A Visit.

A Visit.

This past weekend, I took a whirlwind trip to a college football game. When I say whirlwind trip, I mean I barely felt like my feet were on the ground between flights. But we crammed a lot of fun into a short stay. And yes, my team won.

On the return flight, I was the first to board. I always like to board as early as possible. I don’t know why…it’s just who I am. As the plane filled up, I noticed a gentleman boarding who reminded me of my daddy. He was tall with white hair…much like my daddy. I lost my daddy 15 years ago to pancreatic cancer, and on very rare occasions, I “see” him somewhere…I see someone who looks like him walking across a parking lot or in the background of photos. This particular gentleman ended up sitting in the row in front of me on the flight; it’s the first time I’ve been seated behind someone who reminds me of Daddy. If you’ve lost a loved one, you might know it’s interesting to see someone who resembles the person you’ve lost. I found myself looking at the back of his head a lot during the flight. It didn’t make me sad. Quite the opposite…it made me happy…made me feel a little comforted. It made me think Daddy was saying “hi” to me.

The flight was uneventful, and then we landed in Charlotte. As soon as we landed, the gentleman made a phone call. I don’t know if it was his wife or his daughter. I preferred to think it was his daughter, but it was probably his wife. I don’t know what had occurred, but he listened for a minute and then calmly responded with, “OK. You’re fine. Stop worrying about it. It’s over.” He had a calming voice, much like my daddy’s, and his southern accent sounded like Daddy’s too. He responded that way several times, “Let it go. It’s over.” I remember hearing my own dad say those very words to me many times in my life. When I was in college and I finished an exam that I thought didn’t go well, I would call him, and tell him. And he would always respond, very calmly, “Stop worrying about it. It’s over.” Or he might say, “Stop worrying about something you can’t change. It’s over now. You’re wasting your energy.” Even after a car accident, when I was trying to replay the events that led up to it, he would say, “Let it go. It’s over.” Seriously, hearing the gentleman on the phone last night really made me think of Daddy. If I had been worried about something at the time, I’d have thought Daddy was trying to send me a message. Maybe he was sending me a message about a future worry?

The gentleman ended his call with an “I love you,” and soon thereafter, we arrived at our gate. We all stood up to retrieve our carry-on bags from the overhead bins, and I found myself standing directly behind him while we waited to deplane. He and another gentleman started talking, and “the” gentleman revealed that he was traveling to Minneapolis. He said he had started his day in 87-degree weather, and when he arrived in Minneapolis, it would be 27 degrees. He also revealed that he enjoys traveling to Minneapolis and started talking about the food there. I don’t remember the particulars of everything he was saying about the food. I just remember that it reminded me of Daddy. When he traveled, he talked to people and learned about the city he visited. This gentleman was sharing little facts about the Swedish influence in Minneapolis, and he also revealed that everything he eats in Minneapolis is served with wild rice. Apparently, lots of wild rice is grown in the state of Minnesota…something I didn’t know before…and one of those facts Daddy would have picked up in his travels.

As weird as it sounds, I enjoyed the little bit of time that I felt like I was in the presence of my dad. I know it wasn’t Daddy. I’m not crazy. There’s just something a little reassuring about hearing a similar voice saying something Daddy would have said.

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. If you’re familiar with pancreatic cancer because a family member or friend has it or had it, I’m sorry. It’s a terrible, deadly disease that gets very little research funding. If you’d like to make a donation to an organization that works to support those who have pancreatic cancer and their families, please consider donating to Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. Thursday, November 18, is World Pancreatic Cancer Day, and the organization will be hosting an online event, sharing the latest information on advances in research and treatment. You can see the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network website here. Please consider donating to this worthy cause.

And on November 18, please consider wearing purple in support of Pancreatic Cancer Awareness. I will wear purple in memory of my Daddy.

Your Moms are Watching

Your moms are watching.

College football is my favorite sport. Sure, it can bring out the good, the bad, and the ugly in people, but it is my very favorite sport. I look forward to football season every year. It’s fun, and it brings back lots of great memories of my childhood, my high school years, and especially my college years.

