Happy-Up the House

Happy-up the house.

Everybody’s sick of being home right now. It’s not just me. It’s not just you. It’s everybody.  I’ve said before that every day, I wake up wondering if this is all a bad dream. It’s not. It’s reality.

But here’s the thing: it doesn’t have to be terrible.

I spend a lot of time trying to think of ways to make things a little happier around here. We’re playing music throughout the house on a regular basis. We’re spending a lot of time out in the sun on the patio on warmer days. My daughter and I strung some LED lights around her bedroom doors and windows…she can change the colors with a remote…pink, blue, violet, red…all kinds of colors. We’ve been baking. I’m constantly looking online for different ideas to brighten up things around our house. What can I do to make it seem a little more festive around here?

Last week, it was Krispy Kreme doughnuts all the time. Looking for somewhere…anywhere…to go, I would leave after dark and drive to the nearest Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, and my daughter would gladly go with me. The last time we went, we got a dozen of their spring mini doughnuts. Yum. That added a little happiness for a while. I’ve ordered cupcakes, cookies…you name it.

And then, I was scrolling through Instagram and saw a picture of someone’s pool, and it had floating light balls in it! Immediately, I knew I had to have them! I went straight to Amazon and typed in “floating light balls.” Wow! There were lots of them to choose from, so I set about reading every review I could possibly read in a reasonable amount of time.

Within an hour or so, I had found the solar-powered color changing floating light balls I wanted, and I placed an order for four. You can order here. What makes a swimming pool more festive at night than color-changing light balls? In placing my order, I also discovered that not only can you use them in the pool, but you can also hang them! Each ball has a loop on top, so you can hang them from trees, eaves, posts…anywhere! I could hardly wait for them to arrive! I knew my husband would think I was absolutely nuts, but when have I ever let that stop me before?

A few days later, they were delivered to our home. The next morning, I woke up, and started opening the box. My husband asked me what it was, and when I said, “You’re going to think I’m crazy. It’s something for the pool.” When I told him the box contained floating light balls,  interestingly, he didn’t think I was crazy at all! He also didn’t help me blow them up. Each one is about 15 inches in diameter, and I blew them up while we watched the morning news. He did look at me several times and say, “You’re going to get a headache.” But I didn’t. Once I had them all inflated, I hurried outside to put them in the pool. Since they are solar powered, I wanted them out there all day to absorb as much sunlight as possible so we could enjoy them in the evening.

And guess what? We’ve sat outside on the patio having cocktails every night since, and those balls of light are glorious! And happy! It adds an element of happiness to our backyard! I’m so glad I ordered them, and secretly, I think my husband is too! Our daughter loves them, and she and I agreed I need to order more to hang from the front eaves of the poolhouse, so I ordered more to hang from the eave. They should arrive in a few days, and they will add a little more happiness. And when summer is over, and we aren’t using the patio as much, maybe I will use them as Christmas decor in the trees in the front yard!

I’m still thinking about other inexpensive ways to brighten things up around here while we’re stuck at home. If you have any ideas, please send them my way!

Easter Baskets in Social Distancing

Easter is almost here! Sure, there won’t be any church services inside the actual buildings, but there are services on TV, and a friend in Florida tells me there is a church near her that has outdoor services every Sunday. People stay in their cars in the parking lot and listen to the service over a radio frequency, or they can open their windows and hear it through a microphone, with the minister standing on a big stage in front of the parking lot. If we look for it, we can find a worship service of some sort. Check websites of churches in your area for information.

And no, our children don’t have to miss out on the Easter Bunny experience. It’s not like I can just walk into stores this year and get the goodies for the baskets, but I’ve gotten it done.

I went to the Target website to see what I could find there. Target is where I normally get baskets and candy every Easter, but I’m not going to Target right now, so the website is the next best thing. There, I found some baskets they would ship, and I found the usual candies: Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs, Easter grass, Easter M&Ms, Whoppers Robin Eggs, Twizzlers and Jolly Ranchers, and Russell Stover Easter Milk Chocolate Dip-It Rabbit (with Jif peanut butter for dipping). I also ordered some Neutrogena Makeup Wipes for Easter baskets, because my daughter goes through them pretty quickly! Go to Target.com and order now!

