sure, college students need to study, but they need downtime too. When I was in college, we went out a lot at night, but on nights we stayed in, during study breaks, we enjoyed playing games. Our favorite then was Yahtzee, and we played it all the time! Now, there are lots of fun “card” games college students love to play, and they make great gifts. There’s one called Cards Against Humanity that’s especially popular. And there are others: For the Girls, We’re Not Really Strangers, Never Have I Ever, That’s What She Said…and more. You can find all of these on Amazon or in your local Target or Walmart in the games aisle. You can purchase Cards Against Humanity from Amazon for $25 here.
Cards Against Humanity
  • Giant Hoodie. This is a great gift for a college student…or anyone else on your list. I discovered the Giant Hoodie company a year or two ago, and I had to have some for myself. Now I give them as gifts all the time. My daughter loves hers. They’re big hoodies that are one size fits all, so you don’t have to worry about insulting someone by getting the wrong size. And for students living in dorms, they can just throw it on with some PJ pants or sweatpants for some cozy comfort that’s OK to wear out of the dorm too. You can purchase directly from the company or order through Amazon for $60. On Amazon, they offer the bleach dyed version, which is my favorite. The ones that aren’t bleach dyed are softer, but the bleach died ones have more body, in my opinion, so I prefer those. To purchase on Amazon, click here.
Giant Hoodie Bleach Dye Hoodie
  • Portable Charger. I know I put this on every list, but I believe everyone should have a good portable charger. Our family uses them all the time…when we’re traveling, at sporting events…any time we find ourselves running low on battery power with our cell phones. Many times, my daughter’s friends have had to borrow one. They’re handy when you don’t have access to a plug-in power cord (in class or in the library, maybe?). The Anker Power Core 10000 gets great reviews. It charges fast (full phone charge in about an hour!) and it lasts a long time. Prices start at $24.99 on Amazon for the black version, and it’s $31.99 for different colors. See it here.
Power Core 10000
  • Storage Ottoman. Don’t we all remember those tiny dorm rooms? Everyone needs more storage, and these cute ottomans serve several purposes, because they also have side pockets for your phone, tablet, or book. Even better, these are collapsible and fold away for easy storage when not in use. Priced at $24.95, they’re a bargain, and they come in two colors: purple (shown below) and khaki. See them at Amazon here.
Storage Ottoman
  • Inflatable Chair. OK, so it’s not necessarily practical for home use, but this can be great in a tiny dorm room, because they can be inflated when someone needs a chair and deflated when you don’t need it. I remember having friends visit in my dorm room, and I didn’t want them to have to sit on the floor, but I didn’t want them sitting on my bed either. This would have been perfect for me back in 1985! Priced at $41.95 on Amazon here. You might consider purchasing an electric air pump as well.
Inflatable Chair
  • Weighted Blanket. I’ve sung the praises of the weighted blanket before, and I continue…because they’re awesome. I often sleep with mine on my feet and legs, because somehow, it relaxes me. College students know a little something about stress, so why not help them with that by providing a weighted blanket? The most popular, highly rated brand (by Good Housekeeping) seems to be the Gravity Blanket. You can find them on Amazon here, priced from $79 to $199.
Gravity Blanket
  • Bedside Caddy. Lots of college students who live in dorms tend to raise their beds, so they have more room underneath. For those students, a bedside caddy can help keep frequently used items handy, so they don’t have to keep climbing (literally) in and out of bed. I spoke with a couple of current college students, and they both like the Zafit caddy from Amazon. Priced at just $7.99, it’s a steal! And students will definitely use it! See it here.
Zafit Bedside Caddy
  • Noise-Cancelling Headphones. Studying in a group-living situation can be difficult. There are distractions everywhere…lots of opportunities to abandon studying. And there is noise. Anyone who has ever lived in a dorm knows sometimes the noise is out of hand. That’s where noise-cancelling headphones can come in handy. They make a great gift. There are lots of different brands, but Anker SoundCore has them starting at $49 on Amazon…and they get great reviews! See them here.
Anker SoundCore Noise Cancelling Headphones
  • First Aid Kit. Every college student needs a good first aid kit, and according to Business Insider, the best one is the First Aid Only All-Purpose Essentials Soft-Sided First Aid Kit, which is available on Amazon right now for $20.01. It contains 298 pieces and includes Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen tablets, which are not included in many. Personally, I would add more analgesics, a Flonase, allergy meds, and some Neosporin to make it complete. Get it at Amazon here.
First Aid Only Kit
  • Nightlight and Alarm Clock. There’s nothing worse than getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and stubbing a toe, and it can happen easily in a tiny dorm room. We know students need alarm clocks, so why not get a cute one with a built-in night light and a bluetooth speaker, to boot?! The one that keeps showing up when I’m looking is made by WamGra and is available on Amazon for $38.99 here.

