Snow in the South!

Snow in the south!

I received a notification that snow might be in the forecast for Charlotte next weekend. And when I say “snow,” I don’t mean flurries like we’ve had a couple of times this winter. I mean real snow might be headed our way. Some folks speculate it’s just the dairy farmers putting out false info, because they know southerners will rush to the grocery store and buy milk and bread before the storm arrives. I choose to think…to hope, even…that it will happen.

If you grew up in the northern United States, snow is no big deal to you. In fact, it’s likely more of an annoyance to you. You don’t remember your first snow, because it was there every winter…year after year.

I remember my first snow.

The year was 1973, and I lived in Brewton, Alabama. I was five. Back then, we didn’t have 24-hour news. Kids didn’t have as much access to constant news, and in some ways, that was a good thing. We weren’t afraid of our shadows like so many people are today. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss. And I went to bed February 8, 1973, completely unaware of the possibility of snow. I’m sure my parents watched the 10:00 news that night and likely had some idea of what was about to happen, but I knew nothing. I had never seen snow, and it would never have occurred to me that it would snow in Brewton.

On the morning of February 9, 1973, my mother came into my room and woke me up, telling me, “Get up and look out the window!” I had no idea why I was looking out the window….a new puppy? friends were visiting? what could it be? And much to my surprise, the ground was covered in glorious snow! I can still remember the excitement I felt. It was possibly the most excitement I had ever felt up to that point in my life!  We could hardly wait to get outside!

But here’s the real shocker: when all was said and done, we had about six inches of snow on the ground in Brewton, Alabama! If you don’t know, Brewton is located in southern Alabama, near the Florida line. Aside from that time, I don’t know that Brewton has ever had so much snow. Any amount of snow is rare there. That snowstorm came to be called The Great Southeastern Snowstorm of 1973! You can read about it here and here.

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A childhood friend, Cindy Finlay, in the snow in Brewton, Alabama, 1973

We didn’t own sleds. We didn’t own snow boots. We didn’t own winter gloves. We didn’t own those things, because we had never needed them! But that didn’t deter us. Fortunately, we did have winter coats, so underneath them, we layered on our warmest clothes and doubled up our socks before pulling on our sneakers. We pulled two socks onto each hand, and off we went…into the wild white yonder! Y’all, no one was ever more excited to see snow than I was on that February day!

It seems like we played all day. We built a snowman. We made snow angels. We threw snowballs at each other. We ran through the snow a lot. Our noses ran. Our faces stung. Our hands and feet hurt. But we had the best time ever.

When we realized our hands and feet were numb, we would go inside and take off our shoes and socks (the ones on our hands and feet) and place them in front of the space heater in the den, so they would warm up and dry. Mother would put some of the layers of clothing in the dryer, and after a cup of hot cocoa, we would pull on all those layers and those warm sneakers and go back out to play. At some point, one of us placed our sneakers a little too close to the space heater and melted the rubber sole of the shoes…an interesting odor.

I don’t have any pictures from that day, but I have pictures in my mind. Cameras weren’t everywhere like they are these days. It seems like we might have posed for a photo or two, and maybe one day, I’ll find photos in a box I brought back from Mother’s house. But for now, I can only imagine how comical we must have looked in those layers of clothes with socks on our hands. One thing I know for sure is that all the kids in our neighborhood (and the whole town) were thrilled! The Great Southeastern Snowstorm of 1973 created some great memories for us!

As an adult, I moved to Charlotte, but when I moved here at age 33, I had never gone sledding. The first winter I lived here, though, I finally got to go sledding with the neighborhood kids. And after our daughter was born, it snowed a lot the winter after she was born (2004), but we didn’t have another good snow for a few years.

When she was in 4-yr-old preschool, her teacher, Mrs. Sadow, told her that if she wanted it to snow, she needed to sleep with her pajamas inside out, put a spoon under her pillow, and flush ice cubes (or ice cream) down the toilet. We usually save those rituals for the night before snow is predicted to arrive, so if snow is in the forecast later in the week, you can bet your sweet bippy we will practice all those rituals the night before it’s supposed to arrive!

We are prepared for it now. Living in North Carolina, snow happens a little more often than it does in Brewton, Alabama, so we have snow boots, parkas, gloves, hats and most importantly, sleds!

Nobody loves a snow day like a southerner loves a snow day!

What Other People Think of Me…

What other people think of me is none of my business.

I can’t take credit for that. In fact, I have no idea who the originator of that quote was, but I like it. And you know why? Because really…what other people is think of me is none of my business. Isn’t it completely and utterly liberating to know that?

I’m what lots of people would refer to as an “over-sharer” on social media. I like to post all kinds of stuff…funny stuff, pretty scenes, and yes, lots of pictures of my family having fun. Just like everybody else in the world, my life isn’t perfect. I’ve had my share of tough times in life…losing loved ones being at the top of the list. And I have had my share of embarrassing moments. I tell people all the time that I have fallen down in all 50 states; well, not quite, but I do think I have probably fallen down in 35 or so. In February of 2021, I fell down the stairs of Galatoire’s in New Orleans! My teenage daughter was mortified, of course, but lucky me…no broken bones. Just a bruised ego. However, since I’m over 50, I know when to be really embarrassed, and since I knew I’d never see most of those people ever again, I wasn’t terribly embarrassed. Fortunately, as far as I know, there were no photos of the incident and no video. It would have been pretty funny, though…even I can admit that.

