A Different Mother’s Day

A Different Mother’s Day…

It’s almost here. We’ve never made a gigantic deal about Mother’s Day at our house, but we do celebrate it. My family usually goes out for brunch on Mother’s Day. We don’t do big gifts or anything, but my husband usually orders flowers or one of my favorite treats. We  normally have the freedom to make a reservation where we want to dine. But not this year.

Honestly, I look at Mother’s Day the same way my own mother used to look at it: I’m just thankful God let me be a mother to my daughter. There is no job more difficult or more rewarding. The job description is always changing, and I love it. I really do. When I was in my twenties, long before I was a mom, I thought having a child was not important to me. One of my coworkers, who had two children, once said to me, “It’s the meaning of life.” And she was right. My daughter teaches me a lot more about love and life than I teach her, I’m sure, and I love growing with her.

I always tell people motherhood gave me an opportunity to have a third childhood. My first childhood was my real childhood. Then, college was the next one. And once I had my baby, when I was 33, I got to start enjoying another childhood. She will be going off to college in a couple of years, and I’m sure I’ll enjoy that too! My neighbor, when she came over for social-distancing cocktails on the patio last week, told me and my daughter, “My daughter’s time at The University of Alabama were the best four years of my life!” She loved visiting her daughter in Tuscaloosa and got to enjoy another “childhood.” Motherhood is a great experience.

No one enjoyed motherhood more than my own mother. This is my third Mother’s Day without her in the world. I won’t cry this year like I did that first one, but I still miss her. I’ve just found ways of coping with the fact that she’s not here anymore. Lots of times, during this pandemic and isolation, I have wondered what she would have thought of it. Since she was a nurse, she would have known the importance of social distancing, but she wouldn’t have liked it. My parents were always big on “living life.” They loved the movie, Shawshank Redemption, and one of their favorite quotes from the movie was, “Get busy living, or get busy dying.”

Since this isolation started, my brother and I have speculated about what our parents would have said about the disease and the stay-at-home order. Neither of us truly knows what they would have said, but I know I would have spent a lot of time on the phone with them talking about it.

Unfortunately, I don’t have my mother. I can’t call her and ask her about it this Mother’s Day…the Mother’s Day in the age of COVID-19. If you still have your mother, think about that…once they’re gone, you can’t call your mom to ask her about a recipe or a story she told you about her life or how to handle a sick child. And I can’t ask mine what she thinks about COVID-19. I know it sounds like a little thing, but I’d love to know her thoughts on it all. In the 1950s, when she was in nursing school and studied in Louisiana for a while, she was exposed to tuberculosis and leprosy, both infectious diseases. Sure, they were infectious, but as a medical professional, she did what she needed to do to help the people. Later, when I was in elementary school, she worked for the health department and had to visit an area that reportedly had several cases of tuberculosis…a highly contagious respiratory disease. I would love to hear her opinion of the whole COVID-19 crisis….but I can’t.

This Mother’s Day will be different. That’s for sure. Because we can’t go out for brunch, we will likely cook at home. Sure, it will be different, but we will make it fun. It’s supposed to be a beautiful day, so I’m guessing my husband will cook on the grill. I’ll give him a grocery list today. Since the high is supposed to be around 70, we’ll have lunch outside. I won’t require my family to spend the whole day doting on me, but I will enjoy some time with them. Gifts? I don’t know if they will shower me with gifts, and it’s just fine if they don’t. I’m just thankful we are all healthy and can spend some time together.

This Mother’s Day, I’ll be thankful for my healthy little family. I’m thankful my own parents gave me a good life. I’m thankful for my brother and nephews…my cousins, aunts, uncles. And I’m thankful for great friends.

I’m just thankful. God bless mothers.

 

Quarantine: March 1985

March 1985.

Thirty-five years ago.

It was my senior year in high school, and as spring break approached, I was feeling miserable. My mother took me to see Dr. Mracek, our family physician, and he said those words no high school senior wants to hear, “I think you have mono.” You know…mononucleosis…also known as “the kissing disease,” because it’s easily transmitted between teenagers. It was the last thing I wanted to hear, because at the time, for a teenager, it was a death sentence for all activities. Of course, I felt so badly that I couldn’t go anywhere, anyway.

My throat hurt. My head hurt. I had no energy. The mono test came back positive, and the doctor told me to stay in my bedroom and only leave it to go to the bathroom and take a shower/bath. He told my mother to get me a good multivitamin and keep the rest of the family away from me. He told her to get paper plates and plasticware for me…and get me my own salt and pepper shakers. He didn’t want the rest of the family to catch it. And he told me to stay hydrated. He also instructed me to stay out of school till he told me it was OK to return. I think people worried a lot more about mono back then, because I see kids returning to normal activities much more quickly after being diagnosed now. My mother, being a registered nurse, followed the doctor’s orders to the letter. I stayed in my room, but I didn’t really have the energy to do anything else anyway.

At 17, I couldn’t believe it. It was my senior year of high school. I was missing a spring break beach trip. It meant I would be home on Friday nights to watch The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. While that would have sounded awesome a few years earlier, as a senior in high school, it sounded terrible. Interestingly, I remember seeing the debut of Mr. Belvedere, a sitcom starring Bob Uecker and others, but since my family always watched sports, Uecker is the one I remember from the show. Uecker is a former baseball player who is the broadcaster for the Milwaukee Brewers, but he is also known for some Miller Lite ads he made in the 80s, using the tag line “I must be in the front row!” I still use that line regularly, but no one knows what I’m talking about when I do.

My bout with mononucleosis is my only “quarantine” experience. After missing spring break and a week or two of school, I was slowly allowed to return to half days, then full days of school. Eventually, I resumed all normal activities. By summer, I was feeling normal, and I was able to go off to college in August of that year.