During college football season, we watch a lot of games at our house. Every Saturday, we somehow manage to get showers, have meals, and get some exercise before, between, or after games. But no matter what, during college football season, we find a way to watch football all day and night on Saturdays.

We love a good football game. And we love crowd shots. And most of the time, we get a good laugh at the antics we see on the television screen. Students at ESPN College Game Day, holding signs behind the commentators…trying to get on national TV. I always think most of them just want their mamas to see them. I can only imagine my own daughter at College Game Day, holding up a silly sign…and if she got on screen, she would likely call me to see if I spotted her. If we’d had cell phones when I was in college, I feel sure I would have done that.

During games, we see students with painted bodies, spelling out the names of their teams. Or maybe they have just painted their hair. Or maybe they are wearing some outlandish outfit, trying to get the attention of the camera operators. It’s almost always good-natured, and we laugh. I always hope their mamas see them and get a good laugh out of it too. When I was in college at the University of Alabama, I had a friend who told us that, during televised Alabama games, her dad would call her mom into the room any time there was a crowd shot, so they could look for their baby girl. He’d yell, “Vonnie! Vonnie! Crowd shot! Crowd shot!” I don’t know if they ever spotted their daughter in the crowd, but they tried!

But occasionally, things turn ugly. It turned ugly during the Tennessee/Ole Miss game in Knoxville yesterday. Anyone who knows anything about college football knows UT fans hate Lane Kiffin, the current head coach at Ole Miss. He was the head coach at UT for a hot minute in 2009 before taking a head coaching job at the University of Southern California unexpectedly and leaving UT in the lurch. He coached at USC for about three years before being fired in the middle of a season; the firing took place at the airport, immediately after the team had flown back to Los Angeles after losing to Arizona State. Kiffin didn’t even get a bus ride back to campus.

Subsequently, Coach Nick Saban, of the University of Alabama, took Kiffin in. Saban is known for what we refer to as the “Saban Coaching Rehab,” because he takes in coaches that might have trouble getting jobs after a failure somewhere. Kiffin became the Offensive Coordinator at Alabama and was quite successful with the offense, but his off-field actions and his mouth often got him in trouble with Saban. He eventually took a head coaching job at Florida Atlantic University for a few years before taking the job at Ole Miss.

All this is my long way of giving you the history behind why Kiffin was not welcomed warmly in Knoxville Saturday. And I get it. However, it’s one thing for a fan base to hate a coach, but it’s another for them to get out of hand…and they did. Late in the game, after a questionable call went Ole Miss’s way, incensed Tennessee fans began throwing debris onto the field…cans, mustard bottles (why did someone take mustard to a game?), water bottles, and even a golf ball. Some of the debris hit Ole Miss cheerleaders, and the golf ball hit Kiffin. Don’t get me wrong. I know all the Tennessee fans were not participating. ***My daughter and I visited the University of Tennessee several times over the past few months, and we found their students and employees to be gracious, lovely people.*** I’m sure there are lots of Tennessee fans who were embarrassed by the other fans’ behavior, but it seemed mob mentality took over.

Here’s the thing: don’t you think there were probably some moms who saw their kids behaving badly when the cameras panned over the crowd? Did those fans not consider that? No one wants to disappoint their mama, right? I can only imagine how angry I would have been if I’d seen my daughter throwing things onto the field! She would have received a phone call from me immediately. And she would have regretted it right away.

The general rule at our house is to think before you act. It’s the rule, but just like everyone else in the world, we don’t always follow the rule. Many times I have said to my daughter, “Before you do something, consider whether you’d want me to see you do it.” Considering throwing debris onto the field? Think about what Mama would say. Considering doing shots of Fireball with your friends? Think about what Mama would say if she walked in and saw you. (I never, ever approve of doing shots, because of the danger involved.)

