My Favorite Holiday Gifts, Part 2: Women’s Accessories (including shoes)

Y’all think I’m crazy for talking about Christmas right after Halloween, but you will thank me later! It doesn’t do any good to write about good gifts after Thanksgiving…everything will be gone by then! I’m trying to help you get the jump on your holiday shopping! In my last Holiday Gifts post, I listed Books. Over the next few weeks, I will suggest my favorite gifts for Men/Boys, Women’s Apparel, Home, Travel, Stocking Stuffers, and Kids/Teens. So today it’s Accessories, including shoes, handbags, jewelry, and hats. There are so many great things out there, and I’m having a hard time with the “one for you, one for me” thing. Every time I purchase something for someone else, I want to get one for myself! Hopefully, you will find some things listed that you can add to your own Christmas list, and maybe you’ll find some for friends and family too!

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Rebecca Minkoff Leo Saffiano Envelope Clutch (above). I have one of these I carry in another handbag when I’m traveling. It’s small, and it’s the perfect clutch to carry to dinner. Available in a variety of colors from Neiman Marcus and in a lovely glitter black for $95 here. *For a nominal charge, Neiman Marcus will package your gift in a lovely gift box and bow.*

Kendra Scott Jewelry Because of the wide range of jewelry they offer, Kendra Scott appeals to all ages. Teens love the more dainty pieces. Adults love those dainty pieces and the larger statement pieces, as well. Personally, I love opals, and Kendra Scott has lots of opal pieces. I recently noticed they have Moody Mood Necklaces and Leah Mood Rings that are reminiscent of the 1970s. I’m thinking I might have to add some of these to my Christmas list for the kitsch alone. Shop Kendra Scott Jewelry here.

 

Shiny Shoes. Since I wrote a whole blog about shiny shoes recently, I thought I should include them as well. Everyone loves sparkly gifts! Nordstrom has glitter shoes in lots of different styles and prices ranges. These will make her happy! Shop all shoes at Nordstrom here.

Longchamp La Pliage Packable Tote. longchamp_tote_bag_s_le_pliage_l2605089545_0This foldable, packable tote is perfect for travel, but it’s just a great all-around tote that comes in lots of colors and several sizes. The small is about the size of a small handbag, while the medium and large work great as shopping totes or overnight bags. My daughter uses a medium for overnights, and a large for weekends away. Great for moms or teens, and everyone loves them. Prices start at $125. Get it at Nordstrom.com here.

Evil Eye Jewelry. Evil eye is everywhere this year, and it’s popular with folks of all ages. I’ve seen the evil eye emblazoned on sweatshirts (I have one!) and t-shirts, but mostly, I’ve seen lots of evil eye jewelry.  My teen daughter loves to shop at Boem in Charlotte, and they know trends. Take a look at their website to see lots of evil eye jewelry here. Their prices start at a very reasonable $15 for some eye stud earrings. Neiman Marcus also offers a selection of evil eye jewelry here. Neiman’s prices start at $98.

Camo accessories. Camo is still around, and it’s still popular! Frankly, I love camo, because I consider the green and tan shades of camo to be neutrals. But too much camo can be, well, too much. It’s best to stick with one camo item when you venture out…an accessory or one piece of apparel, but camo from head to toe is a NO. It’s easy to find accessories at a lot of different places. Forever21 has lots of accessories at really good prices. Urban Outfitters and Shopbop offer an assortment, as well. I’m not going to lie…I love the Forever 21 Velvet and Glitter Combat Boots. Here are some of my favorite picks:

And for a little more highbrow camo, there are these scarves (I love!) you can purchase from Burberry for $490 and $550, respectively, here:

Tory Burch Accessories. Ladies love Tory, and teens love some of their accessories too. This year, Tory Burch has introduced a new line of sterling silver Wishbone jewelry, and I think it’s very popular. My favorite of the Wishbone line is the bangle bracelet. Tory Burch also offers some great wristlets, mini bags, and wallets that make great gifts. See the full line of accessories Tory Burch offers here.