I just have one daughter, who is a teenager, but a local friend sleeps over at our house the night before Easter every year. They wake up together and come downstairs to have breakfast and see what the Easter Bunny left them! Last year, we were lucky to have another friend in from Ohio too, so the three teens were together Easter morning. That won’t happen this year, but I told my daughter we can still deliver an Easter basket to her friend’s front porch on Easter morning. She’ll be surprised, and it will be a little joy for us.

Because I can’t shop in the usual smaller shops I normally would, I decided to try some different things, and here are some things I found:

  • Beach towels. A fun gift that says, “Summer is almost here,” beach towels can be purchased at lots of online shops. I found some really cute ones at Life Is Good. You can see their selection here. They’re pricey, but they are quality towels. We have some we have had for ten or twelve years, and they all hold up really well. Target has beach towels too. You can see them here. I purchased two of the Llamas in a Car beach towels for our daughter and her friend. They’re really cute and just $10. They offer others too! You can also find some inexpensive ones at Walmart.comSun-Day-Beach-Towel_60100_1_lg
  • Pajama pants. There are cute pajama pants at lots of sites, but I ended up ordering some really cute ones from Life is Good, on sale for just $17.99 each, and you know they’re good quality if they’re coming from Life is Good. See their website here.Womens-Palm-Print-Snuggle-Up-Sleep-Pant_60125_1_lg
  • Cookies. Y’all, I love Cheryl’s cookies. Sugar cookies with buttercream frosting? Yes, please! And Cheryl’s has all sorts of Easter cookie gifts. There are buckets and basket and gift tins. Just go look! And some of them are even on sale! See the website here! In Charlotte, we also have Tiff’s Treats, and they will deliver! My 16-yr-old declared their M&M cookies to be the best cookies she has ever eaten! Order here.
  • Baked by Melissa. A friend gave me Baked by Melissa bite-sized cupcakes for my birthday a couple of years ago, and I was hooked! We order regularly now, and they have some great flavors for spring! And they really are bite-sized, so that means “guilt free”! Order now to get them to your house before Easter! See the website here!
  • Religious gifts. Christianbook.com has some lovely cross gifts starting at under $10.  There are palm-sized comfort crosses, wall crosses and cross jewelry. Crosses make great, meaningful gifts at Easter. They also have Bibles, which always make great gifts. See the website here. 3736049_2_adv

Whatever you decide to do, I hope you have a beautiful Easter with your family. Unfortunately, we can’t gather with extended family, but this is a great year to count our blessings and thank the Lord for what we do have as opposed to the freedom we have lost temporarily. Say a prayer for those who are sick and those who have lost loved ones.

 

 

I Won’t Get Jewelry for Valentine’s Day

I won’t get jewelry for Valentine’s Day.

That’s one thing I know for sure. My husband and I agreed a long time ago that Valentine’s Day isn’t a time for us to exchange big gifts. It’s a little celebration that means little gifts. In fact, if my husband got me jewelry for Valentine’s Day, I’d be a little upset with him. Long ago, my husband learned that I’d rather have a vacation than jewelry, so he just lets me plan my own vacations, and frankly, I think he loves that the pressure is off.

Every year, we also pretend “Cupid” came by our house on the eve of Valentine’s Day. Cupid always leaves a few little gifts for our daughter, who is now 16 and thinks the whole Cupid thing is ridiculous, but she likes the little treats anyway. Remember how I mentioned my teenage daughter’s eye rolls in my piece about work pants? Well, when we tell her Cupid visited (or the leprechaun visited on St. Patrick’s Day), we get one of those eye rolls.

Cupid is bringing bite-sized cupcakes from Baked by Melissa this year for the whole family! You might still have time to order if you do it quickly! Order here.