If there had been photographic evidence of it, I likely would have shared it on social media. Nobody loves seeing a good fall more than I do. I think I’ve written about it before. As long as no one is hurt, a good fall is downright hilarious.

Lately, with the ringing in of the new year, I’ve been getting lots of ads from PastBook on Facebook. PastBook prints all the photos you post on Facebook in a calendar year in book form. I ordered one last year, just to see what it was like, and I really liked it! I keep that 2020 PastBook on the coffee table in my livingroom for all the world to see. I don’t know that anyone has looked at it besides me, because even though I “over-share,” I know everyone in the whole world is not interested in my posts. I started over-sharing when my mother was still alive, because she lived hundreds of miles away, and she liked seeing pictures of her granddaughter. It was an easy way to share. And then, I guess I became addicted, because I realized Facebook is a good place to store memories! And Pastbook puts them all in print form!

Looking through my PastBook from 2020, I can see that, despite the pandemic hiccup in all our lives, I managed to have some fun that year. My husband and I spent a lot of time outdoors, and I had the most beautiful garden I have ever had in the history of my gardening! Even without air travel most of that year, we managed to go to some fun places and make some new memories. Looking at the book, though, I can see clearly that by September of 2020, I needed to get on a plane…and I did. I threw up some prayers and flew to California…and then I did it again that November…unvaccinated! And then everything surged again.

But in 2021, I started throwing caution to the wind, so I think my PastBook will be better for 2021. We met friends in New Orleans, LA, and the Bahamas…just like old times! I can hardly wait to order the Pastbook and see all the memories in print.

And y’all can make fun of me for over-sharing all you want. When our daughter was a little girl, I took pictures of every move we made…actually, I still do that. As much as it can be an annoyance, she appreciates it later. I’m the one my friends come to if they need pictures from the past, because I was always ready with a camera…till smartphones came along…so now I just use that. But my over-sharing is not for the rest of the world. It’s for me. And it’s for my daughter.

One day, many years from now, our daughter will be thrilled to have all the photos I have taken over the years. Just like I loved going through the pictures my nephew brought me from my mother’s house last weekend, she will likely enjoy going through all the photos I have taken and stored in books, on social media, and in Rubbermaid bins in our attic. She will be able to look through the photos and try to remember who the people are. She’ll likely have lots of stories to tell about the photos too. I made my nephew and his girlfriend sit through a lot of my stories last weekend!

I finally went through the second bin my nephew brought, and near the bottom, stuck in a Bible, was the black and white photo of my kindergarten graduation in 1973…something I thought was long gone. It’s the photo I used in the header for this post…just like the graduation caps worn by all those six-yr-olds, the photo is a little askew. My family had moved several times, and I hadn’t seen that photo in years, but there it was…at the bottom of a Rubbermaid bin. And I was thrilled to have it! In fact, I have now framed it and put it on a shelf in my livingroom, so I always know where it is. But I also shared it on Facebook. And lots of those kindergarten classmates chimed in, helping identify the kids in the picture! I remembered lots of them, but since I moved away in February of 1975, less than two years after the photo was taken, my memory was a little fuzzy on some of the faces. That’s OK, because after a little time, one classmate found a newspaper article that listed all the names and shared it in the comments of the photo. It made for some fun exchanges on Facebook…all of which will show up in my PastBook for 2022, I’m sure.

So yes, I over-share, and I’m glad I do, because I’ll have a record of so many different things in my life, and my daughter will have that record too. I might not ever write a bestselling novel or biography, but there will be proof of my life in pictures. And if my over-sharing is annoying, well, keep scrolling. Whatever you do, don’t tell me, because “what other people think of me is none of my business.”

***If you’d like to check out PastBook and possibly make your own, click here.***

Ready for the New Year?

Ready for the new year?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The King’s Kitchen

The King’s Kitchen.

Yesterday, I met a friend for lunch in Uptown Charlotte. We had been trying to get together for some time, but something always came up. I have a daughter who is a senior in high school, and my friend has three kids…real life sometimes just gets in the way of fun. But we didn’t give up. This friend is one of those friends who “fills my cup,” so it is important to me to make time to see her. She and I had totally different upbringings in different cultures, but we share a bond. We truly enjoy each other.

The last time we were able to have lunch together, we met at a restaurant in the SouthPark area of Charlotte. I remember it well, because she called me before she arrived and told me her zipper had broken in her dress, and she had no idea how she could walk into the restaurant to meet me. I said, “Well, I have a ‘pleather’ Top Gun jacket in my car you could put on over your dress, if if wouldn’t embarrass you.” The jacket is a costume piece I purchased for an event earlier this year, and I just happened to have it in my car. She laughed and said that, if I would bring the jacket to her at her car, she would be happy to wear it just so we could dine together! Who knew a Top Gun pleather jacket could look so good with a yellow dress?! We are a lot alike in that we are low maintenance with a good sense of humor. We laughed and laughed about that pleather jacket!

I had picked the restaurant last time, so this time, it was her turn. Apparently, she did her research and ultimately picked The King’s Kitchen. I had dined there a few times before, but it had been a while. They serve southern cuisine, so I was excited she picked it!

