Let’s Get This Christmas Started!

As I drove home from a friend’s house last night, I realized lots of folks in Charlotte have decorated their homes and lawns for Christmas. I’m behind the curve. I haven’t done a single thing to decorate for Christmas. It’s only December 1, so I’m impressed at how many people are on the ball. But it made me wonder:

When is the perfect time to decorate for Christmas?

I guess that depends on who you ask. I have one friend who was ready to put up her tree as soon as Halloween was over. But I have others who haven’t removed the jack-o-lanterns from their porches yet.

I’m neither of those people. In fact, I don’t even do anything for Halloween. It’s just not my thing, but at least I didn’t have to figure out what to do with a bunch of rotting pumpkins.

I would never decorate for Christmas before Thanksgiving, but the weather hasn’t been particularly cooperative since. I had hoped this would be the weekend I’d get off my duff and get things decorated, but it’s raining, so no outdoor decor yet. The very least I can do is bring down the big fake poinsettia for the table in the foyer and put our leg lamp in the dining room window. We will likely get the tree up before Monday too. One can dream.

We don’t do a lot of outdoor decor, but we will eventually (as soon as the rain stops) do some lights on the trees closest to the house. Lots of people hire someone to do it, but where’s the fun in that?!?! It’s not Christmas decor till you’ve had to re-wrap a tree a few times and get into a “discussion” with family members about the extension cords.

Since our daughter was a little girl, I’ve tortured my husband by putting various lighted Christmas animals on the front porch and occasionally, in the yard. If I can find my Christmas pig, we’ll put it out for good luck. We have an elephant we’ll put out too…for the Alabama Crimson Tide. And two cardinals. In my family, when a cardinal “visits” you, it symbolizes a “visit” from a deceased loved one. My daddy died twelve years ago, and this will be our first Christmas without Mother. She died on December 30 of last year. So, when I was in Target and saw some cardinals that are lawn decor, I scooped up two of them for the front porch steps. Every time I see them over the holidays, I’ll think of Mother and Daddy.

We have other yard decor. I’ll have to decide which pieces to put out. I’m sure the neighborhood frowns on our decor every year. Oh well! We have some inflatables, and we have something from my childhood: remember those plastic Noel candles everyone had in the 70s? Well, we have some just like the ones we had when I was a little girl. I didn’t get them out last year, but I might drag them out this year.

My husband, as sweet as he is, will reluctantly help me whenever I ask. I’ll do as much as possible by myself or with our daughter, but if there’s something I can’t reach, we’ll summon him to help us. He’ll grumble a little. He’ll act like we’ve put the lights on the outdoor trees wrong. He’ll act like he hates the outdoor decor, but he’ll help us.

And every night till Christmas, he’ll plug in all the lights and decorations. He’ll still act like he doesn’t really like them, but he won’t miss one single night of plugging them in.

So, while lots of folks believe Christmas decor goes up the day after Thanksgiving (and some before that!), our tradition is this: we put up the Christmas decor when we get ready to do it. We don’t have a designated day. And really, I don’t like it all up too early, because frankly, I don’t want to get tired of looking at it before Christmas.

I’m on my way to the storage room now…

 

 

 

 

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Bluebird of Happiness

And when he sings to you, Though you’re deep in blue, You will see a ray of light creep through. And so remember this, life is no abyss. Somewhere there’s a bluebird of happiness. Life is sweet, tender, and complete when you find the bluebird of happiness. –Bluebird of Happiness, lyrics by Edward Heyman and Harry Parr Davies, 1934

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When I was cleaning out my mother’s house in January (she died December 30), I came across three little glass bluebirds…one was a little bigger than the other two…like a mother and two babies.

I realized those bluebirds had been on a side table in her living room for a long time, but I’d never asked her about them. You know how you see something a million times but never bother to find out about it?

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For the first time ever, I picked them up. I turned them over and there was a sticker on the larger one that said “Bluebird of Happiness” and the telephone number of an art studio. I knew they didn’t have any monetary value, but now that I couldn’t ask Mother, I was wondering what kind of sentimental value they had for her. Where did she get them? I felt sure someone had given them to her, so I put them in a little Ziploc bag and brought them home to Charlotte with me.

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I placed them on top of a mirrored  box in my bathroom, so I’ve seen them every day for about a month, but earlier this week, I decided to investigate and find out who gave Mother the bluebirds.

The first text I sent was to an old family friend who lives in Florida. She and Mother became friends in 1961, when they were both working at Sunland Center in Marianna, Florida. Mother was a nurse, and this friend, Cynthia, worked in Activities, I believe. For whatever reason, they became great friends. In fact, Cynthia says Mother inspired her and encouraged her to become a nurse too. She did, and she continued her education to become a nurse anesthetist…and she gives Mother much of the credit.