The world may never know exactly how things got so out of hand at Saturday’s game, but I’m guessing the participants weren’t remembering that their mamas might be watching. If they had even thought, for one second, that their mamas might see them, I have a feeling they wouldn’t have thrown stuff onto the field…no matter how they felt about the call or how they felt about Kiffin. My guess is that there are some angry Tennessee mamas right now.

As for Lane Kiffin, I understand why folks don’t like him. Personally, I find him amusing and colorful, but I know everyone doesn’t. He has a sarcastic way about him, and he says some crazy stuff. Before the Alabama/Ole Miss game this year, he said to Jamie Erdahl in the pregame interview, “Get your popcorn ready.” That was it…his words of wisdom before a “mic drop,” which was actually a headset drop. Ole Miss ended up losing the game, and Kiffin became a meme. In the week that followed, lots of folks had various kinds of popcorn delivered to the athletic office at Ole Miss. Alabama fans aren’t perfect, but that is the way to handle Kiffin. Don’t throw stuff onto the field. Just beat him at his own game…on the field and off.

And do it in the right way…remember, your mama might be watching.

***I’m definitely not knocking the University of Tennessee. My daughter and I both have friends who are students there or are alumni…and they are all lovely people…some of the best people we know, in fact. This kind of debacle could happen at any sporting event in any city.***

Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Lights…Not an original title, obviously. Chances are, you know I’m talking about high school football. More specifically…high school football in Charlotte, North Carolina. Not exactly what I consider a hot bed of football. North Carolina is more of a basketball state. But we sure had fun at a high school football game in North Carolina last night.

It was the first home football game of the season. Growing up in Alabama, I always loved the first home football game of the season at our high school. Total excitement and anticipation. I vividly remember the big win our high school team had in the first game of my senior year. I was a cheerleader, and we had cheered through two miserable seasons in the previous years, but that first big win of my senior year was foreshadowing of a great season to come. Our team ended up playing well into the playoffs…up to the semifinals…before losing to the eventual state champion team. Last night, it felt much the same at our daughter’s high school. After last year, when fans were not allowed to attend the few games we had, this was a welcome change! It was a fun excuse to get out on a lovely Friday night and celebrate something together…namely, a big win for our high school team. I like to think we were celebrating the win, but we were also celebrating the opportunity to be together. Whole families came out to the stadium for some good, old-fashioned fun on a Friday night, and it was electric!

Our daughter is a senior at an independent school. She started school there when she was four years old, entering at transitional kindergarten, a kindergarten readiness program. She has grown up there. And this year, her senior year, is the first year she has been a cheerleader for football. She played varsity field hockey for the first three years of high school, but opted for a change this fall. She has been a basketball cheerleader for two years, so she wanted to try cheering for football…this is her first experience cheering for football…and she is loving every minute of it. The team started the season with two away games, so the girls were looking forward to the opportunity to lead a home crowd in cheering for the team. And last night, they did a great job.

The football team did a great job, ultimately winning by a large margin. I’d be lying if I said I knew the exact score, but I know we won by a lot. There were some exciting plays for both teams…long passes, big tackles, turnovers, big runs. I love football in almost any form, and our team did not disappoint. The concession stand crew was working hard, just like they used to do pre-COVID. The pep band showed up in full force. The dance team put on a heck of a halftime show. And we all cheered our team on to victory. The elementary-aged students were happy to be together in the stands. The families were thrilled to catch up. It was exciting to hear the familiar voice of our announcer on the loudspeaker. It was awesome to feel “normal” again.

Many of the students in the crowd and on the field have grown up with our daughter. I was talking with her transitional kindergarten teacher in the stands, and we reminisced about the time…way back in 2009…when a little boy in the class broke his shoulder blade at the end-of-year class party. At 6 feet tall, that little boy is no longer a little boy. The broken shoulder blade healed quickly, and he is a now a handsome young man on the varsity football team. Many of those TK students are still at the school…graduating with my daughter in May. The two other senior cheerleaders started in kindergarten with our daughter in 2009. Almost all the senior football players have been at the school since kindergarten…all except one, a young man who entered the school in ninth grade and quickly endeared himself to his classmates. He’s a superstar on the field and in the classroom.

