Holiday Gifting 2021 (Part 3): College Students

Gifting for college students.

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

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

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

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

You May Now Move About the Country

You may now move about the country.

Remember last summer, when we were afraid to move around much? We were terrified of getting on airplanes and afraid to go to resorts. We were scared we would get somewhere and be hospitalized away from home, right? I was. I love to travel, but last summer, I had to do it differently. My fear was that, if I did get on a plane and fly to a fun destination, I would be stricken with the virus, and as a result, I wouldn’t be able to get home. I wasn’t alone. A lot of people felt the same way. We stayed home or went on short trips. And it was downright depressing. Sure, we went on a few trips, but it just wasn’t the same. I felt like I lost a whole year of my life, including a valuable summer.

In September 2020 and November 2020, I’d had enough and got on planes anyway. Then again, in February 2021, I just couldn’t take it anymore, and I took our daughter to New Orleans with friends, where we proceeded to eat our way through the city. We made some great memories, for sure, and we appreciated every minute.

I flew again in early June on a trip to the Bahamas with my family. When we got to the airport in Charlotte to begin our journey, I could tell people were starting to emerge from their cocoons, but nothing could have prepared me for what I encountered when we flew out to California on June 13. We were on a 7:25am flight, so we got to the airport at about 6:00am. I was utterly shocked at how crowded Charlotte-Douglas Airport was on a random Sunday at 6:00 in the morning! Apparently, people have decided to take off again…and I love it! We are getting vaccinated and feeling more free! When we arrived at Los Angeles International Airport for our return flight, it wasn’t as crowded as Charlotte had been, but then, it was 4:30 in the morning. As it turns out, our return flight was full, so I know people are on the move.

If you haven’t traveled yet but plan to, here are some things to consider.

  • Remember your mask! Even though we aren’t having to wear them in most public places now, the Feds still require you to wear them the entire time you are in an airport or on a commercial flight…unless, of course, you are actively eating or drinking…and then, they ask that you just remove the mask briefly and put it back on between bites/sips.
  • If you live in a hub city (Charlotte, Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Miami, Dallas, etc) you might want to consider getting to the airport extra early. You also might want to look into downloading the My TSA app. Using the app, you can check wait times at TSA checkpoints in your airport. It can mean the difference between missing a flight or making it.
  • Take your own pillow/blanket, if needed. Remember those pillows and blankets airlines used to offer? Well, no more… If you want to try to sleep on a plane, bring your own travel pillow and a sweatshirt. Or do what I do: take two sweatshirts. I take them in my carry-on, because I’m the freak who still thinks we need to look presentable when we board a plane, and a sweatshirt is just not something my mother would have approved for air travel. After I’m seated, however, I wear one hoodie and roll up another hoodie into a tube to wrap around my neck, so it will support my neck while I sleep.
  • Food on planes? Almost non-existent. I always fly American Airlines (I love American). Since the whole virus thing started, they’ve served small snacks in first and business class, but no food in coach. Bring your own if you think you’re going to be hungry, but do your fellow passengers a favor…don’t bring hot food. It smells. Your fellow passengers don’t want to smell your stinky sub from the airport or that greasy pizza you picked up in the concourse. Yuck. And while you’re at it, you might even want to purchase some drinks in the airport. I’ve been on a couple of shorter flights that only offered beverages in coach “on request.”
  • Here are some things to consider, even though they have nothing to do with the virus: Please don’t go to the lavatory in bare feet or sock feet on the plane. Yuck. Just yuck. Please don’t put your feet on the armrest of the person in front of you. Please don’t talk loudly on a redeye or early morning flight. Please don’t use nail polish on a flight (some people get headaches from the fumes). DO try to stay relaxed. DO be polite to your fellow passengers and airline employees.

Whatever you do, enjoy your flight. Enjoy the freedom of being able to move about the country again. Hopefully, we will soon feel more free to move about the whole world, but I know lots of people aren’t comfortable with that, because of virus rates in different countries. There are a couple of other countries I want to visit, but I’m holding off. Right now, I’m just grateful I’m able to see new places and meet new people. We made some nice new friends in the Bahamas when we visited, and we got to spend some time with friends from another part of the country when we visited LA. Summer, this year, feels more like summer. And I’m grateful.