Interestingly, that time of “quarantine” is just a blip on my radar now. I don’t remember much about it. I know I was heartbroken to be separated from friends and missing school activities, but while I remember that, I don’t feel it.  I don’t feel any sadness in looking back on it. I don’t feel sad about what I missed because of it. I missed a few months of normal activities, but now, it doesn’t matter. In fact, I feel pretty sure I had gotten over the sadness by the time I started college that fall.

Now, March 1985 is a distant memory, and one day, March 2020 will be a distant memory too. Because this COVID-19 pandemic is being experienced by the whole country, we will likely remember it more clearly…and hopefully learn from it… but my hope is that, eventually, we, as a country, will recover…just like my bout with mononucleosis. It will be a much bigger blip on the radar of life, but eventually, it will be behind us.

There will be recovery time from this. Lots of people have lost their lives and/or family members. Lots of folks have lost businesses and jobs. Lots of us have lost lots of money. I certainly don’t mean to make light of that, but I think we all need to look out for each other. It’s devastating…but our country will recover.

***I’m saying daily prayers for those who are suffering with COVID-19. I know there are lots of sick and dying people out there, and I pray for them and their families.***

 

Ice Cream for Breakfast!

Ice cream for breakfast!

When my daughter was five, she went to transitional kindergarten one day and told her teacher she had ice cream for breakfast. I was friends with her teacher, so when I saw her later in the day, she said, “Your daughter said the funniest thing this morning! She said she had ice cream for breakfast!” Busted! I looked at my friend and said, “Well, she did!” She laughed out loud, and then I explained, “Ice cream has nutritional value, right? Calcium? Vitamin D? Protein?Vitamin A?” Honestly, my child had asked for ice cream that morning, and I saw absolutely nothing wrong with it. It has more nutritional value than a muffin or bagel, right?

At our house, breakfast has always been a free-for-all. On weekends, I love to cook breakfast, but the family doesn’t always want it. When my daughter was too young to drive, she and her friends would gather around the table for breakfast on weekends, but now that she can drive, they usually meet somewhere…a bagel shop, iHop, Waffle House. But when she was a little girl? Ice cream for breakfast was never turned down!

Who knew there was an actual day on the calendar dedicated to having ice cream for breakfast? As people say now…how old were you when you found that out? I was today old! Even though my daughter is a teen who no longer wants to do crafts with me, I sometimes peruse craft sites, and today, I was looking up Valentine’s Day crafts when something about Ice Cream For Breakfast Day caught my eye.

As it turns out, the first Saturday in February is officially Ice Cream for Breakfast Day. That means this Saturday, February 1, is the big day this year! I could splurge and eat a big bowl of ice cream in celebration of the momentous occasion, or I can find some recipes that will still give me the ice cream without all the calories! So I did what I do…I turned to Hungry Girl and found some ice cream-based recipes that look delicious. And I’m sharing them with you!

Chilla in Vanilla Milkshake. Some folks have protein shakes for breakfast, but I’m not one of them. But this Saturday, I could opt for this delicious shake! I love a vanilla shake more than just about any treat, and at just 155 calories per serving, this one looks absolutely perfect to me! You can see the recipe here. The maraschino cherry is optional, but it’s a definite YES for me!retina_hg-chilla-in-vanilla-milkshake

Brownie-Bottomed Ice Cream Cake. When I was growing up, I loved a good ice cream cake. They were special treats at my house, because you couldn’t find them just anywhere. All my northern friends tell me they always had Carvel cakes, but we didn’t have those in Alabama. It wasn’t till I was ten years old that I actually had a Baskin Robbins Ice Cream cake, and it was love at first bite. I could likely eat the whole thing. Now, though, I simply can’t do that, so this Brownie-Bottomed Ice Cream Cake from Hungry Girl is the bomb! See the recipe here. Coming in at under 200 calories per serving, it is delicious…so delicious I might even have two servings! And it’s easy to make!retina_hungry-girl-healthy-brownie-bottomed-ice-cream-cake-recipe-20190703-1630-31216-1862

Banana Split Pie. OK, this one looks delicious, and it has nutritional value (bananas?!?!)! And who doesn’t love (ice cream) pie for breakfast?!?! With a meager 123 calories per serving, why wouldn’t you make this for breakfast this Saturday? But you’ll need to remember to make it Friday night, because it does need to freeze for four hours. My husband would pledge his undying love to me if I served this to him for breakfast…oh wait, he has already done that. But you get the point. See the recipe at Hungry Girl here.retina_hungry-girl-healthy-banana-split-pie-recipe-20190329-1849-16905-0283

Big Beautiful Baked Alaska. It’s big. It’s beautiful. And it has just 182 calories per serving. Did I mention it’s beautiful? Heck, Hungry Girl even tells you how to make homemade meringue in this recipe! You go, Hungry Girl! And nothing will say “good morning” quite like a Big Beautiful Baked Alaska! If I had all the ingredients, I would make it tonight! But alas, it’s not Ice Cream for Dinner day, so I’ll have to wait till Saturday’s Ice Cream for Breakfast Day celebration. See the recipe here.retina_hg-big-beautiful-baked-alaska
Hungry Girl’s Magically Peach-tastic Peach Swappuccino. 
Not gonna lie, folks. I think my teenage daughter would go absolutely nuts over this…and I might too! Hungry Girl came up with this recipe as an answer to the Starbucks Crystal Ball Frappuccino that was  all the rage, and this one has half the sugar! You can see it in the lovely Hungry Girl glass below…it’s gorgeous! I mean, the drink is gorgeous…and the glass is too! Maybe I’ll get my hands on one of those glasses one day! This particular recipe actually contains no ice cream, but your teen would think you were “the bomb” if you served this up on Ice Cream for Breakfast Day! See the recipe here.retina_hungry-girl-magically-delicious-peach-swappuccino-20180322-1418-9203-9059

You still have time to pick up the ingredients for any or all of the above treats for Ice Cream for Breakfast Day this Saturday! Don’t tell your kids…wake them up with one of these fabulous surprises!