As it turns out, Friday Night Lights can be fun no matter where you are…Alabama, Western Pennsylvania, Texas, West Virginia, or even North Carolina. FNL looks much the same in Charlotte in 2021 as it did in Alabama in 1985. I’m just glad it doesn’t look like it looked in 2020!

Motherhood

Motherhood.

I awoke at 3:00 this morning…wide awake. Taking a peek at the clock, I realized immediately it was my late mother’s birthday. And I couldn’t go back to sleep. The same thing happened to me on the first anniversary of her passing. I couldn’t sleep.

As I lay in bed, my brain started going crazy. That’s rare for me. I’m a person who can hit the pillow and fall asleep. Usually, when I wake up, I simply roll over and go back to sleep…many times a night, in fact. But this morning, at 3:00, I could not go back to sleep. I started thinking about my mother and how much she loved being a mother. Then I started thinking about how much I love being a mother. I truly believe it is the right job for me, and it’s certainly the single most important job I’ve ever done. I’ve certainly given it my all…just as I learned to do from my own mother, who gave us her all. She was a registered nurse by trade, but in her heart, what she always wanted to do was be a mom. And she was a damn good one. She would drop anything to help us or our friends. She made sure we were exposed to different cultures, different places, and different experiences. She volunteered at school and our extracurricular activities. She prepared meals and snacks for us and any of our friends who showed up at our house…all the time. Clearly, I did a lot of thinking last night.

After all that thinking, it occurred to me that our daughter will be a full-time resident of our home for less than a year. This time next year, she likely will be a few weeks into her first semester of college. It’s exciting for her, and it’s exciting for us. But until she goes off to college, I want to continue being a full-time mother, the best job in the world. I’m sure there are people out there who think it’s not important, but for me, absolutely nothing is more important.

And because I realized at that moment that my full-time mom career will be coming to an end when she goes to college, I needed to be closer to her. Sounds weird, but at that moment, I just needed to be “mommy” in the middle of the night again, so I went upstairs and crawled into bed with her. She stirred a little before rolling over and asking, “What are you doing here?” I explained how I was feeling, and she gave me a big hug and told me to stay the rest of the night. So I did. She intertwined her feet with mine like she did when she was a little girl, what we used to call “tucking in” her feet. She held my hand, more for my sake than her own, and we both fell fast asleep.

My own mother was always there for us in the middle of the night. Bad dream? I’d wake up Mother. Thirsty? I’d wake up Mother. Simply didn’t want to be the only one awake at night? I’d walk into her room and wake up Mother, asking her to go to the kitchen with me. We would sit there while I drank a little water. She likely had a cup of coffee…yes, she drank coffee in the middle of the night. It wasn’t that I needed water…I really just needed my mother. Last night, I guess I just needed to be a mother.

For years, our daughter would call for me in the middle of the night if she woke up. Or if she had a bad dream. Or if she didn’t feel well. Or if she just needed Mommy. At 17, she doesn’t do that anymore. Rarely, if she isn’t feeling well, she will call downstairs for me to come up. And on those nights, I do whatever it takes to make her feel better…a cold compress or warm compress, Motrin, Drip Drop (a rehydrating beverage), or just rub her feet or knees (growing pains). While I never want her to feel badly, I’m always happy to go up and help her.

She’s still my baby, and I’m still a full-time mom…for less than or year or so, anyway…just like my mother was to me. Today, on what should have been Mother’s 82nd birthday, I’ll be taking bottled water to my daughter’s cheerleading squad at the away football game…just like my mother used to do. And after I get home from the football game, I’ll have a little cocktail and make a toast to Mother’s birthday.

Happy Heavenly Birthday to Mother.

Early Christmas Mornings

Early Christmas mornings.

I wish I could say I remember when our daughter became aware of Santa Claus and Christmas…maybe when she was two or three? I know her first Christmas, when she was just two months old…she knew nothing. The next year, 2004, she woke up and had fun playing with all the new stuff, but I’m not sure she was really aware of Santa.