Since it’s getting a little late for ordering things for Valentine’s Day, here are some things you can get locally at the last minute:

  • Valentine card. I know, it sounds obvious, but lots of us forget to get or make an old-fashioned Valentine card. In fact, maybe I’ll make a card for my husband this year. I love a good craft. That doesn’t mean I’m always good at crafts, but it’s the thought that counts, right? Country Living has some great DIY card ideas here.
  • Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. Krispy Kreme has some heart shaped doughnuts with icing for Valentine’s Day this year, and my mouth waters just thinking about them. I was talking with a single friend yesterday and told her to go buy some Krispy Kreme Valentine doughnuts to celebrate her love for herself. In fact, I  might have to pick up a dozen for me too!
  • Dunkin’ Donuts. Dunkin’ Donuts also offers heart-shaped donuts for the special day. I love Dunkin’ Donuts too…and I’d love to get Medium Iced Coffee with cream and four Splendas with those Donuts!
  • Chick-Fil-A heart-shaped trays. Chicken is the new chocolate! ChickFilA got in on the Valentine’s Day game a couple of years ago, and this year, they are continuing the tradition. You can get ChickFilA Chicken Minis, nuggets, or their chocolate chunk cookies in a heart-shaped tray. I’d love for my husband to surprise me with breakfast in bed this weekend! What says “I love you” more than some Chick-Fil-A Chicken Minis served in a heart-shaped tray?! Hint hint, honey! You can read Chick-fil-A’s blog post about them here.
  • Papa John’s Pizza. Papa John’s will deliver a heart-shaped pizza right to your house! Right now, they have a special…a heart-shaped pizza plus a brownie for $16! That’s delicious and inexpensive! Order on the website here.
  • Olive Garden. I don’t even know the last time I stepped foot into an Olive Garden, but I do remember some yummy bread and salad from there. Well, they have a Valentine’s Day Dinner to Go for Two that starts at $35.99. For that price, you get breadsticks with a choice of soup or salad, a choice of dipping sauce, an entree for two (Chicken Alfredo or Five Cheese Ziti al forno), and a dessert to share. It’s actually a good deal and a good idea! You can order here.
  • Flowers. Sure, you can order from your local florist, which is always a great way to surprise your Valentine and a great way to support the local economy. But if you find yourself in a bind on Valentine’s Day, you might be able to find some beautiful fresh flowers in your local grocery store.
  • Any Favorite Bakery item. My husband has surprised me with some of my favorite bakery items for Valentine’s Day, and I’m always thrilled by that. One year, he brought me a patty cake sized chocolate cake with buttercream icing, and very little makes me happier than that.
  • Gift card/certificate. I have lots of friends who would love to receive a gift card or certificate for a mani/pedi or for a massage at a local spa. Or maybe your loved one would rather have a night out? You can give a restaurant gift card, and instead of going out on a very crowded Valentine’s Day that falls on a Friday this year, promise to go on another night!
  • Coffee in bed. Lots of people would love nothing more than a good cup of coffee served in bed first thing in the morning.
  • Bottle of Champagne. What’s more romantic than a bottle of Champagne? You can run into your local grocery store or wine store and grab it on the way home on Valentine’s Day!
  • Cheap Valentine’s Candy. Last year I wrote how one of my favorite Valentine’s gifts was a box of conversation hearts from someone I’d only gone out with once. It was perfectly simple and sweet. You can run into any local Target, Walmart, or grocery store and grab some different Valentine’s candies for you Valentine. I love Reese’s Peanut Butter Hearts myself.

It’s just two days away, so we’re down to the wire for Valentine’s Day gifts. Hopefully, you got a few ideas here. Personally, I’d love to wake up with coffee and Chick-Fil-A Chicken Minis in bed, followed by the special Valentine lunch from Olive Garden with a bottle of Champagne, and maybe order a heart-shaped pizza from Papa John’s before having every possible heart-shaped doughnut in town for dessert! Oh, and I’d need some iced coffee somewhere in there too.

Hoping you have a Happy Valentine’s Day!

My Favorite Holiday Parties

December is rapidly approaching, and with it, holiday parties! I love when folks get creative with parties, so I’m going to share some of the best party ideas/themes I’ve come across over the years. I love holiday fun!