*For these recipes and more, get daily emails from Hungry Girl by subscribing here. Click that you heard about Hungry Girl from an HG Ambassador, and then put my name in the blank: Kelly Mattei. Thank you!

*All photos courtesy of Hungry-girl.com.*

Healthier Options for Your Super Bowl Party

Hosting a Super Bowl Party?

It’s that time of year! College football (my favorite) is over, and there are just a couple more weeks of NFL games…division championships and the Super Bowl on February 2, Groundhog Day. This year, it’s Super Bowl LIV…that’s 54 for those of you who can’t read Roman numerals. Plus, it looks kind of cool that it’s LIV…makes me think of LIVE! I’m probably the only one thinking that, so I’ll move on.

Once the Super Bowl is over, we have to wait months for football to start up again, so let’s have a party!

I remember lots of past Super Bowls. The earliest one I remember is Super Bowl XII, between the Dallas Cowboys with Roger Staubach playing quarterback and Tom Landry coaching, and the Denver Broncos and their “Orange Crush” defense. I had likely watched other Super Bowls, because my parents were big sports fans, but that’s the first one I remember…maybe because it was the first one played in prime time? And boy, was it hyped! It was also the first one played in a domed stadium, the Louisiana Superdome, and the Cowboys won 27-12. I remember others too, and I wish I remembered Super Bowl X, in which Kenny Stabler, at quarterback, led the Oakland Raiders to victory over the Minnesota Vikings, but I don’t remember it. I remember Super Bowl XXXVIII for the wrong reason: Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction. I remember it, because we were at a friend’s house who had previously played for the Carolina Panthers, and the Panthers were playing the Patriots. I had a 3-month-old baby, and I was tired, but I wanted to go, so I took the baby with me. I took the baby home right after the wardrobe malfunction, but that night lives on in my brain.

So this year, we don’t know yet who will be playing, but we can at least start planning our menus for parties! Since it’s just two weeks ago, I need to wrap my brain around a few recipes for the big day. I don’t go all crazy with a gigantic spread, but I want to have a few tasty snacks. Using Hungry Girl as my guide, here are a few I plan to use:

Buffalo Chicken Chili. Sure, I could make regular old chili, and I’m sure most folks would think it’s great, but why not change it up a bit? You can make Buffalo Chicken Chili in your slow cooker, and will be gobbled up by all your guests. It takes two things sports fans love, chili and Buffalo chicken, and mixes them together for a unique flavored chili that’s super easy to make. You can see the recipe here.BuffChili1_web

Cheeseburger Meatloaf. Not gonna lie…anything with “cheeseburger” in the title sounds good to me, and this is no exception. Cheeseburger Meatloaf? Yes, please! And have no fear…just because these are better for you than a normal fatty cheeseburger, they’re still delicious! I’ve made these several times, and the flavor is incredible. Plus, they are made in muffin pans, so the portion sizes are perfect. In fact, you can eat two of these and still stay under 200 calories! Mmm mmm good! Every man at the party will thank you for these hearty, flavorful treats. See the recipe for Cheeseburger Meatloaf here. Hungry Girl has other great cheeseburger-y recipes too. Maybe you’d like to make the Layered Cheeseburger Dip (recipe here)? Or serve the Air Fryer Cheeseburger Egg Rolls (recipe here)?retina_hungry-girl-cheeseburger-mini-meatloaves-20170220-1619-32204-3223-2

Veggie Chips. Nope, not the packaged ones you buy in the store. Hungry Girl has some great recipes for veggie chips made in your air fryer! I love the Air Fried Ranch Zucchini Chips (recipe here), and even my daughter liked them. Trust me, she’s a picky 16-yr-old; if she likes them, they are really good. Or maybe you love fried pickles at your favorite sports bar. Make a healthier version of them, Faux Fried Pickle Chips, in your air fryer with this great recipe from Hungry Girl (click here)! If you don’t have an air fryer, you need one. I just moved into the 21st century myself and purchased one…greatest invention ever!

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Faux Fried Pickle Chips

Healthier Super Bowl Spreads. Everybody knows that for a Super Bowl Party, you need to have dips, and Hungry Girl doesn’t disappoint in this category. I’ve made several of the recipes on the site, and one of my personal favorites is in her book, Hungry Girl Clean & Hungry Obsessed. It’s called the For the Win Spinach Artichoke Dip, and the flavors are fabulous. You can purchase the book at Amazon here. In the same book, she has the Ultimate Ate-Layer Dip, a healthier version of the seven layer dip we all know and love. I highly recommend the book, and you can still order it in time to make the recipes for Super Bowl. On the website, though, she has Turkey-rific Taco Dip, a great mixture of flavors (see here), and Buff Chick Hot Wing Dip, which has been a big hit when I’ve served it. See the recipe here.

 

 

Pitcher Cocktails. I find it’s easier to make cocktails by the pitcher to save myself running back and forth to the bar. Hungry Girl has some great options for that too! The Sassy n Spiked Pink Lemonade Pitcher is a great choice…who doesn’t like spiked lemonade? See the recipe here. And I also love the Sparkling Sangria…also made in a pitcher. See the recipe here.

 

And don’t forget, to keep it fun but healthier, you can always serve veggies for dipping instead of chips. See in photos above that Hungry Girl has carrots, celery, and bell peppers for dipping.

Happy Super Bowl! And as Hungry Girl would say, “Chew the right thing!”