She found better parking than I did when she arrived, so she got there a few minutes early and already had a table when I arrived. We gave each other big hugs, and she had a bottle of Contesse Prosecco waiting…and two glasses waiting, ready to be filled!

And when we started talking, we talked about the restaurant. I knew it was a nonprofit started by Jim Noble (he has outstanding restaurants in North Carolina), and I knew it had some sort of outreach ministry for the homeless. What I didn’t know is that Mr. Noble is an ordained minister and holds a Bible study for the homeless (and I suppose, anyone else who’d like attend) in the restaurant. So if you are so inclined, you can fill up in two ways at The King’s Kitchen…nutritionally and spiritually. Additionally, all the profits from the restaurant go to feed the homeless in the area. But the outreach doesn’t stop there. According to the restaurant’s website, they work with local ministries to “provide job training, life-skills training, social etiquette workshops, financial management guidance, and employment intern opportunities to Charlotteans in search of a new beginning.” Indeed, our server, a lovely young lady, told us she had been homeless for several years. Wow. See the website for The King’s Kitchen here.

As it turns out, when my friend was searching for the perfect place for us to meet, she called the restaurant and asked some questions. When she learned about the outreach ministry for the homeless, she knew we needed to go there. Her oldest son, William, has Down Syndrome, and he and the family organize “William’s Walk” every year in uptown Charlotte. They have a food drive and symbolic walk to benefit Loaves and Fishes and Second Harvest Food Bank around Thanksgiving. This year, the walk is on November 24th, and this year’s walk marks their 20th Annual William’s Walk. For more information, click here. They are accepting food donations now and would love to have lots of participants in the walk! Helping the homeless is a cause near and dear to my friend’s heart.

I should probably mention we had a lovely meal together at The King’s Kitchen. The menu is a la carte. We both ordered the salmon and a side of sauteed spinach, and I ordered an additional order of pan corn for us to share. For dessert, she ordered the chocolate torte cake to take home to her son, and I ordered banana pudding, mostly because I can’t make a good banana pudding myself. When desserts arrived, I offered to share my banana pudding, but she told me she doesn’t eat pudding. I told her I wasn’t going to push her, but banana pudding is a southern delicacy that isn’t the same as other puddings. Growing up in Jamaica and New York, she didn’t have a lot of opportunity to try a good banana pudding. She finally tried it and loved it!

And the bonus? We even got to sit in on a little bit of the Bible study…led by Jim Noble himself! There were quite a few people in attendance…one gentleman I had met earlier when I was looking for parking. Since my friend and I had to exit early from the Bible study, we gave each other nods of recognition as I passed him.

It was a lovely way to spend lunch with a good friend…and help the homeless too.

***cover photo: kingskitchen.org

You’ll Catch More Flies With Honey…

“You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

I had to impart that bit of wisdom on my teenage daughter when we were on vacation recently. She has a tendency, like me, to get “hangry.” However, I see the “hangry” warning signs in myself much more quickly than she does, and when I feel myself moving in that direction, I grab a little snack to keep me going till I can get a meal. Somehow, no matter how many times I have tried to teach her, she doesn’t listen.

Last week, we were on vacation on an island in the Caribbean. I am very familiar with “island time,” and I thought I had made the concept clear to my daughter. Apparently, I failed. We went to dinner one night, and as soon as we were seated at the restaurant, I knew we had a wait ahead of us. It was crowded, and we were on an island…that equals a wait. And it was, indeed, a wait. I saw the anger building in my daughter’s eyes. I know that hangry look. Honestly, if we had been in the United States, I would have been angry too. The wait time was excessive by US standards, but not by island standards. At least we had a table, right? We had been sitting for a while and had not placed our dinner orders when a large group came in. I knew then that I had to take action, so I got up and walked over to the server station where a lovely, hardworking, young lady was entering orders in the computer. She was working hard, but there was no way I wanted our order to get to the kitchen after that large group. I very kindly approached her with a big smile and said, “Hey. I know it’s crazy here right now, and nobody here is working harder than you are. If a large group hadn’t just come in, I wouldn’t be worried, but I’m afraid their order is going to get to the kitchen before ours, and we will be waiting forever. We are ready to order whenever you can get to us.” I was sweet. I used my best southern charm, and she smiled and very kindly said, “I’m on my way to your table right now.” She came over and took our orders, and I thanked her profusely. When she walked away, my daughter, who was starting to look like Linda Blair in The Exorcist, said to me, “How can you be so nice to her right now?!?! We have been waiting forever!” She was right. We had been waiting a long time and didn’t even have drinks yet. And that’s when I replied, “You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” I explained to her that the servers in that restaurant were working extremely hard (waiting tables is hard work), and their culture doesn’t look at time the same way we do in the US. And I had to explain the meaning of “you’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

Is that a southern saying? My mother used it a lot when I was growing up. If you’ve never heard it and don’t understand the meaning, I will clarify: it means you will win people over more quickly/easily by being kind. Get it? Honey = sweet, and vinegar = bitter. Kindness goes a long way.