  • Holiday Cookie Swap. This one is old school, and almost everyone has heard of it, but because it’s fun, I’m starting with it. If you aren’t familiar with it, it works like this: Plan to have between eight and sixteen guests, and ask them to bring three dozen of their favorite homemade cookies on a platter. Serve finger foods and beverages of your choice. After visiting for a while, have everyone two or three of each type of cookie and put them on paper plates (divided by you), because their platters will be on the table till they are ready to leave. So easy and so fun, and everyone gets to take home lots of cookies! I also think it’s fun to have prize drawing for small prizes like fun cocktail napkins or tea towels. See some at Swoozie’s here.
  • Ornament Exchange. A fun, holiday-themed party, this one is super easy too. Have guests bring wrapped ornaments to put under the tree when they arrive. Serve finger foods and beverages, and maybe play a game like “Who’s Most Likely To…” if everyone knows each other. Have guests draw numbers from a hat, and whoever gets number one starts picking an ornament to take home. Remember, they’re wrapped, so they can’t see the ornament they’re getting till everyone picks one, and they are unwrapped! Anthropologie has some cute ornaments. Shop them here.

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  • My Favorites Party. A friend told me about this recently. Everyone brings a gift valued at $25 or less. One of their favorite things, and it can be anything…soap, candle, earbuds, beanie…anything you like. Again, it needs to be wrapped. It works the same way as the Ornament Exchange by drawing numbers to decide the picking order. Serve finger foods and beverages. As a host, I would want to have four or five of my own favorite things to give away in a prize drawing.
  • Gingerbread House Party. It sounds like something kids do, but moms can build them too! It’s OK to use the pre-fab kits or put the houses together before the guests arrive. That way everyone just does the fun part…decorating the houses! Of course, serve finger foods and beverages. At the end of the night, the guests take home their creations! You can purchase pre-fab kits for $9.99 each from Target here.

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  • Christmas Show PJ Party. I don’t know about your kids, but my daughter doesn’t enjoy the Christmas shows I watched when I was a little girl. My friends do, though! For this party, invite friends to show up in their pajamas and watch shows you’ve downloaded on your DVR or something from Amazon Prime. It can be a few old shows like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and Santa Claus is Coming to Town, or maybe a Christmas movie you love like Miracle on 34th Street. Serve popcorn and candy and fun beverages! It’s a great thing to do with good friends.

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Maybe you have some other ideas! If so, please share them! I’m always looking for something fun to do during the holidays!

 

 

 

 

 

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Don’t Know What to Send? Tasty Ideas…

Last year, for my 50th birthday, my friend, Amy, sent me some Baked By Melissa mini cupcakes. It was quite an assortment of flavors, and I loved every single one. In fact, now that I’ve had them, just looking at the photos on their Instagram page makes my mouth water.

Because I love them so much, I now send Baked by Melissa treats to friends and family too. In fact, I’ve been known to send them to myself. These mini cupcakes are tiny but packed with flavor.

When ordering for my household, I love the “Pick your Flavors” pack, but I also love “The O.G.” (the original greats). When ordering for friends, I usually go with The O.G. or The O.G. Plus Seasonal. My very favorite cupcake offered is the Tie-Dye Cupcake, but there are still flavors I have yet to try.

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Baked By Melissa cupcakes

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Two Baked By Melissa PBJ cupcakes making a PBJ cupcake sandwich. This gives a good idea of the size of these minis.

To see the Baked by Melissa website, click here. Prices start at $25. And while I said the Tie-Dye is my favorite, looking at the PBJ makes me think it might be my favorite!

While this is my current favorite treat to send, I have others in my repertoire. There are so many opportunities to send special treats…birthdays, pick-me-up, graduation, retirement…or even no reason at all. Here are some treats I’ve sent in the past and will be sending again. Any of these would be perfect for Mother’s Day, which is coming up in May:

 CHERYL’S Years ago, I started ordering cookies and cakes from Mrs. Beasley’s online. The company eventually became a part of Cheryl’s Cookies, but the quality stayed the same through the merger. Over the years, I’ve ordered lots of gifts from Cheryl’s, and I’ve enjoyed a lot of their treats myself. My personal favorite is their powder sugar dusted chocolate truffle cookies…they are incredible. I’ve also enjoyed their frosted sugar cookies and various brownies…all delicious. Each cookie or brownie comes individually wrapped, so it’s easy to eat some now and save some for later. I highly recommend any of the Mrs. Beasley’s baskets. You can see their website here. Prices for sale items start at $9.99, but plan to spend at least $30-$40. They used to have their own website, but now it appears to be through the 1-800-FLOWERS link.