***All photos courtesy of Hungry-Girl.com. To sign up for daily emails from Hungry Girl, click hereOn the pull-down menu asking where you heard about Hungry Girl, click HG Ambassador, and enter my name (Kelly Mattei). Thank you!***

Christmas Card Photos

Have you finished your holiday shopping? How about your holiday travel plans? Have you locked in your airline reservations? What about hotels? And just when you think you have everything done, you remember you have to do holiday cards! Try finding a picture of the whole family together…good luck finding one where everyone is behaving nicely.

Yesterday, I said to my husband, “We need to get a photo for our Christmas cards.” He asked, “Can’t we just do a card with no picture this year?”

And you know the top of my head almost blew off before I calmly said, “No. Our card always has a picture on it.” He replied, “Well, maybe this year we change it up.” Nope. Nope. And nope.

So last night, I sat down and starting scrolling through the pictures on my cellphone, trying to find one that would work. I could find pictures of my daughter and me. I found pictures of my husband and my daughter. I found pictures of me and my husband. But finding a pic of all three of us? That’s tough.

I decided to get creative. Since I couldn’t find a good picture of all three of us, I decided I would create one! I found a picture of Velma, Daphne, and Shaggy from one of the Scooby Doo movies, and I superimposed our faces onto their bodies. Yes, I let my daughter be Daphne, and I became Velma, while my husband was Shaggy. I laughed till I cried thinking of my husband dressing and acting like Shaggy. And my daughter walked in while I was laughing by myself. She looked at me like I’m a weirdo…the same way she always looks at me, because she’s a teenager…and asked, “What are you doing?!” I said, “Working on our Christmas card picture.” And I showed her my creation. She was not amused.

So I tried something else and put our faces on Carly, Sam, and Freddie from iCarly. It had the show’s logo across the top, and I kept Spencer in the photo too. If you’re familiar with Nickelodeon’s iCarly, you know the characters. If you’re not familiar with the show, you can see info here. When I showed that picture to my daughter, she let me know I was taking things too far, “Mom, no. Just no.” Seriously, though, her reaction made me really want to use that one on the card.

But after that, I tried a different approach. I found a picture I liked of me and my daughter, and I added my husband’s face to it…like he is sticking his head into the picture from the side. When I showed it to the daughter, she laughed and said, “Add the dogs too!” So I did. It was a joke, but then, I kind of liked it, and the daughter liked it too. But the husband absolutely did not approve. In fact, he went back to “can’t we have a card with no picture?” I told him that indeed, he could, if he were married to someone else, but I love photo cards! And he said, “Let’s take a picture of the three of us this weekend though, and we can do that.” He has no idea how hard it is to get all three of us together…showered….dressed….and photo ready…at the same time.

So at some point this weekend, we will try to get a picture of the three of us. It won’t be professional, but maybe we will pull it off. If not, folks will be receiving a card with the picture of me, the daughter, the husband’s face Photoshopped in, and the dogs Photoshopped in too! I know…if you’re on our list, you’re hoping for the Photoshop picture!

***Once we find an acceptable picture, we will upload it to Shutterfly.com to make our cards. You can see Shutterfly card options here.***

My Favorite Holiday Gifts 2019, Part 5: Gifts for Men/Boys

Honestly, “gifts for men” is a tough category. We got married 19 years ago, and every year, I have trouble deciding what to get my husband. But when I find something that I know will truly surprise him in a happy way, I get all giddy on Christmas morning. It’s difficult, but usually, I find something he loves…and he is always in awe.

Solo Stove Bonfire Steel Firepit. This is not your average woodturning firepit. And don’t tell him, but my husband will find one of these under the tree this year. We’ve had propane burning fire tables, but we never liked them. He hates wood-burning fire pits, because he can’t stand the smoke, and he especially hates the way his clothes smell after standing around one. This one, though, solves that problem. He’s going to be surprised! I don’t know how it works, but the design is patent-pending, and I’ve heard it’s amazing. As much as we enjoy having cocktails on our patio, this will be a big hit. The smallest Bonfire Steel Firepit is 19.5″, which is priced at $295.96 on Amazon. Of course, prices go up for bigger versions. Get it here. 510eipIfE6L._AC_

Games. Sounds silly, I know, but stay with me. Lots of men love the thrill of competition…even if it’s just a backyard game. We have lots of friends who love a good game (or tournament) of corn hole. I’ve sung the praises of the corn hole game before, but it’s worth mentioning again. Get corn hole boards at Amazon here. Another favorite through the years is the Hook and Ring Toss Game. Found in pubs everywhere, who doesn’t love the challenge? I remember playing it at the World Famous FloraBama Lounge and Package Store in Orange Beach, Alabama, when I was in college. (If you’re not familiar with the FloraBama, you should be…it’s a dive bar on the beach…home of the Annual Mullet Toss. Good times! See info here.) As for the hook and ring toss game, you can find different versions. I found some good ones on Amazon here. Have a basketball goal at home? We do, and my husband still gets out there and shoots hoops with his friends. He might like a Dribble Up Smart Basketball to improve his game. It’s also a great gift for kids. Order here. Another fun game is a tabletop football game. All men remember playing football with paper footballs as kids, and I think boys still play it. Now, they don’t have to hold up their hands for goal posts anymore! See the game here. Or how about an indoor putting green for the man in your life who loves golf? There’s a great one here for $37.61.

 

Barbour Quilted Jacket. This one is a little more pricey, but your man will be fashion-forward. Teen boys love these jackets too. Starting at $200 at Nordstrom, these are good-looking, well-made, and they can wear them for years to come. The newly re-issued Icons editions, starting at $250, have been re-engineered, and they’re very popular.  See them here.