Rebecca Minkoff Beanies. Sure, there are lines that are more high-end. There are lines that turn heads. I have been a fan of Rebecca Minkoff handbags for a few years, and this year, I’ve become a fan of the beanies. The blocked yarn slouchy beanie hat is my new favorite. Perfect for cold weather, they’re also cute and come in cute colors. Get them for $38 at Neimanmarcus.com here.

 

Ugg Coquette SlippersI know slippers 5125-BDC_2
sound cliché, but who buys slippers for themselves? These pretty slip-ons with a lightweight sole come in an array of colors,  my favorite being a color they call Bodacious. And of course they’re comfortable…they’re Uggs! With a their lightweight, durable sole, they are super soft, and perfect for indoors or even outdoors. Priced at $120, purchase straight from Ugg.com here or through Amazon.com here.

I think there’s something in this list for every woman. And if you can’t pick just one, pick more than one! Having trouble deciding? Maybe give her the whole list! I hope my husband reads this!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Share The South

Y’all might think I’m crazy, but when I travel, I make friends. It’s what I do. It’s my thing.

Therefore, when we return to places, I like to take regional gifts or gifts that represent something about me or where I’m from: the South. For example, when we visit Los Angeles, I have a few friends I like to see, and I try to take a little something for them, because some of them have never been here. It’s fun.

Sometimes, it’s something obvious that I take. If the person knows I went to The University of Alabama, I might take a Bama sweatshirt or t-shirt. But I can’t take the same thing every time. It’s fun, to me, to search for interesting places to purchase stuff that represents North Carolina, Alabama, or just the south in general.

Since it’s summertime, we try to make a few more trips than the rest of the year. During the rest of the year there’s that thing that messes up all our travel. It’s called school.

This summer, we have a few trips planned, and I’ve been looking for the perfect southern gifts to take with me on my trips. You know, lots of people all over the country still think we don’t have paved roads or shoes in the south. They think we still cook everything in lard. But with my gifts, I like to introduce them to the real south. Sometimes it’s funny stuff, and sometimes not. But here are a few of my favorite places to get southern gifts.

THE BUTTERCUP GIFTS AND STATIONERY: The Buttercup on Providence Road in Charlotte has great gifts for everyone, and a lot of them represent the south. They have college mascot gifts, personalized stationery and other gifts, jewelry and art by southern artists, and a lovely assortment of other unique gifts you’d be proud to present to that hotel concierge who fielded all your crazy questions before you traveled. Their website can be accessed here, but they have a much bigger assortment in the store.

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THE BITTER SOUTHERNER GENERAL STORE: A friend recently sent me a text and shared this fun website with me. It’s called The Bitter Southerner, and they offer lots of funny gifts with a southern theme. Some of my personal favorites are t-shirts listing the first names of well-known southern authors; sweatshirts featuring one of our favorite southern sayings, “Bless Your Heart;” t-shirts that simply say “Mayo and Tomato;” baseball caps; automobile license plates…you’ll have a great time perusing this site. They even have The Bitter Southerner Coffee Club, a membership plan through which they ship the recipient coffee from “some of the best coffee roasters in the South,” according to the website. Take a look at their offeringshere.byh-sweatshirt_1024x1024.

LOCALS ONLY CHATTANOOGA GIFT SHOP: Another friend told me about a gift shop she stumbled upon in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where they offer all sorts of Southern fun stuff and delicacies, including one of my favorites…Miss Shelley’s Southern Jam. They offer four flavors of her jam, and many of my friends could tell you they are fantastic jams, and they make great gifts. In addition to this, they offer all sorts of Chattanooga merchandise, Moon Pies, Southern seasoned grits, and See Rock City birdhouses. People who don’t live in the south might not be familiar with the iconic See Rock City rooftops on barns, but this is a fun way to introduce them. This is a fun website I highly recommend. See their website here.

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PAPER SKYSCRAPER, CHARLOTTE, NC: This store on East Boulevard in Charlotte is chock full of gifts that represent Charlotte and North Carolina. I’ve purchased all sorts of gifts there…lowball glasses with “704” (our zip code) on them, bourbon-infused honey, candles made in Charlotte, cans of Bertie County peanuts, books about Charlotte, and postcards galore. If you’re looking for gifts that represent Charlotte or North Carolina, this is a great place to shop. You can get information about the store from their website here, but to purchase from them, you’ll need to go in for a visit…and it will be fun when you do!