Nightlight Alarm Clock/Bluetooth speaker
  • Kanga Kase Mate. This is a late addition. I found this when I was researching gifts for men, and it occurred to me I needed to come back and add this to the list of gifts for college students. It’s not secret lots of students like to drink beer. Those same students need a cooler, and if they aren’t old enough to drink beer, they need a cooler for their soft drinks. This Kanga Kase Mate is iceless! It’s an insulated cooler that keeps your cold beer, well, cold. With prices starting at $39.99, it’s a deal. See the offerings at Kanga here.
  • Away Luggage and Baboon to the Moon. I’ve mentioned both of these in other holiday gift posts, but they need to be mentioned here too, since college students like to stay on the go. I see college students visiting their friends at different colleges all the time, and they need easy luggage. Away has well-built rollable luggage that carry a lifetime warranty. I have the original carry-on size, and it holds way more than I ever imagined it would. Add a mini go-bag from Baboon to the Moon (a crazy name for a really well-constructed, waterproof bag) and I can pack enough for five or even six days in just those two bags. See Away Luggage here, and Baboon to the Moon here.
  • Gift Cards. If you don’t know anything else about college students, you should know they love gift cards. They love gift cards from lots of different places, but here are the ones I recommend: Uber (for late-night rides home), Amazon (they also love Prime Memberships), ChickFilA, Starbucks, Domino’s Pizza, Best Buy, PostMates, GrubHub, Target, Walmart, Netflix, Hulu, Whole Foods, Publix, The Container Store, H&M, and any local eateries. You can buy different company gift cards in Target and probably in your local grocery store. Or purchase online from each company. Students will definitely use gift cards, and be generous if you can!
Gift cards
  • Cash. I know lots of people don’t like to give cash, but students love cold hard cash. Give a college student some cash, and watch a face light up! Or you can even send money via Venmo. I often give cash as gifts with a card that labels it as “walking around money,” or “WAM,” as my daddy used to call it. Everybody needs a little money in their pockets, and while etiquette might tell you cash is not the way to go, I can guarantee most college students are going to appreciate it.

So get busy shopping now for those current or future college students! Our daughter will be getting several of the gifts listed above. All the gifts listed above are pretty easy to get right away, but I can’t promise they’ll be available as the holidays get closer!

Holiday Gifting 2021(Part 2): Give the Gift of Memories

Give the gift of memories.

Who doesn’t love nostalgia? Just last night, our daughter sat on our bed with us as we shuffled through lots of old photos. We showed her photos from our wedding. She laughed at photos from when we were dating. She really laughed at old hairstyles from the 1970s and 80s. She couldn’t believe how much she favors me in some ways and how much she favors my husband in other ways. We showed her photos of family members…grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. And she really loved looking through pictures from her own childhood. We did all this while she was wearing my old Zaxby’s Chickenflage tshirt, a silly shirt I ordered when Zaxby’s was doing a funny promotion. It made me laugh at the time, but she loves the tshirt and didn’t even realize it was “chickenflage” (lots of little chicken shapes) instead of regular camouflage till I pointed it out to her.

Nostalgia isn’t just about photos. It’s also about objects. There are objects that remind us of different events in our lives or places we have visited. Because of that, it can be fun to put together a gift of memories for someone we love. Here are some ideas:

  • T-shirts. I love tshirts and hoodies. I have a collection of tshirts that has my dresser bursting at the seams, and I have a collection of hoodies that has taken over my closet and part of the guest closet in our house. Last year, I came up with the idea of giving my husband tshirts from places we have visited together. I had to do some eBay shopping, and in some cases, I had to contact retailers in different cities or resorts, but I did it. I boxed up t-shirts from different Caribbean islands we have visited together. I added a t-shirt from an Eagles concert we attended several years ago…and a Sade concert tshirt too. I ordered tshirts from bars we’ve visited in different parts of the country. I ended up with a total of ten or twelve tshirts, and I wrapped them all together in one big box. When he opened the box, he seemed a little confused, but then he realized he was looking at memories, and he loved it! I have to admit I was pretty proud of myself for that one.
  • Objects. It’s no secret that our daughter and I have a favorite hotel we like to visit in the Los Angeles area. A few years ago, a book was published documenting the 100-year history of the area around the hotel. Featured on the cover? A beautiful photo of our favorite hotel. And inside? Lots of information about the history of the hotel and its various guests over the years. My husband knew how much I would love it, so he ordered it for me and gave it to me for Christmas. I was absolutely thrilled! But someone could give me a coffee mug, a beach towel, or a sweatshirt from the hotel we love so much, and I would be thrilled with that too! If you know someone who has a favorite hotel or resort, call the property gift shop! They might be able to make your shopping easy with a bathrobe, book, holiday ornament, or another trinket that represents the hotel/resort.
  • Painting. You don’t always have to commission a painting to bring back memories. I once stumbled upon a painting of the Fairhope Pier in a thrift store in Charlotte. I purchased it and gave it to my mother as a holiday gift. It cost me $5, but it was worth a lot more than that to her! It brought back memories of days long ago when we spent afternoons on the pier. Additionally, for many Christmases, I gave mother a “painting” of her grandchildren. I would take a photo and use an app to make it look like a painting, and then send it to canvasondemand.com to have it printed on canvas and framed. She always loved them! See canvasondemand.com here.
  • Photo book. Who doesn’t love looking at old photos or photos from a fun year or vacation? Shutterfly has been one of my very favorite websites for years. I have stored thousands of photos on the Shutterfly website since our daughter was born eighteen years ago. We have ordered our holiday cards from Shutterfly every year, and I have lots of photobooks from Shutterfly…documenting vacations, birthdays, years, special events, and more. We have given them as gifts to friends and family, and every time, those gifts are well-received. See Shutterfly.com’s photobook options here.
  • Stoney Clover Locations Patches. I have a duffle bag I purchased at one of my very favorite resorts a few years ago. At the time, I thought my daughter would look at me like I was crazy after I purchased it, but she loved it! I haven’t let her claim it as her own, but this year, I’m giving her one like it for Christmas. Through Stoney Clover Lane, I have ordered a duffle bag, and I’m going to adorn it with destination patches from the website too. I will start with places she has visited, and I can add more later when she visits different places. I think it will be a big hit! The patches can also be used on jackets or makeup bags, and all of their patches are not travel related. There are patches for all kinds of interests! See Stoney Clover Lane’s offerings here.
  • Memory Keychain. I stumbled upon these at Etsy accidentally, but I love the ideas! The first one I came across is a photofilm keychain. At $18.99 plus shipping, it’s a great price point for a memory gift! It looks like a roll of film/negatives that can be extended to show multiple photos. You can see it here. Another one I found looks like a viewfinder you might purchase at an amusement park, and it might contain a photo of you at the scariest part of the rollercoaster. But this one holds whatever photo you pick! You can see it here.
  • Other photo gifts. In fact, Shutterfly.com offers lots of photo gift ideas, from blankets to coffee mugs to totebags and personalized water bottles. A few years after our daughter was born, Shutterfly moved their headquarters to the Charlotte area, and my husband joked that it was to save money on shipping things to our house. At the time, I had to be one of their best customers. I was always purchasing photos and gifts to send family in faraway places. To see their gift offerings, check out the shutterfly website here.

Who doesn’t love a good memory? And chances are, you can find a memory gift that’s not stuck on a cargo ship off the coast of California. Happy shopping!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Give the gift of travel!

Tasty Junk Food Finds

Tasty junk food finds.

I’m not normally a Walmart shopper. I don’t handle crowded stores well. I’m more of a Publix kind of girl.

However, today my daughter texted me from school that she needs something in particular for her school spirit week wear tomorrow. I’m all about spirit week, because I remember how much fun it was when I was in school. It’s especially fun for the students at her school, because they have a stricter dress code than we had in school. When they have an opportunity to dress for comfort, they do it. In fact, today is pajama day, and you can bet your sweet bippy she took full advantage of that. In fact, I surprised her by taking her a smoothie for lunch, and when she met me to get it, she said, “It’s amazing how much better I can concentrate in school when I’m comfortable in my clothes.” I get it, but you can’t wear pajamas to school every day.