 

Tailgating stuff. Need to buy a gift for someone who loves tailgating? There are lots of great things he might not have yet, and he’d be thrilled to get any of these. First, there’s the much-heralded Yeti Cooler. There are lots of versions of Yeti Coolers, starting at about $200 and going all the way up to $800 for the gargantuan versions, but that might be a little big for a tailgate. See them all here. Or maybe he likes to mix some drinks while he tailgates. I saw this on Chrisley Knows Best, one of my favorite shows. Nanny Faye, my favorite family member on the show, had her own travel bar, and I thought, “What a great gift!” So if your man likes to mix drinks at tailgates, he might like a travel bar! There are various sizes, but my favorite is the Concession Express Portable Two Bottle, Leather Travel Bar that includes a jigger and a bottle opener. Priced at $82.66 on Amazon. See it here. If he likes to keep his liquor close to the vest, the Shinola Men’s Leather Wrapped Hip Flask could be perfect for him. Priced at $125 at Neiman Marcus, you can see it here.

 

Drones. Men love flying toys. It starts when they start throwing balls as kids. Drones are the ultimate flying toy for men who can’t fly planes. There are lots of them on the market, but I found some that are rated high by consumers. For an inexpensive drone made by a reputable company, there’s the Holy Stone Wi-Fi FPV Drone with 720P Wide-Angle HD Camera. Priced at $89.99. BestReviews.com says it is feature-rich, adding, “while it’s a good choice for novices, it also appeals to seasoned drone enthusiasts, thanks to the ample features and affordable price.” See it here. For top-notch quality, BestReviews.com recommends the DJI Phantom 4 Professional Quadcopter, priced at $999 at Amazon. It’s pricey, but apparently, it’s the best. If you have an experienced drone enthusiast on your list, this could be the primo gift. Get it at Amazon here.

 

Tommy Bahama Apparel. My husband loves this brand for its comfort, and I don’t blame him, as everything they make seems super soft. He loves their lounge pants, their tshirts, and their sweaters. He loves their French Terry Lounge Pants and wears them year-round at home. Heck, he has been known to wear them out of the house too! They look good. They’re comfortable, and they’re well-made. Priced at $56 here. TB81818_809_main

Camping stuff. If the man on your list enjoys camping, then he will love receiving camping supplies. I recently came across a Tiki Tunes Outdoor Bluetooth Speaker that creates ambient light while playing your favorite tunes. For $69.99, you get a set of two speakers, which you can find it at Amazon here. Or maybe he’d like a power station for camping? The Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 240 is highly-rated and picked as an “Amazon’s Choice.” Priced at $249.99 at Amazon right now, it’s a gift any camper would love to get. And it’s not just for camping. It’s great in an emergency when you lose electrical power at home too. See it here. A camping buff might also like the travel bar listed above under tailgating stuff.

 

Mancave stuff. Men who don’t like decorating suddenly become more interested in aesthetics when they have a mancave (or as we call it at my house, a game room). They might not have any idea what the rest of the house looks like, but a man wants to decorate his own mancave. Amazon has lots of cute neon signs for mancaves starting at $24.99. You can see them here. The Grommet has some fabulous stadium art your sports fan might love. My two favorites are pieces of wall art made by Stadium Views. One is a Wooden Five Layer Stadium Wall Art, priced at $59.99, and my very favorite is a 3D Stadium Wall Art priced at $249.99. Just pick your favorite team’s home stadium or field…and place the order. The detail is amazing. See them here. Or maybe they’re more into license plate signs. My husband has one, and he loves it. Get CMR Custom License Plate Designs at Amazon here. Favorite NFL team? Check out NFLshop.com for lots of home/office items. MLB team? Shop MLB.com. And for NBA, shop store.nba.com.

 

Duluth Trading Company. You’ve seen their kitschy cartoon ads on television. Those commercials are what initially caused me to check out the website…and I’m so glad I did! I’ve given my husband and my brother some of their jackets, and while I’m sure they weren’t excited when they opened the gifts, I’m proud to say they both actually wear them. That’s tells me I did a good job picking those jackets for those hard-to-please gents. I gave them both Shoremen’s Fleece Jackets, and they are super durable and warm. But I think next time, I’ll get them one of the Firehose Jackets for added warmth. See them at Duluth Trading here.

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Men’s Fire Hose Flannel Lined Lumber Jac $79

RSVLTS Shirts. I’ve written about RSVLTS Shirts cult shirts before. They have lots of printed button-downs that pay homage to various movies, personalities, and tv shows…Saved By the Bell, Ghostbusters, The Sandlot…and if your man loves any of the featured movies and likes to wear fun stuff, this could be for him. They also have tshirts. Prices start under $30…go check them out here.

 

Ugg Slippers. For those who love a good, old-fashioned, comfort gift, my husband loves Ugg Slippers. It sounds corny, but we get him a new pair every year for Christmas. And he wears them regularly. Starting at $90 on the Ugg.com website, take a look and pic which style you think will work best for your man. The Dex style is pretty universally liked, I think. See the website here. 1103901-CHE_1

Experiences. And last, but certainly not least, consider giving the men in your life gifts of experience. In Charlotte, where I live, we are fortunate to have the NASCAR Racing Experience. Starting at $99 for a ride along experience, folks claim it’s the best gift ever! See the website here. We also have the US National Whitewater Center, where lots of experiences are available: canopy tours, whitewater rafting, zip lining…see the website here. And don’t forget about IFly Charlotte…an indoor skydiving experience! See the website here. But if you don’t live in Charlotte, there must be experiences near you. Think about concerts, sporting events, and more. I know my husband would love concert tickets.

***To see last year’s selections for men, click here.***

Whatever you choose to do, I hope you have the best luck ever with your gifting this season!

***COMING SOON: STOCKING STUFFERS!***

 

 

 

 

 

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Crazy Movies We Love

This past weekend, my friend, Angela, and her daughter came in from Montgomery. It was my daughter’s 16th birthday, so we wanted them here for the festivities. The girls “partied” all weekend. When they were around us, we all shared some great meals. And Angela and I talked about our very favorite movies about exaggerated, deranged characters. Yes, we have favorites, and since it’s October, and we are leading up to Halloween, you might be in a crazy movie mood.