Clearly, in the case of our dinner wait on vacation, it worked. We told our hardworking server how grateful we were, and we tipped her well to show our gratitude. At first, when my daughter asked how much I tipped, she said, “What?!?! The service took forever!” And I reminded her about honey/flies/vinegar. I also told her that she could bet that, when we returned to the restaurant, the server would remember us…and I was correct. The next time, she came to our table immediately with a big smile. It was a good lesson for my daughter. And in the end, we all won. The server got some fat tips, and we got better, more timely service. And frankly, by the end of our ten-day vacation, we felt like we had become friends with the server.

Trust me when I say that my mother had to repeat the saying about flies/honey/vinegar lots of times to me over the years. I’m not always the most patient person, and I’m not always the most kind person. I try, but I don’t always succeed. I have a bit of temper that I often have to keep in check. But I was happy I could use the opportunity to prove a little something about kindness to my daughter. She was impressed, so hopefully, she learned a little something.

“You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” I can still hear my mother saying it.

A Dog’s Snow Day

A dog’s snow day.

When I checked Facebook this morning, I knew there were lots of happy kids in Alabama. People I know who live there were posting pictures of the fun they are having. Snow is rare in Alabama, so when they get it, they enjoy it.

My brother lives in Central Alabama, and he called me earlier to tell me how much his dog loves the snow. He rescued a black Laborador Retriever mix last year when my cousin in Florida called him to tell him about a dog that needed to be adopted at a shelter near her home. He drove down and adopted the dog, and it’s another one of those “the dog rescued him” situations. “Brother,” as I call him, had a Weimaraner named Amos who passed away, and I think he had resolved not to get another dog for a while, but Brother needs a dog. It’s just who he is. So he picked up that dog in Florida, and after discussing it with his sons, named him Cash…as in Johnny Cash. Anyway, Cash is loving the snow today. Brother had taken him to a riverside park they visit regularly and let him run in the snow. While we were on the phone, Brother laughed and laughed at Cash running wildly through the snow…loving every minute of it. He didn’t send me a video, but I could picture it in my mind, because I had my own dog who loved the snow…Annie.

My husband and I had been married about 18 months when we decided to get a dog. We did our research. I had always had Labarador Retrievers, but I knew I wanted a dog that could spend time indoors without shedding everywhere. We finally decided we wanted an Airedale Terrier. I had always admired them…big, strong, beautiful terriers who are loyal and protective. We searched and found one in a neighboring county. We brought her home when she was eight weeks old and named her Annie. I’ve written about her before…best dog ever. I wanted to name her Fannie, after a college roommate, but my husband wouldn’t go for that…even though later, he wished we had named her Fannie, because it’s different.

Our Annie looked like a junkyard dog as she matured. Most people don’t know Airedale Terriers don’t look like Airedales till they mature. They go through an awkward “junkyard dog” phase, kind of like The Ugly Duckling. She was super smart and easy to train…truth be told, she was probably smarter than we were. She was loyal, always wanting to be by my side. In fact, when I was pregnant, she rarely left my side when I was home…even getting into bed with me when I had morning sickness and pressing her warm back against mine. Oh, I loved that dog.

She was also protective. She was a dog I knew would put herself between me and any threatening presence…a stray dog, a burglar, or any threatening individual. I knew it, because I saw her do it. No, not with a burglar, but she often put herself between me and strangers…and especially strange dogs.

I have wonderful memories of Annie “talking” to me, spending time in front of the TV with me, or just being with me. But my favorite memories of Annie are snow memories. We live in Charlotte, North Carolina, and it doesn’t snow a lot here, but every few years, we will get a big snow, and Annie loved it. She would run and jump and play. She would eat snow, and then she would run and jump and play some more. We had neighbors who had a Labrador retriever about the same age, and they would bring their dog out to play with our Annie in the neighborhood park.

After we had our daughter in 2003, we had a big snow in January 2004, but then we went several years without a big snow. And then, finally, in 2010, we had a better snow year, with big snows in January and February. Our Annie loved it, and our then-6-yr-old daughter loved having Annie as a snow playmate. She loved watching Annie literally run circles around her in the snow. She loved throwing snowballs for Annie to catch. She loved watching Annie jump and play. Most of all, Annie loved it. Snow would be caked on her fur, and she would keep running. She was around eight years old at the time, but she played like a puppy…just one big 80-pound bundle of energy!

We had more snow in late 2010 and again in early 2011. The neighborhood kids went sledding down the big hill on our street and in the park across the street, and Annie loved playing with them. But then, we built a big snowman in the park across the street, and Annie didn’t know what to think. She went into “protector” mode…protecting us from the killer snowman! She made a wide circle around the snowman, barking and lunging for a long time, till we showed her he was a friendly snowman. What a fun memory!

Annie died in November 2013…a big loss for our family. I can still cry today thinking of how very loyal she was and how much we loved her. But today, when Brother was telling me about Cash in the snow, I was flooded with happy memories of our Annie.