In 2005, when she was two, she was catching on. She wanted to visit Santa in SouthPark Mall constantly…so we did. It was something to do with a toddler, and I was always looking for fu n…because she was not a napper.

Once she caught on that Santa came on Christmas Eve, she went to bed excited…just like so many other kids. And she woke up early…like so many others. But when I say she woke up early I mean my head had barely hit the pillow when she called down from upstairs.

The first year it happened, my husband was not happy. He heard her call for me…it was likely around 2:00am…and he groaned, telling me, “Make her go back to sleep till 7:00 or 8:00.” How exactly was I supposed to do that???

It was easier to reason with a grown man than it was to reason with a toddler, so I said to him, “No. If we get up with her now and let her see what Santa brought, she will play for a while and go back to bed…we will get to sleep a little later in the morning. Otherwise, we will be getting up at 5:30 or 6:00 for the day. Get up.” And so we did.

And I was right. She played for an hour (or two), and I took her back to bed and got to sleep a little later than usual. The same thing happened for several years, and every year, I had to remind my husband that it was just easier to go ahead and get up.

Last night, I saw a Publix commercial that was released last year. It features a little girl walking into the kitchen on Christmas morning, asking Grandma if they can wake up the others. Grandma says she has a better idea and sets about making pastries with the little girl. The sentiment is sweet, but when I was a little girl, I’d have thought my grandmother was just torturing me! What kid wants to hang out in the kitchen making pastries when there are gifts from Santa waiting in the living room???

I know everyone won’t agree with me, but when I was a kid, when we got up, we woke up our parents and ran to see what Santa had brought. I don’t think anyone could have stopped us if they had tried! But my parents never tried to stop us. I’m sure they thought the same way I did…”let them play now, and we can get more sleep.”

At around 7:30 or 8:00, Daddy would cook a big breakfast on Christmas mornings, but Mother always made the biscuits…her special recipe. We would hang around, talking about Christmas, and then we would all have a big Christmas lunch before we went outside to play with neighborhood friends in the afternoon…or as we got older, we settled in with the family (and likely a few friends) and watched football.

Our daughter is 17, so she knows the deal about Santa and no longer gets up before the crack of dawn to see what Santa brought. In fact, this year, she picked out most of what he will bring, but Santa tries to have a few surprises for her too. Christmas morning is not as exciting as it was when she was a little girl, but she gets the true meaning of Christmas now.

This year, at Christmas, it’s likely we will sleep in a little before we open gifts. We will have a little birthday cake for breakfast…it has become a tradition at our house. When our daughter was one, she asked Santa for a birthday cake, so we always have birthday cake for breakfast on Christmas Day. And after lunch, our daughter will figure out if any of her friends are available to hang out. My husband and I will likely watch football…any game that is on…just give us football.

Sure, as our daughter gets older, Christmas becomes different, but we enjoy being together. Is it as exciting as it was ten years ago? No, but it is more meaningful.

This year, we won’t get to see my brother and his children during the holidays, because of COVID, but we will make up for it in 2021…surely, the vaccine will make that possible. I haven’t left my house since Thanksgiving, except to pick up food…both my grandmothers died on December 26 (different years, and my mother died on December 30…I don’t need to get COVID and join them this year. The days between Christmas and New Year’s Day make me nervous every year.

So we will celebrate Christmas with our little family. Our daughter will likely spend some time with friends who had the virus a month ago, so I don’t have to worry about her. But no matter what…if she daughter wakes up at 3am and wants to open gifts, you can bet your sweet bippy that’s what we will do.

The Bloom is Off the Rose

The bloom is off the rose.

I will admit it. At first, since no one in my family was sick with the coronavirus, it was fun hanging out at home with my family. We were fortunate to have a warm March (and April), so we were able to use the pool and spend time in the sun together. We slept in a little every day and watched some movies and series on Netflix and Amazon. It was like we were on a staycation…for about a week.