True Friends Are Like Warm Blankets

True friends are like warm blankets.

This weekend, I spent three days in central Florida with a dear friend from college. We have kept in touch since we were 19 years old and students at the University of Alabama. We’re both 52 now…do the math.

We have shared a lot over the years…secrets, tears, laughs, good times, sadness, hard times…heck, we even have the same wedding anniversary, but she married five years before I did. We are true friends…through thick and thin. Oh, the stories we could tell! Stories of fun nights, bad dates, good parties, bad boyfriends, great experiences, terrible breakups, exciting jobs, sad losses, new babies, teenagers, and some stories of things that could only happen to us…or at least it feels that way. And we have shared some of those stories with our kids. They didn’t really seem to care at the time, though. In fact, they likely rolled their eyes, but one day, they will remember the stories we have told them…and they’ll laugh about some of them, and likely cry about others.

As for this weekend, we didn’t talk about old times a lot. We have covered that many times over the years. Of course, we laughed about some of the funnier things that happened when we were together, but we didn’t rehash it all. We talked about life as we see it now…33 years after becoming friends. We’re middle-aged moms now. We have a different vantage point now than we did at 19. We talked about things we have been through…things we have survived…and we talked about happiness. We talked about how, at 52, we know happiness doesn’t come from having material things. We are very aware that not worrying about how the bills will be paid can contribute to a peaceful, happy existence, but all the extra stuff...not so much. You can have lots of jewelry and fancy cars, but do those material things make you happy? We discussed that what makes us happy is experiencing life with people we love.

We know that for a lot of reasons, but mostly, we know it, because we didn’t sit around talking about material things at all. We didn’t talk about cars, jewelry, handbags, or clothes. We enjoyed talking about interactions with people. We shared stories about life experiences. It wasn’t about bragging rights. It was about sharing life events and how we handled them. We discussed painful experiences and what we learned from them. I’ve lost both parents, and she has lost her dad…we talked and cried about that a lot. And we talked about joyful experiences…things we did together; things our kids have enjoyed; stories of our children’s childhoods and our own childhoods…and more.

Did I mention we laughed a lot?

And while no one can “relive” their youth, we found ourselves absolutely slack-jawed while we watched Endless Love (rent it on Amazon here), a movie we were too young to see when it was a released with an R rating in 1981, but we both watched later on HBO. In fact, it had been so long since either of us had seen it that we forgot Tom Cruise and Jami Gertz had bit parts in the movie. And we had never realized before that a then-unknown Ian Ziering (of Beverly Hills 90210 fame) was in the movie. We also watched Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink (you can rent both on Amazon.com) and reminisced about seeing those movies as teenagers. And before you even think it…I know Sixteen Candles could never be made today with its sexism, underage/nonconsensual sex, underage drinking, and more…but it’s comedy, people! It’s supposed to be funny. I thought it was funny in 1984, and I still think it’s funny now.

During the day, we drove around the lovely town where she lives. We looked at historic homes, parks, flowers, and trees, and one day, we went tubing with her teenage son at Ichetucknee Springs State Park…quite the adventure! The water was refreshingly cold as we floated down the river…laughing and talking. She laughed at me when I would float off into the grasses on the edge of the river, and I laughed at her when she missed the entrance to the disembarkation ramp. We made new memories we will laugh about for years to come.

But what I enjoyed most was simply being with my friend. She knows who I really am and loves me anyway. Spending time with my friend was like being wrapped in a warm blanket. She’s comforting. She has been around for a long time. And she makes me feel secure. I came home feeling rejuvenated. I came home feeling content.

Sure, we are middle-aged moms now, and we have had a lot more life experience than when we became friends. We are, in fact, older than our parents were when we became friends. Wow…we really are middle aged.

She’s a keeper.