At some point during the weekend, Angela told me there’s a new sequel to The Shining coming out in theaters in November. The Shining is one of my very favorite movies of all time…so many great scenes. Who can forget “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”? Or how about “Heeeeere’s Johnny!”? Plus, the twins, the red rum scene, the maze, the snowplow…so many great scenes. I most recently watched it with my friend, Jennifer, and our daughters, a few years ago when we were staying at Mohonk Mountain House, an historic hotel in a lovely, mountain resort setting in Upstate New York. Some claim Mohonk Mountain House is haunted, so that made our viewing of The Shining even more erie! Making it even scarier? About 3/4 of the way through the movie, we heard someone trying to open a door. I thought it was our balcony door, so I threw myself against the door to give everyone else time to get out into the hall. Yes, I was going to sacrifice myself to save the others! Go ahead…laugh. But seriously, I threw myself against that door so hard that my arms hurt the next day! Jennifer ran out the door into the hallway with the girls. Nope, she wasn’t worried about holding back the would-be villain like I was. Of course, it turned to be no deranged villain at all. We discovered it was the neighbors who had just checked in, checking the lock on the door connecting our rooms. For more info on Mohonk Mountain House, click here.

But in discussing The Shining and its sequel, Angela and I started talking about other “crazy” movies we love. ***Disclaimer: we call these movies crazy because the characters are extreme. We are, in no way, saying people who are mentally ill are “crazy.” There’s a difference between deranged movie character and a mentally ill person.*** Here are a few films we recommend:

  • Fatal Attraction, starring Michael Douglas and Glenn Close, released in September of 1987. Angela and I were a little shocked when we looked up the release date…can it really have been that long?!?! We were both only 20 years old when it came out. Wow. The film centers around a brief weekend affair between Dan, a married man played by Douglas, and Alex, a woman (played by Close) who refuses to let the affair end. Yes, Alex becomes obsessed with Dan and inserts herself into his life in various ways, and when things don’t go the way she hopes, she boils his daughter’s pet bunny in their kitchen. If you’ve ever heard someone call someone a “bunny boiler,” well, they are referring to a scene in Fatal Attraction. My friend, Wendy, who passed away in 2018, loved that reference. You can see the film on Amazon Prime.
  • Single White Female, starring Bridget Fonda and Jennifer Jason-Leigh. Taking it way back again, Angela and I both thought of Single White Female, and we agreed it is worth mentioning. Based on a novel by John Lutz called SWF Seeks Same, it’s the story of Allie (Fonda), a young software designer who, after finding out her boyfriend has cheated on her, advertises for a roommate. Hedra, aka Hedy, (Jason Leigh) responds to the ad and moves in. Hedy becomes obsessed with details of Allie’s life and even becomes jealous when Allie reconciles with her boyfriend. In one memorable scene, Hedy is clearly trying to become Allie. Hedy, as it turns out, is not mentally stable, and as that becomes obvious, characters start dying. The film was released in 1992, but I still hear references to it on a regular basis. When a female becomes “obsessed” or overly interested in the life of another female, I’ve seen people look at each other and utter three words: single white female. I’ve even said it myself. Heck, I’ve felt like I had my own single white female following me around before. You can see the film on Amazon Prime. It’s a good one to watch with girlfriends.
  • The Gift, starring Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, and Joel Edgerton, released in 2015. This is one my husband discovered, and I made Angela watch it. She loves a good, suspenseful movie, so it was right up her alley. First of all, there’s Jason Bateman…a great reason for any woman to watch a movie. This film is about a young married couple (Bateman and Hall) who run into an acquaintance from high school in a store, bringing the acquaintance, Gordo, back into their lives. The plot takes lots of twists and turns. The first time I saw the movie, I was surprised by some of the twists, and it left me a little shaken. It will make me question my own character judgment. You can see it on Amazon Prime. *There’s another movie called The Gift on Prime that was released in 2001, so make sure you get the right one. The other one might be good too, but I’m not familiar with it.
  • Gone Girl, starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, released in 2014. This film centers around the disappearance of the young wife of Ben Affleck’s character. When it appears he might have been involved in her disappearance, Affleck’s character becomes the focus of the investigation. Again, lots of twists and turns, and I won’t spoil it by telling you which one is crazy, but believe me, there’s a lot of crazy…a whole lot of crazy. This movie was well-received by audiences and critics. It’s worth seeing. See it on Amazon Prime.

There are others…Diabolique, starring Sharon Stone…one of my favorite lines of all time was from this movie. Kathy Bates, as a detective, suggests to Sharon Stone’s character that she might have killed the man involved because he left her and went back to his wife. Her response? “Have you seen his wife? Honey, if I couldn’t get a man to leave her, I wouldn’t kill him; I’d kill myself.” A biting line, indeed. Misery, starring Kathy Bates and James Caan, is another good one; What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? starring Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, is a classic; Sunset Blvd, starring William Holden and Gloria Swanson; Natural Born Killers, starring Woody Harrelson and Juliet Lewis…and many more.

So go ahead, become the winter caretaker of a mountain hotel. Find a roommate who wants to take over your life. Marry someone you thought you knew. Run into an acquaintance from long ago. Better yet, have an affair and find a boiling bunny in your kitchen.

Or instead…just watch movies about it.

 

Taking the Back Roads

This past weekend, I met some friends in Atlanta for a concert. Of course, we had a fabulous time, because concerts make us feel young, but the drive from Charlotte to Atlanta and back can be less than pleasant. I love driving, and I especially love driving alone! I can listen to the music I want to hear. I can open the sunroof. I can think. But there is nothing relaxing about driving on I-85 between Charlotte and Atlanta. The trucks! The speed! The stupid slow drivers in the left lane! Note to all: if I’m having to pass you on the right, you’re doing it wrong. The left lane is the passing lane and should be moving faster than the right lane. I don’t care what the speed limit is. If folks are passing you on the right, get your butt over into the right lane.