So after I dropped off the smoothie, I went to Walmart…just for her.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m one of those people who can’t just walk in and buy one thing. I guess it’s my attention deficit disorder, but things catch my eye, and I have to investigate…and well, one thing leads to another.

Today, after I had the item I needed, I walked past the frozen foods and saw the ice cream aisle. Because Walmart is known for having “exclusive” ice cream treats, I decided to check out the offerings. And I was so glad I did! Or maybe I shouldn’t have been so glad, because I found something yummy: Blue Bell Bride’s Cake Ice Cream. It’s almond flavored ice cream with cake pieces and amaretto flavored cream cheese icing swirl. I wasn’t sure about the “amaretto flavored cream cheese icing,” but I should have just trusted Blue Bell. I bought it, of course, and opened it as soon as I got home…heavenly. What I really love is that the flavors aren’t too strong, but it’s delicious. If you like ice cream and wedding cake, try it…you won’t regret it. Seriously…run, don’t walk.

Blue Bell Bride’s Cake Ice Cream

Because I was near the refrigerated area, I decided to walk over and get some pimiento cheese. I’ve written before about Palmetto Cheese, a brand of pimiento cheese spread made in Pawley’s Island, South Carolina. I prefer the jalapeño flavor for a little extra kick. But that was not a new find.

Palmetto Cheese

The new find in the same aisle? Texas Pete’s Blazin’ Buffalo-Style Chicken Dip. Holy smokes! I have always loved Bufflo-style chicken dip, but I had no idea Texas Pete’s made their own! I’ve loved Texas Pete’s products for a long time, but I really started loving them in 2002 for an odd reason: I read the obituary of Mildred Garner, the widow of Thad Garner, the founder of T. W. Garner Foods in Winston-Salem, the parent company of Texas Pete’s. See the obituary here. I know, an obituary is a weird reason to like food products, but read it…Mrs. Garner was my kind of people! I especially loved the part about people recalling “the sight of Mildred driving the family’s red Austin-Healy, holding an umbrella against the rain, smoking a RJR cigarette, and changing gears successfully.” I can’t help it. I love a good obituary. And yes, it made me love Texas Pete’s. But until today, I had never had the Blazin’ Buffalo-Style Chicken Dip. I didn’t even know it existed! So I purchased it, brought it home, and enjoyed it with some Tostitos chips. I only ate a few bites, but suffice it to say…it’s good stuff!

Texas Pete Blazin’ Buffalo-Style Chicken Dip

After picking that up, I found myself back in the frozen foods, and I spied something I used to buy all the time: De Waffelbakker’s Frozen Pancakes. Call me lazy, but it’s a lot easier for me to make frozen pancakes in the microwave than it is for me to make them on the stovetop. When our daughter was little, she loved them, so we kept them on hand all the time. In fact, my late friend, Wendy, thought I was crazy when I offered them to her son one time, saying, “I make homemade pancakes for him. He won’t eat those microwave ones.” We had a good laugh when he proved her wrong and announced that “Miss Kelly makes the best pancakes ever!” Wendy just rolled her eyes. I can hardly wait for my daughter to come home from school, so I can offer her some pancakes!

De Waffelbakkers Buttermilk Pancakes

I also purchased some cookies that weren’t so great. I had high hopes for them, because they had a giant picture of the Pillsbury Dough Boy on the package. When I was a little girl, I thought the Pillsbury Dough Boy was the cutest little character. Too bad the soft-baked cookies didn’t live up to the packaging.

Yes, I brought all those things home and tried a little of each. Fortunately, I had a spinach salad for lunch, so I didn’t feel terrible about the fact that I had tried all that junk.

I guess it was one-stop shopping for me today…something for our daughter to wear for Safari day tomorrow, and a whole bunch of junk food for us to share.

I’ve Been Out of Circulation

I’ve been out of circulation.

Last week, I woke up one day with a fever and a sore throat. I recognized the feeling…it felt like strep throat. When I was growing up, my mother would say I would catch strep throat “if someone who had it walked within 500 feet of me.” I’m beginning to think that might have been true. The last time I had it, I was in my 30s. I’m 53 now, so it’s been a good run, but I still know what strep throat feels like…and looks like. So when I woke up with a sore throat and fever, I felt sure I had strep throat, but I knew I needed to get a COVID test too.