Graduation Gift Ideas

It’s that time of year again! High school seniors all over the country are graduating, and that means we all need gift ideas. When searching for graduation gifts, remember that not all new graduates are going away to college. Some are joining the military. Some are going to college but living at home. Some are going to work. Some are taking a gap year to travel. And some still haven’t figured out what they want to do yet. Therefore, it’s important to tailor each gift to each graduate.

First, here’s what we all need to remember: Cash is king! Grads want cash! Some of them want cash to go on a trip after school gets out. Some want cash to take to college. Some need cash to put a down payment on an apartment or automobile. No matter how they use it…cash is still king. It was king when I graduated from high school in the 1980s, and in 2019, it still reigns supreme.

But if you have lots of gifts to give, you might rather get a meaningful gift instead of giving someone a small amount of cash. I’ve done some research, and here are some great gift ideas:

  • Weighted blanket. I know…I’ve sung the praises of the weighted blanket before, but I’m doing it again. College can be stressful. I always felt like I earned all the fun I had in college, because of the stress brought on by tests and exams. Weighted blankets are great for reducing anxiety. It’s like a big hug. On Amazon, they start at about $60. I have one made by Calming Comfort. I haven’t tried the others, but I love the one I have, and it is priced at about $129 on Amazon here.
  • First Aid Kit. I know it sounds corny, but everyone should have one. If the person for whom you are buying is planning to travel, you might opt for a waterproof travel version. Amazon has tons. I’m not even going to provide a link, because there are so many different types, but go to Amazon.com and search for what you need here.
  • Netflix Gift Card. Young people who are trying to find their way in the world need some downtime. Sure, they have their phones for communicating with friends, but it’s easy to lose track of time. With a Netflix gift card, they can watch a comforting episode of Friends or Fuller House, and when it’s over, they know it’s time to get back to studying. Purchase them in Walmart or Target for $10 and up.
  • Amazon Gift Card. This one comes in especially handy, because they can order whatever they need and have it delivered. Plus, if they get enough money on Amazon, they can purchase a Prime Membership for $119. That will bring them fast, free delivery on lots of items, and they can watch Amazon Prime TV shows and movies. Purchase here.
  • Target Gift Card. Because every college student arrives at college and realizes he/she needs a few more things, Target gift cards are perfect. You can purchase them online or in any Target store. They are perfect when they realize they took all the perfect decorating pieces but forgot to take soap and lotion. Maybe they need a mattress topper after discovering the dorm bed is not comfortable? They can get it all at Target!
  • Personalized items. Personalized stationery, personalized pillowcases, personalized slippers…all these make great gifts. When I went off to college, I had those plus a personalized bathrobe, a personalized shower caddy, a personalized towel wrap, personalized pictures frames, and lots of my friends had personalized sheets for their twin-sized dorm beds. Honestly, anything personalized is…well, personal. It means you actually thought of the graduate. I think a personalized bathrobe with a little cash stuck in the pocket makes a great gift. Maybe stick a fabric marker in the pocket too, so they can put their name in all their clothing. Lots of students take advantage of on-campus laundry services now, so it’s always good to have a name in items. Bed Bath & Beyond offers lots of the items listed here, and will personalize them for you too! They also offer gift cards….not a bad idea either.
  • Insider’s guide or journal. OK, stay with me here. I know some of them are going straight to college and not traveling any before they go. But they might not know about things to do in the area where they are going. I know a girl who is going to NYU in the fall, and I think giving her an insider’s guide to New York City would be great. I’m no “insider,” but if I can’t find the perfect book (in which I would slip some cash), I can get my friends who are insiders to put together some information! People really do enjoy sharing their secrets about cities. Child going to Emory? Give Atlanta info! Child going to Vanderbilt? Lots of good Nashville info out there! I know one who would love to know about all the best thrift stores, and I know the perfect person to compile the info! If not, maybe you give them a book in which they can write all the things they find themselves! And of course…stick some cash in it.

Whatever you do for the grad, it will be appreciated. I read somewhere recently that someone said, “Congratulations, grad! You’ve finished the easiest years of your life!” While that may be true for many of them, the best is yet to come for most of them.