So this time, I tried something different. I opted to drive on back roads instead of the interstate till I got south of Greenville, South Carolina…and it was downright relaxing! No jockeying for position. No crazy speeds. No idiots driving too slow in the left lane. No trucks. It was glorious! I enjoyed it!

Along the way, I passed through towns like Rock Hill, SC, Clinton, SC, Saluda, SC, Pelzer, SC, and more. There were actually things to see along the way: beautiful, historic homes and churches; the historic downtowns of small towns; old train depots; a funeral home with folks gathered outside; a large horse on top of a pole…maybe the symbol of someone’s farm? I saw folks riding horses along dirt roads that ran parallel to the road I was driving. There were big signs advertising upcoming championship rodeos, and another sign for the I-77 Speedway in Chester, SC. I saw old high schools and their football stadiums…probably home to their own version of Friday Night Lights. Big, round hay bales were rolled tightly on farms. Cows grazed. Local restaurants…some of which had long been shuttered and some that appeared properous…dotted the roadside. Teenagers sat on tailgates outside convenience stores. I could smell the fresh air…instead of diesel fuel.

Did it take me a little longer to get to and from Atlanta? Sure it did. Was it worth it? You bet. A drive that should have taken me about three hours and 45 minutes took about 4 1/2 hours. I opened the sunroof and cranked up the tunes, and I enjoyed the ride…passing over rivers and lakes I had never seen. I didn’t even know most of them existed!

And as I drove, I thought about how the folks who live out there on those roads can actually see the stars at night, and I was a little jealous. I love sitting outside in the dark and relaxing while watching satellites and rockets pass overhead. I love seeing planets, constellations, and stars, but it’s difficult to enjoy stargazing when there’s light pollution around a city.

Next time I go to Atlanta, I will take the same route. Yeah…it will take me a little longer, but I will be going through towns where life doesn’t seem so “dog eat dog.” I’ll go through places where it doesn’t seem every man is out for himself. And I might just stop at one of the mom and pop restaurants for lunch.

We Finally Made It

Has there ever been somewhere you wanted to go but just never made it happen? I don’t mean a big trip. I mean a little place somewhere you wanted to visit when you were in the area, but circumstances kept you from going?

A few years ago, I embarked on a road trip with my friend, Mary Ann, along with her three kids and my daughter. We started in Charlotte and drove al through Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania…and straight home from there. We saw most of the things we wanted to see, but we missed a couple.

The first one we missed was Mars Cheese Castle in Kenosha, Wisconsin. You can see the website here. It’s a giant cheese store about 45 minutes from Chicago. It’s actually more than a cheese store…it’s a gift shop, an ice cream parlor, a restaurant, and a big photo op! Of course, it’s shaped like a castle, but it’s not made of cheese. We found out about it when we were looking at information about something that might be fun to visit just over the Wisconsin border from Chicago…it would be a way to make a quick visit to Wisconsin so our kids could add it to their lists of states they had visited.

Alas, we didn’t get to go while we were on that trip. There was so much fun to be had in Chicago on that trip that we never made it to Mars Cheese Castle…never even crossed the border into Wisconsin. And I’ve always regretted it. I used to go to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, all the time, and I loved it. The people were always so nice, and well…the cheese! So I especially hated my daughter didn’t get to go. She, of course, didn’t care. She was 11 years old when we took that road trip, and Mars Cheese Castle just didn’t sound that interesting to her.

Yesterday, we flew into Chicago…me, my daughter, and her friend. The girls are going to a small concert early today, and then we are going to Lollapalooza in downtown Chicago. We are staying in Schaumburg, because the early event is near here. We will Uber into downtown later.

But when we landed yesterday and got our rental car, I told the girls I wanted to make a quick trip up to Mars Cheese Castle. They grimaced. They moaned. They complained. Actually, only my daughter complained, grimaced, and moaned. Her friend was very polite about it. My daughter asked if I could drop them at the hotel and go by myself? I almost agreed to it, but then I said, “Come on. You’ve never been to Wisconsin, and it won’t take long.” She rolled her eyes but gave in, asking only if I would stop and get them food on the way.

After a quick stop for food and a 45-minute drive north, we found Mars Cheese Castle! It was everything I had hoped and more! Seriously, I had wondered if we would get there and just see shelves of cheese curds, but whoever built it knew what they were doing. Of course, it looks like a castle on the exterior, and there is a big electric sign out front. I made the girls take pictures of me in front of the sign and the building when we got out of the car, and to my surprise, they wanted pics too! Winning!

We walked in with a family who had visited many times before. They were practically giddy! They had lived nearby at one time but had moved away, so they were there for a visit…and they were stocking up on the cheese curds! Of course, I grabbed some cheese curds and put them in my cart too. The girls disappeared as soon as we walked in, but in a few minutes, they came back to me, eating ice cream cones and wearing paper crowns with the Mars Cheese Castle logo on the front. We shopped a little; I grabbed a hoodie for me and some t-shirts for all of us, and we took some photos inside the store. I also got myself a cup of Superman ice cream and a paper crown.

As we walked to the car, we were laughing and taking more pictures. As soon as we started to drive away, my daughter said, “That was a lot more fun than I thought it would be!” Whew! One day, they will learn that I do my research ahead of time.

So I was able to mark Mars Cheese Castle off my list of places to visit, and my daughter has now been to Wisconsin! She has the paper crown to prove it! But don’t get me wrong…given the opportunity to visit again, I will be going back to Mars Cheese Castle!