***See photos of our Annie below***

REPOST: Stocking Stuffers from 2019, Part 2

***This is the second of two reposts about stocking stuffers from 2019. We will be posting even more stocking stuffers (a new 2020 version) tomorrow, December 1.***

MORE Stocking Stuffers! As I said before, this is the fun category for holiday shopping! So here is my list of MORE…something for every member of the family. Without further ado…

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Lipstick. If you have a family member who loves Amazon Prime’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, he/she needs this lipstick! Don’t we all want to look like Midge Maisel?!? Revlon is offering this lipstick based on the lipstick choices of the character. I hope I find this in my stocking! Heck…I know I’ll find it in my stocking, because I’m ordering it now and wrapping it as soon as it get here! Thanks, Honey! Get them at Revlon.com here for $19.99 per tube. ***And continue reading for more Mrs. Maisel items later in the post.***

Nostalgia Candy Boxes. Maybe you want your child to see what candy you loved as a kid, or maybe you’d like to bring back some memories for someone else on your list. Amazon carries Nancy Adams Nostalgia Candy Boxes full of all the favorites of the decades. Get one for the 1960s here. Get one for the 1970s here. And you can find the 1980s here.

Concert/Sporting Event Tickets. Never underestimate how excited a person will get over receiving tickets to an experience! I love concert and sporting event tickets as gifts…and I’d love to pull some great tickets from my Christmas stocking, as would my husband, my daughter, and my nephews. Of course, the concerts would be different for each of us. And we all love sports, so that would be a sure bet too. Ticket-Icon

Lottery Scratch Off Tickets. I love finding these in my stocking! I’ve never won a lot, but I have won a little, and I know someone who won five figures on a scratch-off ticket. No joke. I’m not encouraging gambling, but scratch off tickets are something we have in our stockings every year.nc698

Kiehl’s Products. My husband has loved Kiehl’s skincare products for years and introduced me to their Creme de Corps body lotion years ago. It does wonders for dry skin and makes my skin look smoother. We also love their Ultra Facial Moisturizer. In addition to these staples, Kiehl’s offers lots of great skincare products for men and women. See them all here.

Holiday Crackers. No, not the kinds of crackers you eat…the kind you POP! We loved these at our house when I was a kid. Sure, you can place them at each person’s place setting for lunch or dinner, but they’re fun to find in your stocking on Christmas morning. Some of my favorites:

  • L’Occitane’s Crackers Quatour, $34 for a set of four. The set of four can be broken up and one placed in each family member’s stocking. They contain petite sized products from L’Occitane’s fabulous collections.NAOCVKI002490
  • Molton Brown Cracker Gift Set, $25 per cracker. Contains four scented bath/shower gels. Get it at Saks Fifth Avenue here.MBC906_uk_Floral-Fruity-Christmas-Cracker_image_01
  • Racing Reindeer Crackers, $45.99 for a set of six. Putting a fun spin on the traditional cracker, each of these contains a windup reindeer, hat, joke, and a racetrack. Fun for all! Get them from pbs.org here.images-2
  • Robin Reed Hand Bells Musical Crackers, $85 for a box of eight. Adding a musical element to your family’s holiday, each of these crackers contains hand bells. Great for caroling with cocktails after dinner! Get them at Neiman Marcus here.NMHCBFB_mz-2
  • Godiva Luxury Poppers, $24.95 for a set of six. Who doesn’t love Godiva Chocolates? These will be a sure hit! Each popper contains three chocolate truffles. Get them here.13983-1

Bath and Body Works Products. These products are less “high brow” but great products for all ages, nonetheless. Their hand sanitizers, fine fragrance mists, and body lotions are great stocking stuffers, and you can find the perfect scent for each recipient. For example, their “Into the Night” scent is a little heavier, while their “Champagne Toast” is a little crisper and lighter. If anyone’s purchasing for me, I’d prefer the Champagne Toast, thank you very much. I should mention the prices on their products are always great, but there is almost always a special of some kind. Kids love their hand sanitizers. My own daughter had quite the collection when she was younger. See everything here.

Fun toys. When we were growing up, we loved a good Nerf gun or squirt gun, and our parents knew we would be occupied for hours with them, developing games with complete sets of rules for each one. Nerf, as it turns out, makes their traditional Nerf guns, but they also make squirt guns. See my pick for a Nerf gun stocking stuffer here, and my pick for a Nerf squirt gun here.

Liquor Miniatures. Adults need great stocking stuffers too! I have lots of friends who have a family tradition of putting miniatures in the stockings of adults. You can get them at your local liquor store. My personal favorites? Maker’s Mark Bourbon and Tito’s Vodka…in case my husband is reading this.

Perfumes/colognes. Every time I walk through Nordstrom or Neiman Marcus in SouthPark Mall in Charlotte, I check out the fragrances. Since I was a little girl, I’ve always found the fragrance department in department stores beautiful. Shopping fragrances makes me feel “fancy.” It’s one of the places in a department store that feels like days of yesteryear…the makeup counter! (Think The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.)There aren’t fragrances many I love, but when I find something I like, I really like it. Right now, I like Gucci Bloom. Recently, I discovered their Gucci Bloom Hair Mist! Game Changer! For $49, it’s a lighter version of the scent, and I love it! Get it at Nordstrom here.a700bee8-eaed-48aa-922b-8fa39b5a7721

Fun socks. They’re everywhere I look. Every time I look at Facebook or Instagram, I see an ad for those socks that start with “If you can read this…” on the bottom of the foot. See some at Amazon here. Or maybe you know a Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood fan. See some Mr. Rogers socks at Joy of Socks here. And while you’re at Joy of Socks, take a look around at everything they offer. Alien abduction socks? Check. Dog socks? Check.