Oh, the places they’ll go!

 

Party Prizes

A few weeks ago, I hosted a brunch at my home for a committee I chair at our daughter’s school.

It was on a Monday, so I had Sunday to prepare. I did the usual de-cluttering of the house, which my husband loves, and I started getting the food ready. I opted not to hire a caterer, but I did get the flowers done professionally by a local florist, The Blossom Shop, and they did a beautiful job.

Anyone who has ever attended a meeting led by me knows I love prizes. Doesn’t everyone love to be a winner? For the brunch, I opted to have bundtlets from Nothing Bundt Cakes for the party favors. If you’ve never had them, you should try them. We have a few stores here, so it’s easy to get them in Charlotte. But since I love prizes, we had a few giveaways too. I had ordered a few of my favorite things and wrapped them the night before.

Just because I think prizes are fun, I’m going to share some prize options, in case you plan to have a gathering of friends this summer:

  • Comfy. This lovely prize is one of my favorite things. It’s a giant, cozy, one-size-fits-all blanket sweatshirt. Yes, I have one, and I love it! Priced at about $35-39, you can purchase them online from Amazon here or in Target in the “as seen on TV” section. 
  • Burt’s Bees Soy Candles. Scented candles are great, but when they’re soy candles, you can use them to soften your skin too! People thought I was crazy when I said that, but it’s true! While it’s still warm (not hot) after burning the candle, stick your finger into the candle and scoop out a little to rub on your hands…making them super soft! These were just $5.99 at my local grocery store, but you can also order them on Amazon here.41Oj9-2vVEL
  • Hungry Girl Simply 6. This recipe book, by one of my favorite people, Lisa Lillien, is a great gift. It contains recipes, all with six ingredients or less, that are low in calories. Get it at Amazon here.51YV0FPDcCL._SX409_BO1,204,203,200_
  • Maybe You Touched Your Genitals Hand Sanitizer. It’s an old favorite. If you’ve read some of my old posts, you’re familiar with it. I know…it’s crude. But it’s funny. Admit it. It’s funny. Everybody needs a good laugh every now and then. I purchase it from Amazon.com.81GXntyinJL._SY679_
  • Poo-Pourri. Great stuff, no doubt, and it works. Ever seen the lengthy youtube commercial for it? See it here. The “commercial” is crude…not kidding…but if you have a sense of humor and can handle it, watch it. Get Poo-Pourri at Amazon here.
  • Blue Q Novelty Dish Towels. I find them at Paper Skyscraper in Charlotte, but you can order online. One friend went home with one yesterday that said, “Do one thing every day that scares your children.” You can order from Amazon here. Blue Q also makes cute oven mitts. I have one that says, “I’m Not Bossy. I’m the Boss.”81cmBO22V9L._SL1304_
  • Fred and Friends Good Measure Cocktail Pitcher. Another old favorite, this one was a popular prize at the brunch. It’s a pitcher with recipes for cocktails by the pitcher…pure genius. We’ll be using them out by our pool all summer. I used two of mine at the brunch, so everyone had seen them as I poured up Bellinis and Mimosas, but they had no idea one of them would be the proud owner of one. One lucky friend took one home! Get it at Amazon here.81-CmMZCBUL._SY879_
  • Whitman’s Sampler Spring Collection. I’m a sucker for a Whitman’s sampler…have been since childhood. I think folks of my generation see them and think of their grandparents or their own childhood. You can find it in your local grocery store, Target, or Walmart.1f74f0cb-0dd4-4927-90ae-12929f5aad37_1.09c7d23fd3a8fad06afa50f610b46b8c.jpeg
  • Anne Taintor Products. Anne Taintor products are fun. Get them at annetaintor.com.  From trays to napkins to kitchen towels…they’re fun. I have a coffee mug from Anne Taintor that proclaims, “I love not camping!” And there’s this fun one:55729_brag

There you have it. A few fun ideas for prizes or giveaways when you have a gathering of your girlfriends. Like I said…I love giving away prizes. And who doesn’t love being a winner?!