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Mother’s Day Ceramic Basket of cookies offered by Cheryl’s

SOUTH GEORGIA PECAN I was introduced to this company by my friend, Linda. Before she lived in Charlotte, she lived in Valdosta, Georgia, and I think she learned about this company then. One Christmas, she gifted me with some of their Chocolate Amaretto Pecans, a special treat indeed. Not only did she give them to me, but Linda also told me the best way to keep them fresh: in the freezer. And they are fantastic…very representative of southern flavors! I have since sent them to friends who live in other parts of the country, so they can get a taste of the south. That’s not all they offer at South Georgia Pecan, though. They offer candied nuts, plain nuts, praline pecans, pecan cheese straws, pecan pies…all kinds of goodies. You can order for your friends who love sweets and your friends who love salty…or both! See their website here. Prices start under $2 for single items, but plan to spend $30-$40 for a gift tin. As luck would have it, April is National Pecan Month, and you can register to win free pecans for a year.

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Assorted Pecan tin from South Georgia Pecans

COOKIES BY DESIGN Recently, some sweet family members sent us an adorable cookie bouquet from this company. Cookies on sticks and arranged beautifully! Not only did they look pretty coming out of the box, but the cookies were buttery and delicious! They’re colorful and cheerful, and each cookie is individually wrapped, so you don’t have to eat them all at once, even though you’ll want to do just that! A couple of days, I stuck one in my daughter’s school lunch, and she was thrilled. To see their website, click here. Their bestselling cookie bouquets are priced around $70 to $80. Here is a picture of the bouquet we received earlier this year:

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Cookies by Design cookie bouquet

BERTIE COUNTY PEANUTS Sometimes, you just want to send a taste of your home state. My home for the last 17 years has been North Carolina, and one North Carolina product is Bertie County Peanuts. Interestingly, my ancestors owned a large farm in Bertie County in the 1800s. I think it was a cotton farm, but knowing I had family there makes me feel connected to the county and the peanuts. Bertie County Peanuts are known and loved far and wide. Bertie County Peanuts Brand offers lots of different flavors, from sweet to spicy, and even fried. And peanut brittle…can’t forget the peanut brittle. You can order nuts in tins, bags, jars, and even gift baskets. These would be a welcome gift at my house anytime! You can check out their selection at their website here. Prices start under $10 for a 2-lb bag of peanuts.

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Sensational Sampler from Bertie County Peanuts

CAROLINE’S CAKES You’ve seen Caroline’s Cakes on Oprah’s Favorite Things. My friend sent us one for Christmas a couple years ago. It didn’t last long in our house. It was as delicious as it was beautiful. The first one we had was a Christmas-decorated caramel cake, and it was incredible. In fact, they call themselves “the home of the world’s best seven-layer caramel cake,” and they might just be right! Since then, I’ve also had their strawberry cake, and next, I plan to try the lemon-raspberry. Order this for a friend or family member, or order it for your own family. Mother’s Day is the perfect opportunity to try one, and that’s coming up in May. All their cakes have at least four layers, and some have lots more. You can check out their website here. You can get a great cake shipped for $70 plus the cost of shipping. Order early for Mother’s Day!

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Christmas Caramel Cake from Caroline’s Cakes

 

NEIMAN MARCUS CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES These things are legendary. In fact, there’s an urban legend about a woman asking for the recipe after having them with her lunch at Neiman Marcus in Dallas. As the story has it, she asked for the recipe, and the waiter told her he couldn’t give it to her, so she asked if she could buy it. He said “yes,” and when she asked how much it was, he said “two fifty.” According to the legend, when she got her Visa bill, she was shocked to see she had been charged $250 for it. She was so angry, she got revenge by sharing the recipe. The story, of course, is false. But the cookies are truly that good! Priced at $28, they’re worth every penny. You can get the recipe on their website here, or avoid the work and order the real thing here.

 

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Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookies

Any one of these treats would be great for Mother’s Day, birthdays, get well gifts, or just to brighten someone’s day.

If you need my address for shipping, let me know…

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XOXO,

Kelly