Promptly, I received a text back from Cynthia telling me she had given mother the little bluebirds. She said she didn’t need them back but that she would like to have a memento to keep near Mother’s picture in her room. I texted back, “Let me mail them to you.” So they should be delivered to her right away. Now, every time she looks at the Bluebirds of Happiness, she will think of Mother.

When I was growing up, Cynthia was like a “cool aunt.” She was a little younger than my parents, and she always liked to have fun. My parents liked to have fun too, but Cynthia liked to have fun while driving a cute, little Triumph convertible. Parents didn’t drive Triumph convertibles. But Cynthia had one, and when she visited, I got to ride in it…with the top down!

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In fact, Cynthia was so trusted by my parents that she was our designated guardian if something had happened to them while we were minors. They knew she would love us as her own, and we would love her too. We have great family, but they all have children of their own. Cynthia didn’t have children.

Of course, now I want my own Bluebirds of Happiness, so I looked at the bottom of them again and got the telephone number for that art studio. As it turns out, it’s a studio called Terra Studios in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and according to their website, they are the “home of the Bluebirds of Happiness.” They also have the Pink Birds of Hope, Wise Owls, and Grace & Gratitude Angels…Mother would have loved those too.

Apparently, these sweet creations are quite popular, and the proceeds from the sale of the birds goes toward “using art to create a better world.” After looking at the website, I’d love to visit Terra Studios, where they have a coffee shop, glass demonstrations, American arts and crafts, and they are a popular Northwest Arkansas tourist attraction. Now, I’ll need to plan a trip.

So, Ive ordered some Bluebirds of Happiness…a mama and two babies for myself…and then I ordered more. According to the Terra Studios website, “the lovely, plump, sweet singing Bluebird has inspired more songs and poems than any other bird.” Terra Studios offers different sizes and variations of the Bluebirds of Happiness, the Pink Birds of Hope (offering hope to cancer survivors), Wise Owls, and Grace & Gratitude Angels…and the prices are right. I think they make lovely gifts. In fact, I think the bluebirds would make lovely hostess gifts. With Easter just around the corner, you might consider adding the bluebirds, pink bird, or angels to an Easter basket. The Wise Owls would make great little additions to graduation gifts or favors for a graduation tea. You can purchase them all here.

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Interestingly, on the same day I picked up the Bluebirds of Happiness at Mother’s, I was going through some papers and found a certificate naming my maternal grandfather a member of the North American Bluebird Society. Who knew? I had no idea there was such a society, and I certainly wouldn’t have thought my grandfather would be a member. I know he and my mother loved birds, but it never occurred to me he loved them enough to send in money. Having come through the Depression with some liquidity, he wasn’t free with his money. I love knowing he found bluebirds to be a worthy cause. I was so intrigued by his membership that I checked out their website and found it fascinating. If you’re interested in the North American Bluebird Society, you can see their websitehere.

So I guess bluebirds are a thing in my family. If you see me wearing a lot of blue in the next few months, you’ll know why. And if I see you and think you’re feeling “blue,” I may just give YOU a little Bluebird of Happiness to cheer you up.

As soon as my new Bluebirds of Happiness arrive, I will place them on the mirrored  box in my bathroom, so I can see them every single day and think of Mother and Cynthia. I’ll save the extras for  friends who need “a ray of light,” as mentioned in the song, Bluebird of Happiness.

Life is sweet, tender, and complete when you find the bluebird of happiness.

Kelly

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I love Hungry Girl Magazine (and not camping)

IMG_8129Since starting Kelly Mattei’s Favorite Things on Instagram, two of the most popular posts are related to each other: a post about Hungry Girl Magazine and a post about one of the easiest recipes from the magazine, the Bacon, Egg, & Cheese Mug.

It’s no secret to my friends and family that I love Hungry Girl cookbooks, and frankly, I think Lisa Lillien, aka Hungry Girl, is the “bomb-dot-com.”  So no one was more excited than I was when the premiere premiere issue of Hungry Girl Magazine hit newsstands. I grabbed a copy at Barnes & Noble, and it is packed full of recipes for snacks, pizza-fied foods, make-ahead breakfasts, and lots of food hacks too. See all the sticky notes I’ve used to mark recipes in the photo? I especially love the section titled “Mug Shots,” recipes for desserts and breakfasts in single-serving mugs! Hungry Girl Lisa Lillien doesn’t profess to be a chef, but she is the “guru of guilt-free eating”, as shown on the cover of the premiere issue. You can find her cookbooks everywhere and see her on TV regularly. She KNOWS what we want, people! Most of her recipes don’t have tons of ingredients, and she knows we want PICTURES of the finished product. How many times have you picked up a magazine/cookbook that has a fabulous recipe but no photo? When there’s no photo, I tend to keep flipping the pages. Hungry Girl has photos for everything. The first recipe I tried from the magazine was the Bacon, Egg, & Cheese Mug…super easy and delicious! Make sure you use the nonstick spray as directed. I didn’t do it the first time. Trust me, you want to do it. (The photo below is my own!)