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CORNER COPIA GARDENS AND GIFT SHOP: I’ve written about this one before, but it’s worth mentioning again. Corner Copia Gardens and Gift Shop is located in charming Fairhope, Alabama, a lovely small town on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay. It is owned and operated by a childhood friend of mine, Michelle Prouty Johns, who has had a lifelong love of plants and gardening. If you find yourself in the area, it’s worth a stop to see the lovely and sometimes rare plants she has in stock and purchase some fun stuff from the gift shop. She opened the gift shop to supplement the gardens in the off-season, and she has some great gifts, including “air plant jellies,” head-shaped planters, and lots more. If you stop in, please tell her Kelly sent you! She doesn’t have a website, but you can check out her Facebook page here.

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SOUTH GEORGIA PECAN COMPANY: My friend, Linda, who used to live in Valdosta, Georgia, introduced me to South Georgia Pecan Company a few years ago when she gifted me some Chocolate Amaretto Pecans that were absolutely heavenly. She even advised me to keep them in the freezer…it just enhances the flavor. Since then, I’ve gifted them to a few folks myself. The company also offers other types of pecans, gift baskets, and even Southern Pecan Pies, a treat indeed. While you’re at the website, check out their great t-shirts too. They would make great gifts for taking on a flight…easy to get through security. And if you’re not from the south, it’s pronounced puh-KAHN down here. You can order directly through their website here, but if you call them for any reason, please don’t say pee-can.

THREE GEORGES CANDY: Three Georges has been a staple in Mobile, Alabama, for a hundred years. According to a story on the WALA-TV website, the store was opened in 1918 by three Greek immigrants “who, you guessed it, shared the same name: George Pappalamporous, George Spero, and George Pope.” The store is located on Dauphin Street in downtown Mobile, and it should be on your list of places to visit if you find yourself on the Gulf Coast. If you want to try one of their old recipes, go for my favorite, the Heavenly Hash, made up of marshmallows and pecans smothered in milk chocolate. A little bit goes a long way, but everybody in Mobile knows about Heavenly Hash. You an order directly through their website here, but visit if you can.

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I also enjoy sharing books or magazines about the south (click on title for more info): Southern Living Magazine,Our State Magazinefrom North Carolina, Mobile Bay Monthly Magazine, Charlotte Magazine, Southern Home Magazine, and more. Earlier this year, I picked up a photo book about Charlotte from Paper Skyscraper and sent it to a friend who has never visited. Short stories are great too. For a book of short stories about the south, there is The Signet Classic Book of Southern Short Stories, which you can purchasehere.

So, there’s an assortment of places you can find trinkets, apparel, or foods that represent the South. Since I’m going on vacation soon, I plan to put in my orders this weekend. My friends, old and new, that I see on vacation this summer will receive a little piece of the south from us. To me, it’s fun to show them where we’re from, just like it’s fun for me to learn about their homes.

I need to get busy finding things to take, because if I don’t get things done early, I’ll be “as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.” (I thank my Daddy for sharing that little saying with me.)

Happy Birthday To Me!

They say it’s your birthday!
It’s my birthday too, yeah!
They say it’s your birthday!
We’re gonna have a good time!
–The Beatles, Birthday

Every year when my birthday rolls around, I sing that song to myself. It makes me think of the movie, Sixteen Candles, which was released when I was sixteen (almost seventeen). You can see a quick clip of that scene here. And what 16-yr-old girl didn’t love Jake Ryan then?

TOMORROW, I turn 51. Nothing special about 51, but nobody loves a birthday like I do! Do I need fancy gifts? No. Do I need adoration? No. I just like that it’s MY day…well, it’s my day and lots of other people’s day. I have a friend in California who has the same birthday and a friend in Pennsylvania who has the same birthday too, so it’s their day too.

I love a birthday. Always have. Between the ages of two and five, Happy Birthday to Me was my favorite song. I walked around singing it all the time…year round. In fact, my family teased me mercilessly about it. As an adult, I start celebrating before my birthday and keep celebrating for a while. My husband’s birthday is six days before mine, so I wait till his is over, and then, it’s on!