The other place we didn’t get to visit on that road trip in 2015 with Mary Ann? Oram’s Donuts in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. See their website here. We made it to Beaver Falls, but we didn’t go to Oram’s because we had a car full of cranky kids that day…well, mine was cranky. It was the last leg of our big road trip of 2015, and we were all tired. But one thing I know for sure is that Mary Ann and I will get to Oram’s Donuts…without our kids.

So if you find yourself in Chicagoland or southern Wisconsin, visit Mars Cheese Castle. Think of me as you walk around eating your ice cream cone and squeaky cheese (cheese curds) while wearing your paper crown (they’re free at the ice cream counter).

Lollapalooza With Teens

It’s the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. My husband and I watched a documentary about it recently and loved it. When naked people were swimming and bathing in the lake, I turned to my husband and said, “Just think…those people are someone’s grandparents now. Imagine watching this and seeing your grandparents!”

I was far too young to go to Woodstock, but I remember seeing lots of “hippies” around when I was a kid in the 70s. When I was around five, every time we saw a “hippie,” we would flash them the peace sign. It seemed like the thing to do.

Now there are lots more music festivals around the country. I’ve been to Jazz Fest in New Orleans…way back when, but I don’t think I’ve been to any other music festivals…till this weekend.

I just got back from Chicago with my daughter. She and a friend wanted to go to a YouTuber concert just outside the city, in Palatine. The concert was scheduled for 11am Saturday, and it was scheduled to end at about 4pm. When she first asked, I said, “No.” But as it got closer to August, I started thinking about it again. My daughter started field hockey tryouts today, so if I took her to the YouTube concert, it could be our last hurrah of the summer. And I bought the tickets, booked the airline tickets, and made hotel and rental car reservations. She was thrilled.

We arrived in Chicago late Friday afternoon, and at the rental car counter, I heard lots of chatter about Lollapalooza, a huge music festival that was going on in Chicago while we were there. I hadn’t even realized it was happening. The girls didn’t dare ask me to take them for any number of reasons…we were staying outside the city; they didn’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth; and I’m sure they thought I would say “no.” We got our car and made a few stops on the way to the hotel. I had booked two rooms; sharing a hotel room with two teenage girls is no fun. But when I got to my room, I quickly got online and looked for tickets. I purchased three one-day tickets for Saturday from StubHuba trusted resale company, and I got a surprisingly good price. You only live once, right?Then I picked up my phone and called my daughter in their room, saying, “Tomorrow, after you get out of your YouTube thing, we’re going to Lollapalooza. I just got us tickets.” She gasped. “What?!?! Really?!?!” She told her friend, and they squealed with delight!

So Saturday, while they were at their first event, I drove around looking at sights and  had lunch with a friend who had moved from Charlotte to Chicago years ago. We met at a place called Mother Clucker’s Kitchen(who knew people in Chicagoland could cook good collard greens?!?), and we laughed and talked, and she told me how to take the train from Palatine into the city…and back. And as soon as the girls were finished with their event, we did just that…took the train into the city.

When we arrived at Grant Park, I thought it was a little overwhelming…the sights, the sounds, the people! But the girls were completely unfazed. They hit the ground running, telling me they were going to see Lil Skies at the Lakeshore Stage. What?! Huh?!? But they were gone! I looked on the directory and found the Lakeshore Stage and headed that way. To get to it, I had to walk over a slight hill, and when I did I was amazed. There was a sea of people standing in front of me! I couldn’t believe my eyes! At first, I thought I’d never seen so may people in one place, but then I realized I had…in football stadiums, but never just out on a flat surface. It was incredible that so many people were standing together, singing the same song, waving their arms at the same time as Lil Skies.img_6119

After Lil Skies played, I found the girls (thank God for cellphones), and we went to a merchandise stand together, where we shopped, regrouped, and setting up a meeting point and meeting times. They told me which stages they were going to and which artists they wanted to hear, and I sent them on their way. But first, I made sure their phones were charged, and if they weren’t they had to take a portable charger (I always carry one).

I wandered between stages. I listened to different artists. I talked with folks around me…from Deerfield, Illinois; from New York; from South Carolina; from Alabama (the Tua Tagliavaloa jersey was a conversation starter); and a family from California. I watched people dance. I checked out the food vendors but didn’t get anything. I enjoyed the crazy wardrobes and the funny t-shirts. One favorite t-shirt was “Done Adulting For Today.” Indeed!

Did I feel safe? You bet! At no time did I feel threatened or see anyone else who appeared to feel threatened or looked threatening. People were happy. Folks were polite. There was no pushing or shoving…lots of folks offering to take pictures of others, giving each other directions to stages, etc. I did see two or three folks jump the fence to get in near the Lakeshore stage, and I read in a newspaper article there were a few arrests for possession of controlled substances…and one for assault…but I didn’t witness it. And honestly…there were thousands of people there; one assault arrest? Do the math…that’s pretty good.

After the girls had heard the artists they wanted to hear, we were on our way back to our hotel. They talked and talked about how much fun they had and how they couldn’t believe they got to go to Lollapalooza! We then made plans to return next year. I will definitely take friends with me, because it would be so much more fun with friends. And next year, I’ll feel better knowing the girls know their way around.

I feel like this is only the beginning of the music festivals for us now. We’ve already been talking about Coachella. That’s one I definitely want to do, so I hope we can make it happen before she’s off to college. Going to a music festival might sound like a crazy thing for a middle-aged mom, but I wasn’t even the oldest person there…and there were lots of people about my age. I was also a “safe person” for teens to approach; several walked over and talked to me while they waited for friends or tried to regroup. Moms have that affect on teens.

So now I’m already booking our hotel rooms for next year. We’ll purchase tickets for the full weekend next year, and several friends have already “volunteered” to go with us! And next year, I will be prepared with the correct wardrobe. The only shoes I had taken this year were wedges, and I didn’t take any really casual clothes. But next year...it is on!

 

 

 

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