And then we became accustomed to living the lives of shut-ins. That’s something I never thought I would say. I never thought I would become accustomed to being stuck at home all the time, but I did. I’ve done everything around my house I can do except the difficult stuff I need to do. I need to be going through boxes in the attic and getting rid of stuff. I need to be cleaning closets and other spaces, but instead, I’ve been gardening…in my dining room. OK, so I’m just keeping my seeding pots in the dining room till they’re big enough to transfer to the ground outside, but it’s a little weird to see hundreds of plants in the dining room floor. I’ve been exercising every day, and I’ve been knitting some too. I rarely knit in April, because we’re pushing toward summer, but I’m knitting in April this year. I’ve been enjoying time with my family…lots of it.

But here we are…weeks into the “stay-at-home” order…and I’m getting tired of it. What seemed like fun in the beginning is growing stale now. Yes, the bloom is off the rose, so to speak. I’m tired of getting nervous before I check the stock market every day. I want to meet friends for lunch. I want to go into non-essential businesses! I want businesses to get back to work and start making money again.

Basically, I want life to be normal again.

I know normal will look different than it has before, and that’s OK. I remember when we had to get used to a different normal after 9/11. I can get used to a different normal, but I just don’t want this isolation to be that normal. I want to stop worrying about the stupid coronavirus. I want people to get well. I want to see friends. I want to visit family. I want our economy to recover and thrive. I want to go on vacation! Yes! I remember vacations! And by golly, I want to take, at least, some of the vacations I had planned before this insanity started. In fact, I’m still holding out hope against hope that I can take some of the trips I have planned for this summer. Oh, please! Oh, please! I love Charlotte, North Carolina, but I want out of this place! Is that too much to ask?

Speaking of the bloom being off the rose…I have worn makeup one time in the weeks since this whole isolation started. I had a Zoom meeting a couple of weeks ago, and since people were going to see me, I decided I needed to actually put on makeup. Maybe I should practice over the next week or so, just so I can remember how to do it when we can actually go places again! And let’s not even talk about hair! I’m sure my husband thinks I look like a dragon lady, because it’s long and untamed right now, and I don’t even care! I have a friend who says she will head straight to the thrift store when stores are open. She wants to buy long a-line skirts and other conservative clothing to go with the new sister wife look she has adopted during the pandemic. She is joking, of course…I hope.

I want to start moving around again. I want us to be allowed to figure out what normal is going to look like after all this insanity has passed. I haven’t started a letter-writing campaign or participated in any protests against the government, but I sure will be glad when we can start moving around again. I live in a great city, but I’m tired of being here for now. We have a lovely home, but I’m tired of looking at it day in and day out.

The bloom is officially off the rose.

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!

retina_hungry-girl-healthy-faux-fried-pickle-chips-recipe-20170731-1228-23188-5698

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!***

Posts of 2019 (Joe Namath is a Winner)

Now that 2019 is over, I’ve taken a few minutes to go back and look at some old pieces I wrote during 2019. I can see how many people viewed each one, and the numbers are interesting.

All the “favorite gifts” pieces were read by lots of people…just as they were in 2018. I wasn’t surprised by that at all. Even the most-read piece didn’t surprise me. It was a piece I wrote about teens and much-needed life skills. I wrote it back in the summer, and it got lots of clicks immediately. What I loved most about it was the feedback! So many people had more suggestions to add after they read it! And I’d like to add one more thing to the list: make sure your teen driver knows not to put diesel fuel in his/her car unless it actually has a diesel engine. Trust me…they need to know this information.

But what surprised me most was the second most-read piece of 2019. For one, it wasn’t even written in 2019. It was written in May of 2018, but it gets lots of new readers every week! I use WordPress to write my blog, and through my account, I can see how many people read posts, how many like them, comments, and feedback; and I can see when someone has used a search engine to get to the page instead of clicking through Facebook or Instagram. Don’t worry…I can’t tell who does it…I can simply see that someone does. And frequently, I’ve noticed one Google search that leads people to my website more than any other search. If you guessed “Joe Namath,” you are correct.