Personalized Pocket Tokens. These are great little reminders people can carry with them in their pockets or handbags. Sometimes, we just need a little reassurance or pick-me-up, and these could do the trick. Get them on Etsy here.il_fullxfull.945896910_shp1

Balsa Wood Airplanes. Remember these from childhood? You can get a “squadron” of 12 of these for $28.95 at Duluth Trading. I remember playing with these with my brother when I was a kid. I would think lots of kids would love to have contests for flying these things. Get your squadron here.91032_alt_01

Drugstore colognes and aftershaves. Seriously. Call me crazy, but don’t we all remember how good Old Spice smelled when we were kids? How about Brut, English Leather, and Aqua Velva? Well, I must admit, I didn’t come up with this idea myself. Brett from artofmanliness.com wrote a piece on these old favorites after giving them a test run himself. You can see the awesome piece here. It will make you want to run to your local drugstore and pick up a few of these as stocking stuffers for the men in your lives. It also makes me want to find Joe Namath and find out if he still wears Brut!

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Photo from artofmanliness.com

Block Letter Monogram Necklace. These have been popular, in one style or another, for as long as I can remember. It’s a personalized gift without being “over the top.” And it makes a great stocking stuffer. Anthropologie has a great one for $38 here.37659125_901_b

MikWright Products. I found this brand of greeting cards and gifts at Paper Skyscraper when I first moved to Charlotte years ago, and I’ve loved them since! They use old photographs with hilarious captions on greeting cards, napkins, flasks, and more. Any of their items would make great stocking stuffers. Shop the MikWright website here.

Evel Knievel Stuff. Lots of little boys in the 1970s thought Evel Knievel was the greatest stunt person ever! I know he was famous at our house! My brother had all kinds of Evil Knievel toys…and frankly, I wish we still had them! But any Evel Knievel item would be a great trip down memory lane for some grown men. Take a look at all the items offered on Amazon.com here. There are dolls, action figures, tshirts, socks…and lots more!

Golden Girls Shady Pines Key Ring. The Golden Girls series ended its original run a long time ago, but there are lots of us who still remember it and love it. This cute little key ring is just a small nod to the show we all loved, and any fan would love to have it. It’s a guaranteed smile on Christmas morning for just $8.99 at Amazon here.

Ugg Earmuffs. Expecting cold temperatures and/or big snow this winter? Everybody has to keep their ears warm! These classic earmuffs from Ugg will do the job while making your friends and family look good at the same time! Priced at just under $60 at dsw.com here.348340_202_ss_01

Zippo Handwarmer. This is an unusual gift…it might be new to you, in fact! I had never heard of the Zippo Handwarmer till recently, but now that I know about it, you can bet your sweet bippy we will all find them in our Christmas stockings this year! They’re offered in several different colors and finishes, and they are refillable. For $19.99, they’re great stocking stuffers for anyone on your list who might spend some time in the cold this winter! Personally, I like the dayglo yellow one, because I think I’ll be less likely to lose it. Get it at Amazon here.

Other Marvelous Mrs. Maisel merch. Just as promised at the beginning of the post, here are some more items based on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel:

  • Marvis Tour with The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Limited Edition Set. Toothpaste! It’s toothpaste! Amazon says, “Go on tour with The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (and her fresh mouth), with this limited edition set, made exclusively in partnership with the show. $15 for the set at Amazon here.81kqkk44cxl._sl1500_.jpg
  • The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Illustration Travel Mug. Offered by Society6.com, this travel mug will make any fan of the show laugh. Fans will immediately recognize the characters and the quote. (I had to mark out a word, because my mama wouldn’t approve of that word!) Get it here.IMG_6498
  • We Got The Rabbi T-shirt. Trust me, any fan would love this shirt. If anyone on your list is a fan of the show, get this t-shirt for him or her! Priced at $32, this will roll up and fit right into a stocking…and guaranteed smiles when the recipient finds it! It’s offered in lots of different colors! Get it here.mockup-49fd6357_1000x
  • More show merchandise at Amazon. Seriously, I can’t believe Amazon isn’t cashing in with tons of merchandise from the Amazon Prime show, but they do have a few items. Click here to see a few items they offer.

So there are some ideas for folks on your list…different ages…different interests…just different altogether! Happy shopping!

Leslie Jordan Will Brighten Your Day (and your Christmas List)

Leslie Jordan will brighten your day…and your Christmas list!

If you’re not familiar with Leslie Jordan, you need to be. He is an actor from Chattanooga, Tennessee, who embraces who he is and shares joy with the world regularly through Instagram and Facebook. You’ve likely seen him before on Will and Grace, The Help, Sordid Lives, or one of many other roles on TV or in film. I love him onscreen, but one thing I’ve learned in COVID is that I love Leslie Jordan even more in “real life” in Insta and Facebook. If you don’t follow him on social media, stop what you are doing, and go follow him…right now! You need to become a “fellow hunkerdowner” with Leslie during the COVID pandemic.

You definitely want to be following him before Sunday, because on Sundays, he sings hymns. Does he have the greatest voice ever? No. But you feel the spirit of his joy when he sings hymns with Travis Howard…they are awesome. Lately, they have shared some snippets of Christmas songs. Last Sunday, he sang a snippet of Let it Snow, and another day, a snippet of I Saw Daddy Kissing Santa Claus…yes, Daddy…Leslie is gay…and he is delightful and funny and charming.