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Frankly, I tried this recipe first, simply because I already had all the ingredients in my kitchen. I’ve made it several times since, and every time, I’ve been pleased! In fact, it’s an easy, fast way to have a healthy breakfast. If I can make it, anybody can! I’ve also made the Chocolate Cake in a Mug, the Parmesan Zucchini Fries, and the Zucchini Pizza Boats…all delicious and low-cal. You can find more low-cal recipes and info at her website by clicking here. Get on the email list, and watch some of the videos. I just watched one for a Big Mac Bowl…dinner at my house tonight! She changes the videos daily, so while the video  may not be there when you look, the recipe for the Big Mac Bowl can be found here.

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BACKSTORY: I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with Lisa Lillien, aka Hungry Girl, and she is as delightful in person as she is on TV! I first met her and her lovely assistant, Gina, when they were doing a book tour. Remember in my last post how I said I love giveaways? Well, at the book tour event, Lisa had giveaways. Early on, I noticed how all the winners politely waved when their numbers were called, so someone could bring them their prize. I told my friend, Meg, there was no way I was going to be all polite if I won…I was going to run down the aisle Price is Right-style. Alas, I didn’t win, so Meg didn’t have a chance to get a video of me running down the aisle. Chances are I would have fallen anyway, which would have been a whole different video!

HUNGRYLAND! I went with my sis-in-law, my daughter, and a friend (pictured above) to visit Hungryland, which is what they call their office in LA, in December. We were blown away by their warmth and hospitality, as they shared funny stories while showing us around. Lisa graciously signed copies of her latest book, Hungry Girl Clean and Hungry Obsessed!, for us. You can order your copy here. The decor in Hungryland is fabulous! It’s colorful and fun with several furniture and accessory pieces by Jellio, some of which you probably have seen on Nickelodeon’s iCarly. You can see their cute designs here. Everywhere we turned, there was vibrant color…a purple sofa with orange and green throw pillows and a bright orange rug (see photos). The table in the conference room is surrounded by multicolor chairs…giving off a mod vibe, and neon-lit signs featuring Hungry Girl references like “Chew the Right Thing” are strategically placed. FullSizeRender-10Food-related knick-knacks are the norm at Hungryland, including an ice cream sandwich bench and a portrait of the Hungry Girl logo made from colorful General Mills cereals. All videos for the website are made right there in the Hungryland test kitchen, where you will find the pink small appliances and barstools, and the multicolor knives that are often featured in her videos. Look at the photos of the test kitchen, and you also see a clock made of multicolor spoons and a giant box of Barnum’s Animal Crackers, familiar to all of us from childhood. Oh, what I would have given to decorate my room with that when I was growing up!

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They even have their own photo studio that features a garage door that opens to provide natural light when needed. There are strings of lights hanging from walls, and a Super Hungry Girl logo with veggies for body parts is featured on one wall. In short, it’s incredible! It’s a happy space! What a fun place to get to go to work everyday!

            FullSizeRender-15FullSizeRender-11*If anyone asks you what Hungry Girl Lisa Lillien is like, you can tell them you have it from a reliable source that she is the kind of person you want to hang out with…warm, happy, positive, and she has a great sense of humor. She and Gina (my new fake cousin…you know, those friends you bond with and you feel like they’re your cousins? Well, she’s my new fake cousin. She’s awesome! She’s in the pic with me…wearing the beautiful fluffy collar. I would tell you Lisa is my new fake cousin too, but y’all would never believe me.) went out of their way to make us feel comfortable on their turf as we discussed holiday plans, gifts, and things to do in LA. Lisa Lillien is an absolute doll, and she surrounds herself with other great people…like Gina (also a doll)! Lots of my photos were taken at Hungryland in December. If you’d like to meet Lisa, consider the Hungry Girl Cruise in April. It would be a great girls’ trip! Oh…I so want to go! I’m still trying to figure out how I can make it happen since I return from another vacation just a few days before. For info on the Hungry Girl Cruise, click here.

For those of you who asked about the I Love Not Camping Mug, it’s from Anne Taintor, a line that has all sorts of funny mugs, napkins, and gifts. You may see more from the line in future posts. Silly things make me happy. You can purchase Anne Taintor mugs by clicking here. Nothing rings more true for me than I LOVE NOT CAMPING.

GIVEAWAY INFO!!! **I have an extra copy of the premiere issue of Hungry Girl Magazine and the mug for one lucky follower! Follow my Instagram account (kellymatteisfavoritethings) and tag a friend before 11pm Monday in the comments section under post of the Bacon, Egg, & Cheese Mug, and you could win both! A $22.99 value! I will draw a name Tuesday, February 6, and announce it on Instagram! You can access my Instagram account by putting kellymatteisfavoritethings in your Instagram search bar or by clicking here.

My next post will be Tuesday, February 6! Join me then for some more fun and to see who wins!

XOXO,

Kelly

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