Back in May of 2018, I wrote a piece about how my friend, Mary Ann, and I did a little detour during one of our road trips, so we could visit Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, the town where Joe Namath grew up. And because of that, some Google searches will take readers to that piece on my page. You can see the piece here. That little piece from 2018 had the second highest number of readers in 2019. Apparently, I’m not the only person in America who loves Joe Namath. Much like Bobby Brady on The Brady Bunch, I would love to know Joe personally…like in the photo above. I wrote another piece titled Happy Birthday, Joe Willie about his book, All the Way: My Life in Four Quarters, in May of this year, and it didn’t get even a fraction of the “hits” as the old piece. The search terms tend to be “Joe Namath, home” or “Joe Namath, Pennsylvania,” so I guess folks don’t care too much about his birthday. They just want to know about his childhood. I hope his book had a lot more readers than the piece I wrote about his book!

Other pieces that were at the top of the “clicks” list were about misery. One about all the trials and tribulations my 19-year marriage has survived. Another one, called Poking the Bear, was about grief, something we will all experience, if we live long enough. And falling right in with those was a piece about summer reading for our school-aged children, titled I Bought the Summer Reading Book Today. That one is just one big gripe-fest about how I hate that my teenager has required summer reading for school. You can see it here. Apparently, it’s true that “misery loves company,” because lots of folks read those pieces, and a lot of them read them more than once. I don’t think we like knowing other folks are miserable…we just like knowing we’re not alone in misery. I truly believe we like to know other people have experienced some of the things we experience, and we like to know they got through it.

At the other end of the spectrum, there were pieces that hardly anyone read. They were mostly happy pieces, reflecting on something I enjoyed. But I refuse to believe people don’t like reading about happiness. I think it’s just that trials and tribulations bring us together. When the weather is great in your neighborhood, the neighbors are friendly enough, but when a big storm comes through, everyone works together to help each other. I guess it’s the same with writing. When things are going well, it’s not noticed, but write about a life altering event that lots of people can relate to, and you get their attention.

Recently I watched a movie I had never seen, and I watched it because a friend recommended it. Or maybe I should say she insisted I had to see it. So I sat down and watched Love, Actually. Since I cried during the opening, I knew I would like it. The basic premise is that love isn’t dead. The world isn’t just full of hatred…it’s full of love too, but you have to look around to see it. The narrator (Hugh Grant, I believe) said he enjoys going to the airport arrivals area, where he sees lots of love as people greet their loved ones. And yes, being the sap that I am, I loved the movie.

It reminded me that there’s a lot of love out there, and it reminded me that while disaster and misery bring people together, people really do like to hear about positive things too.

I’ve said before that I don’t write this blog to see how popular it will become. I write it for me. I write it, because it calms me. And frankly, I like saving my memories right here. When I’m long gone, hopefully, my daughter will sit down and read all of them…maybe printing them off…before the subscription for the website expires and everything is lost! Maybe I should print them off myself and bind them. It might be that she doesn’t even care, but lots of times, I wish I could ask my parents about things that happened to them. Just today, in fact, I texted my aunt (my daddy’s sister) to find out the story behind a Facebook post.

So in 2020, if I’m feeling like I need to share some misery, I will do just that. And if I want to share happy story, I’ll do that too. And if I ever get to meet Joe Namath, well…you’ll know it. I’ve met lots of celebrities…had lots of “brushes with fame.” But Joe Namath is one I haven’t met…yet. If you know anything about me, you should know I fully believe in the “power of yet.” That means I truly believe I haven’t met him YET.

 

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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Game Day Snacks

It’s football season! Finally!

In North Carolina today, the sky is a little more clear, and the wind is a ever so slightly more dry. Maybe it’s a cold front moving in, or maybe I’m imagining it, but since today is National College Colors Day, I know it is officially football season.