Here’s the thing about Leslie Jordan: I feel like I know him. He grew up in the south, just like me, and anyone who grew up in the south will tell you we have “characters” in our lives…people we remember as being bigger than life. I didn’t know Leslie, but he reminds me of a few “characters” I knew and loved growing up. They had/have the same infectious joyful spirit as Leslie. Don’t we all love spending time with people who bring some joy into our lives? Well, Leslie Jordan, with his infectious laugh, he sweet smile, his funny innuendos, and his singing…he is just a bundle of joy…a 4’11” southern bundle of joy.

If you’d like to share the joy of Leslie with others this holiday season, you’re in luck. His book, My Trip Down the Pink Carpet is on sale on Amazon. I plan to start reading it tomorrow. A friend read it and told me Leslie is a born storyteller…southerners tend to like to tell stories, and Leslie being Leslie…I can hardly wait to read all his crazy stories. You know what they say about southerners: We don’t hide our crazy; we put it on the front porch and give it a cocktail. I can only imagine the crazy experiences Leslie has had between Chattanooga and Hollywood! If you’d like to order the book, you can get it here.

But there’s more! Leslie has always had great onscreen presence, but I think he is approaching a whole new level of fame, simply because folks love watching him on social media! He now has a site where you can purchase Leslie Jordan merchandise! Right now, the site features Christmas sweaters and sweatshirts, but there was a pink hoodie offered last week…hoping it returns! Shop Leslie merchandise here. Seriously, if my friends and family don’t love Leslie Jordan yet, it’s just because they don’t know about him yet. They’ll know him and love him after they open their Christmas gifts!

It’s going to be a Leslie Jordan Christmas at our house this year! Can’t we all use a little extra laughter and joy in our lives this year? Well, Leslie brings it!

70s Saturdays and Hostess Cupcakes

70s Saturdays and Hostess Cupcakes.

Earlier, I had to run to Walgreens to pick up one thing…some bottled water. Of course, like so many other people, I can’t walk out of Walgreen’s with just one thing. I have to “browse” the aisles. By the time I checked out, my cart contained hand sanitizer, cheap lipstick, Halloween candy I promptly hid when I got home, and Hostess Cupcakes. Yes, Hostess Cupcakes…the ones that come two to a pack. The creme-filled chocolate ones that have the white swirls across the top. The ones that I loved as a kid in the 1970s.

When I was a little girl, Daddy took us to Murphy’s store on Highway 31 in Brewton on Saturday mornings after he gave us our $5 allowance. It was our opportunity to get whatever we wanted, and back then, $5 would buy a lot of treats. Murphy’s was a little locally-owned convenience store. We always referred to it as “Murphy’s,” except Saturdays, when we referred to it as “the candy store.” Mr. and Mrs. Murphy actually ran it themselves. I’m sure they laughed when they saw us coming, because they knew we were going straight for the candy. By the time I left the store, I usually had an Icee or a Grape Fanta and a little brown bag full of different treats. My personal favorites? Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (I remember when the price increased from 15 cents to 20 cents), Pixy Stix, Marathon Bar, Grape Now & Laters, Spree Candy, M&Ms, Candy Cigarettes (it was the 70s, after all), and yes, those glorious Hostess Cupcakes. I thought those swirls across the top were beautiful. I guess I always had homemade birthday cakes, so those Hostess swirls looked like some special handiwork. Here’s a secret, though: I rarely ate the cupcakes. I usually just ate the frosting off the top…and that swirl? I saved that till the end.

So, after I got home from Walgreen’s and ate those Hostess cupcakes, I posted on my personal Facebook page about them, and the reaction was great! So many of my friends remembered those cupcakes from childhood. But the great thing was the memories they shared about their own experiences. One friend commented that her dad would take her to the deli on Saturdays, and while he picked out lunch stuff, the kids could get treats…including Tastykakes…a Mid-Atlantic treat. Others could remember the mom-and-pop shops where they got their weekend treats, and one friend frequented the 7-11 with her dad, buying comic books and candy.

One of my favorite comments was simply, “Nyolator.” It was a comment from a kindergarten friend in Brewton. I’m guessing not just anyone would understand it, but I knew exactly what it meant immediately. In South Alabama, when I was a kid, I didn’t call Now&Later candies by their real name. I called them “Nyolators,” and I now know I wasn’t the only one! We weren’t being funny. Since I never bothered to read the package, I just pronounced them the way I heard it,”Nyolator.” I guess that’s the way my kindergarten friend heard it too! So if someone had asked me what candy I liked at the time, I likely would have answered, “Grape Nyolators.” Later, when I bothered to read the package, I was amused to learn I had been calling them by the wrong name my whole life…I was probably a preteen by the time I realized it, but dang!

So now, I’m thinking those Hostess Cupcakes aren’t just cupcakes. They’re symbols of my childhood…memories of going to Murphy’s store with my daddy. Pixy Stix can have the same effect for me. I loved Pixy Stix then, and I still love them now. Again, grape Pixy Stix are my preferred flavor. I don’t know why I love artificial grape flavoring, but I do.

Grape sodas, which taste nothing like real grapes, also make me think of visiting my Granddaddy. I’ve talked with my cousin, Patti, in recent years about how Granddaddy would give us a quarter, and we would walk down to the little store down the street from his house. I don’t know what the store was called, but I know I could always get a grape soda or an RC Cola there.