I remember lots of childhood birthdays, but my sixth birthday really sticks out in my mind for lots of reasons. It was 1973, and my birthday fell on the Sunday following the Friday that was the last day of kindergarten.

1973 was a big year in my life, especially those weeks around my birthday. Not only was my birthday coming up just as school was getting out, but I was going to Walt Disney World (that’s what we called it back then) for the very first time the week after my birthday! I had two big things happening almost at once, and I was beyond excited!

My mother planned a birthday party at our home. We invited my entire kindergarten class. We ate cake and played Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey, because that was what we did at parties then. Mother’s friend, Martha, was there to help her with wrangling all those kids, and fortunately, we had a big backyard, so they could move us outside. I had gotten a piece of playground equipment for my birthday…a whirlybird. I had begged for it. We all got to play on that at my party. (See photo below) We also played on the swingset, but back then, swingsets had metal slides, and in south Alabama, those slides got pretty hot. Lots of kids blistered their backsides sliding down those slides in the 70s, but I don’t think anyone got blistered at my party.

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I also remember that I got in trouble. Having your entire kindergarten class over for your birthday when you’re turning six is a big deal. Apparently, I thought it made me the boss of the world. I have a vivid memory of my mother pulling me aside…literally pulling me aside by my arm…and whispering in my ear, “You’re being bossy. You need to settle down and be nice.” I remember feeling a little shocked, because somehow, I didn’t realize I was acting like a Queen Bee, but I’m sure I was. Some people, right now, are thinking, “Some things never change!”

Maybe that day it was the pre-Disney excitement. I’m sure everyone at my party also had to listen to me say repeatedly, “I’m flying to Walt Disney World in six days.” They probably wanted to punch me in the face.

Walt Disney World was just the Magic Kingdom back then…no Epcot, no Hollywood Studios, no Animal Kingdom..and it had only opened about 20 months prior, so I was among the first of my friends to go. Big stuff, especially since I had loved Mickey Mouse my entire life.

Six was a big birthday.

There were lots of memorable birthdays for obvious reasons: 16, 18, 21, 30, 40.

And then 50 came around last year. Wow! Half a century! What a glorious birthday! Lunch and Smokey & The Bandit with friends! Surprise dinner with friends! Brunch with the family! And I went on a fabulous birthday trip and stayed in my favorite hotel with my daughter and one of her friends. We had a wonderful, relaxing suite, and I loved every minute, drinking champagne with every meal and lounging on the patio of our suite. We ate at some of my favorite restaurants in Los Angeles, and it was a birthday to remember.

But as I think about past birthdays, I realize the best thing about birthdays, aside from celebrating another year of life, is the people…people who send Facebook messages, people who call, people who celebrate and/or send gifts or cards. All those things mean someone thought of me.

My mama isn’t here to celebrate 51 with me, but I have great memories of her on my various birthdays. She was there for all my childhood birthdays and made lots more of them special. For my 40th birthday, the first one after Daddy died, we had brunch at The Grand Hotel in Point Clear and spent the day there. Ten years later, when I turned 50, she found great joy in my excitement about that milestone birthday. It’s a great memory: Mother laughing at how happy I was to be 50. Even though she couldn’t go on my birthday trip with me, I sent her pictures and videos from the trip, and she enjoyed listening to every detail.

I know she would want me to enjoy this birthday too. My friends and family should hope I don’t get too bossy, though, because Mother’s not here to pull me aside and tell me to chill out.

So, what do I want for my 51st birthday? This weekend, I just want to do whatever comes to mind. I want to relax. My husband knows I just want some rest and relaxation. Well, that and some cake. I do love birthday cake. And some Champagne. I do love Champagne too. OK, maybe brunch with the family…that rounds it out. Oh, and I want my brother to call me and sing the Little Rascals birthday song from the episode titled Feed ‘Em And Weep. It’s what we do…for every birthday. If you aren’t familiar with it, you can watch it here.

But seriously, one of the best gifts my husband ever gives me is that first cup of coffee in bed every morning. He really doesn’t need to do anything else for me as long as he continues that practice. He started doing that a couple years ago, and I am a much happier person because of it. It makes me feel like every day is my birthday!