I went to my local Urgent Care and got a COVID test first. I did not get the rapid test, because I don’t trust it. I know too many people who have gotten false results, and I wanted to know for sure, so I got the PCR test. I knew I would have to wait a little while for the results…and isolate…but that was OK. I also told them I wanted a strep test. The doc did a rapid strep that came back negative, but that wasn’t good enough for me. I literally said, “It looks like strep and feels like strep. I still think it’s strep. I need you to send it off for a culture.” The next day, my PCR results said I did not have COVID. And after waiting three miserable days with 102+ fever and a horribly sore throat, the strep culture results came back positive, and the doc prescribed an antibiotic.

The moral of the story? Don’t trust those rapid tests. I don’t care if you’re a doctor and you argue with me here…I don’t trust those, and this experience was a prime example of why you absolutely must get throat swabs cultured when you think you have strep throat. If you don’t learn anything else from me, learn that. I can’t guarantee I can teach anything else, but I can teach you that.

Soon after I started the antibiotics, I started feeling better. What a relief! When I say I was miserable, it is an understatement. I don’t think I have felt that badly since I had mononucleosis when I was 17. No joke. It was horrible…and I lost six days of my life!

And of course, the next day, my husband said to me, “My throat is sore and I have fever.” He called his doctor’s office and explained the Hell I had just been through with strep, and they immediately ordered an antibiotic for him…sight unseen, because strep is that contagious.

I’m not sharing all this just to complain. I want to share a few things that made us both feel better while we waited for antibiotics to do their job…just in case you find yourself waiting for some antibiotics or suffering from cold or flu:

  • Icees and Slurpees. When our daughter was a little girl (she’s now 17), anytime she was sick, one of us would run get her an Icee at Target or a Slurpee at our local 7-11 store. She thought Icees/Slurpees cured all ills, and truly, we may have been on to something. When I was so miserable last weekend, my husband got me a Slurpee, and it made me feel so much better. The cold on my throat was a Godsend! In fact, while I was drinking it, my daughter walked to the bedroom door (no closer, because she didn’t want to catch it) and said, “That Slurpee will make you feel a lot better.” Therefore, I highly recommend Icees and Slurpees, if you can get them. You have to stay hydrated when you’re sick…why not with a frozen drink?
  • Cool Mist Humidifier. Lots of illnesses make your throat dry or cause you to have nighttime cough. Strep made my throat dry, and that made me have a hacking, dry cough at night. I read online that a cool mist humidifier might help, so I ordered one online at Walgreen’s, and my husband picked it up same day. When he got it home, I set it up and added a little DoTerra Breathe essential oil. What a difference! The humidifier kept my throat from drying out, and the essential oil made my room feel like a spa!
  • Hall’s Cough Drops. I’ve tried them all, and nothing worked as well as Hall’s Cherry Cough Drops. They taste good and soothe your throat.
  • Chloraseptic Spray. Chloraseptic makes lozenges too, but I prefer the spray, because I can target it right to my throat when I need it. If I felt my throat starting to tickle as I was getting ready to fall asleep, I’d spray a few sprays, and that did the trick. We keep it on hand all the time. Always follow directions when using…might not be advisable for children.
  • Cool, damp washcloth. Never underestimate the power of a cool, damp washcloth. My husband has finally learned that from me. When you’re sick, a cool, damp washcloth can help in lots of ways. Since this time, I had fever, I placed a cool, damp washcloth on my neck when I was trying to sleep or anytime I was feeling worse. Something about it is soothing. If you have a stomach bug, it helps then too…wipe your face, cool your skin…whatever.
  • Starbucks Medicine Ball Tea. Wow! This stuff might not work miracles, but it might make you feel like it’s working miracles for a short time, anyway! It’s actually called a Honey Citrus Mint Tea, and it contains all the perfect ingredients. A friend brought me one (thanks, Dawn), and I love it! I had no idea it existed! It’s even good on a cold morning when you’re not sick!
  • Soup. We’ve always been told to have soup when we’re sick. It helps. I don’t know why, but it does. I have a friend who sent over some yummy, homemade, vegetable-beef soup, and it made me feel so much better. (Thanks, Linda.)

I certainly don’t claim to know everything about strep throat and recovery, but I do know what helped me feel better with this most recent bout. Obviously, you want to have plenty of analgesics and pain reducers (Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen) on hand, but all the things listed above brought me some relief. The first thing I recommend? Don’t get sick.