I love all kinds of football…high school, college, professional…well, I don’t really like to watch bad, messy football (like that Florida/Miami game last week), but I will even take that over no football at all. I get it from my mother. The woman loved football. Interesting that the start of football season usually falls around her birthday. She is gone now, but I know she would be excited if she were here. In my house, you had to like football. You also had to like to watch baseball and basketball, or you were going to be watching television alone. We watched sports year round. I don’t watch baseball and basketball like I used to. I still like them, but I just don’t watch them much anymore. But football? Bring…it…on!

And with football, there are gatherings of friends and families. Where there are gatherings, there must be food. I’m not talking tailgating…that’s food on a whole different level. I’m talking football gatherings at home…like the one I’ll have this weekend when Alabama plays Duke in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game. I’d normally go to that game, but my teenage daughter has big plans for the weekend, and I didn’t really want to go without her.

So here are a few of my favorites to serve at football parties at home:

  • Cheeseburger Mini Meatloaves. This is a recipe from my very favorite source, Hungry Girl. I’m an avid follower of on Instagram, and I subscribe to the emails and check the website regularly. These Cheeseburger Mini Meatloaves are simple to make and require only a few ingredients. You won’t believe you didn’t think of these yourself. I’ve served them several times, and every time, they disappear quickly, so make a few batches. See the recipe at hungry-girl.com, here.

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    Photo from hungry-girl.com

  • Toasted Pimento Cheese Rounds. Super easy to make. Purchase a sliced French loaf at your local grocery store. Spread your favorite pimento cheese spread over the rounds. Crumble a few pieces of cooked bacon over the top. Pop into the oven at 325 degrees, and remove when cheese is bubbling. You can add a small 1/4 slice of tomato to the top or not. I prefer Palmetto Cheese brand (see it here), and I like the jalapeño pimento cheese for an added kick.

    pimento-cheese-palmetto-cheese-wisconsin-dairy_02

    Photo from pimentocheese.com

  • Veggie Dip. I love the flavor of dill in a dip, and I’ve found a great recipe for a veggie dip. It contains onions and dill, and it’s fresh and tasty. It’s just a few ingredients and super easy…but super tasty. Get the recipe here. Serve with your favorite raw veggies. I prefer carrots, broccoli, and cucumber slices.
  • Herbed Parmesan Popcorn. Popcorn is always a good snack for game days, but sometimes it’s fun with a twist. I found a recipe for Herbed Parmesan Popcorn that’s easy to make…notice a theme here? I don’t do complicated recipes. I’ve served it twice, and both times, it was well-received. Get the recipe here.herbparmpopcorn_jimfranco1-2
  • Seasoned almonds. My friend, Mary Ann, introduced me to some gourmet, seasoned almonds recently, and I haven’t been able to stop eating them. I think they are great to have in bowls around the room for a ball game. Made by Blue Diamond, I find them in my local Target. My favorite flavors are the Pink Himalayan Salt and the Rosemary. I like the Garlic, Herb and Olive Oil ones, but I have a feeling I will love the Black Truffle flavor too! See the Blue Diamond website here. You can purchase them in grocery stores, or you can order directly from Blue Diamond via the website.

And if you’re not up for preparing your own game day snacks, I recommend picking up from these two places:

  • Chick-Fil-A. I wrote recently about the Chick-Fil-A One app…don’t forget to use it if you pick up a tray of nuggets, chicken strips, cool wraps, mac and cheese, or cookies. And you must order in advance! I do all my ordering through the app, and I get those valuable points too! My person favorite for game day? A nugget tray with Chick-Fil-A sauce, a fruit tray, and some chocolate chip cookies. They’re always a hit. See the Chick-Fil-A website here.
  • Zoe’s Kitchen. I love Zoe’s. I discovered it when we moved our little family to Alabama for a couple of months in 2006, when my daddy was sick. Everything they offer is delicious. Their hummus tray is great for gatherings, and I love their pita trays too…a different kind of sandwich tray with a Mediterranean flavor. And if you just need some side items, I highly recommend their slaw and potato salad. See their website here.

There you have it…my recommendations for game day snacks. Let’s get this football season started! I can hardly wait for lots of games to be on every weekend.

Are you ready for some football???