And you know why all those items…the candy, the cupcakes, the sodas…remind us of our childhood? Because they represent happy times. We tend to lock things into our longterm memory if they are attached to an emotion, and I guess that emotion, for me, on a Saturday morning, with $5 to spend at a mom-and-pop convenience store…well, that emotion was pure joy! No doubt!

I was big on making my little brown bag candy stash last a while. I could drag out eating some M&Ms by peeling them. I never got Peanut M&Ms. Back then, I only got original milk chocolate ones. And I actually peeled them. Sounds crazy right? I would bite each one just lightly enough to crack the outer shell, and then I would carefully peel off the shell, eating it little bit by little bit. And that’s when there were still red M&Ms with cancer-causing coloring, and there were two different brown colors of M&M…one was tan. Remember that? Long before blue M&Ms. I remember hearing the slogan for M&Ms many times, “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand.”

And while I was peeling my M&Ms and hoarding my candy/cupcake stash, I was likely playing records on my record player…maybe Ricky Nelson singing Garden Party, which takes me back every time. That and Otis Redding singing Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay. But I’m not even going to get into how music takes me back…that’s for another day.

For now, I’m going to sneak back into the kitchen and eat some of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups from the bag of Halloween candy I purchased at Walgreen’s. I hid it from everyone else in my family, but I know exactly where it is!

Fluffernutter Sandwiches

Fluffernutter sandwiches…the glorious blend of peanut butter and Fluff brand marshmallow creme on white bread.

My friends in New England have known about Fluffernutter sandwiches their whole lives, so they might be surprised to know people in other parts of the country have never heard of them. Well, I can’t speak for people in the midwest or west, but I know lots of people in the south are unaware of the Fluffernutter.

How do I know that? Well, after I posted about Fluff and Fluffernutters on my personal Facebook page this week, I got lots of comments from friends, saying they had never heard of the Fluff/peanut butter combination. One friend emailed me, saying, “I had no idea marshmallow fluff was such a thing! I’ve bought it for a recipe. But never just to eat!” Yet another friend asked me if Jet-Puffed brand marshmallow creme works the same. Short answer? No…it doesn’t spread the same way. Only Fluff will do.

Want the recipe? It’s simple. Spread peanut butter on one slice of bread (I always use white bread for Fluffernutters). Spread Fluff on another slice of bread. Put them together for a Fluffernutter! FYI: I don’t use as much peanut butter or Fluff as shown in the top photo, but maybe I should!

I learned about Fluff and Fluffernutters years ago, because I had the good fortune of meeting a friend who had grown up in the Boston area. She became one of my closest friends ever for lots of reasons, and yes, maybe the fact that she introduced me to Fluff made me love her even more! She loved Fluff and had been eating it since she was a little girl. In fact, she said that when she was a child, her grandmother would often make her Fluff sandwiches…sans peanut butter…because that’s what she liked! We would laugh when we talked about it, because she was basically eating a sugar sandwich. My daughter loves a Fluffernutter…even now that she’s in high school, I put them in her lunch every now and then.

If you’ve never tried a Fluffernutter sandwich, it’s high time you did. You will wonder how you managed to live so long without knowing about this glorious treat! I was probably close to 40 when my friend told me about it. In fact, I included it in a list of simple sandwiches in a post a couple of years ago. You can see that here. Peanut butter is good with lots of things…bananas, chocolate, apples…the list goes on and on. So should it be any surprise that combining it with marshmallow Fluff makes a great combo too? Trust me. Once you’ve learned this hack, you’ll never go back. I have a friend in Alabama who says she gained 20 pounds after I introduced her to Fluffernutters.

My Boston friend also introduced me to the deliciousness that is Dunkin Donuts iced coffee, because that’s something else New Englanders have known about since the beginning of time. Dunkin Donuts Iced Coffee is hard to beat. When our kids were little, we would vacation with my Boston friend in Maine every summer, and every day, we would get iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts. It’s a sweet memory. And try Dunkin Donuts iced coffee with your Fluffernutter…one sweet, joyful experience!

And recently I learned that some people toast their Fluffernutters! I had no idea that was a thing, but I’ll be trying that today too! How did I never think of that? Does anything sound more like comfort food than a toasted Fluffernutter?!?

So if you are a parent or grandparent who has never tried a Fluffernutter or served one up to your child or grandchild, now is the time. You can be a hero at home if you make them this treat! *Disclaimer: Of course, if they are allergic to any of the ingredients, do not serve it.* Kids gobble up this treat! I have a friend in Alabama who is a grandmother, and she questioned me about it after my Facebook post. I told her the grandkids will love it!

If you have trouble finding Fluff in your grocery store, you can order it from Amazon here. I recently ordered it after I couldn’t find it in grocery stores in Charlotte. I used to get it in Target, but I haven’t seen it there in a while. (There’s nothing wrong with Jet-Puffed, but it just doesn’t spread the same way.)

When you try it and love it, say a little prayer of thanks and tell God to give a thumbs up to my friend, Wendy, in Heaven. She passed away in June of 2018 after battling cancer for years. But I think of her every time I have a Fluffernutter or Dunkin Donuts Iced Coffee.

Bring on the Fluffernutter!