Happy Birthday to me!

My Favorite Mother’s Day Gifts

Mother’s Day is May 13…just around the corner.

This year, I will celebrate Mother’s Day as a mother, but I will not be celebrating it as a daughter. I lost my mother in December. If she were here, she would say, “Don’t get me a gift. I should give my children a gift, because y’all make me so happy to be a mother.”

Of course, we sent her something every year, if we weren’t with her. One year, I didn’t see her or talk to her till late in the day. She wasn’t happy with me, and rightfully so. But I did arrive that evening, gift in hand. I’d had a bad day that day, but I didn’t want to burden her with my problems on Mother’s Day, so I just took the heat. I learned my wicked “stinkeye” from her, you know.

This year, we will make a toast to my mother at brunch, and I will tell my daughter some stories about her. That’s how we celebrate Mother’s Day…brunch.

I won’t be sending my mother a gift this year, but maybe I’ll receive a gift (or two) from my family. If you need to get a gift for someone who doesn’t drop hints, here are some of my ideas (hint, hint):

SKYLIGHT FRAME According to their website, the Skylight Frame is a digital touch screen 10″ photo frame that displays your digital photos and can be updated remotely via email. It promises “clarity, color, and brilliance.” Part of the setup process is connecting it to Wi-Fi. From what I understand, each frame has its own email address, so you can update the photos anytime from anywhere. Sounds like the perfect way to display new photos in your own home or at Grandma’s. Priced at $159, I think it is a great gift (hint, hint). You can get more information and purchase the Skylight Framehere.

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FRESH FLOWERS I know it sounds cliché, but I love fresh flowers in my house. I think most women do. I love walking into my house and seeing fresh flowers, even if I was the one who picked them, ordered them, or purchased them. They don’t have to be the most expensive flowers, you know. If you have some lovely flowers in your yard (we have some beautiful roses), make up your own bouquet and present them to Mom.  There are lots of awesome places to get beautiful flowers. My personal favorite in Charlotte is The Blossom Shop, simply because they have never failed me. Everything they’ve ever done is beautiful. You can see their website here. You can also pick up fresh flowers at most grocery stores and make up your own arrangement.

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BAKED BY MELISSA MINI CUPCAKES I wrote about these recently, but I’m adding them here again, because they really are some of my current favorite things on earth. My friend, Amy, sent me some for my 50th birthday last May, and I think about them every day. In fact, I placed an order for my “family” (myself) earlier today. They are delightful little bite-size treats and come in lots of flavors. Personally, I love the package called the O.G. (Original Greats). You can’t go wrong with this. To see what they offer and place an order, click here.product-the-og-25-pack_1_

SEND A MEAL This is a website from which you can send a voucher to any recipient…on Mother’s Day, that would be your mom. Mom spends a lot of time keeping the family fed, so give her a break on a day of her choosing. Prices vary, but it’s worth a look. I’ve looked through their website many times, and every time, I find something else that looks fantastic. One friend told me she had ordered from them, and the food was fabulous. They have a vast array of offerings including pasta, pork, chicken, beef, meatloaf, and more! They even have meals for special diets like Diabetic meals and Gluten Free meals. Check out their website here.

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US NATIONAL WHITEWATER CENTER This is a great, fun place lots of people forget we have in Charlotte. For an adventurous mom, a gift of adventure at the Whitewater Center would be a great gift. One year, for my birthday, a friend gave me a Canopy Tour at the Whitewater Center, and it was an incredible time! Guides take participants through a series of ziplines and platforms around the Whitewater Center. There are lots of other activities at the Whitewater Center, as well. Check out their website herehttps://usnwc.org/.

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BY D GRACE OF GOD PRODUCTS While watching CBS Sunday Morning, I saw a story that I had seen before but forgotten. It’s the story of a man who received an unsolicited Facebook message from someone in Liberia. Believing it to be a scam, the recipient proposed that the sender take some photos of the living conditions in his area. After receiving some photos from him, he realized the man in Liberia needed a better camera. He mailed him a camera with which to take photos, thinking he’d never hear from him again. But he did. The story is a touching one, and worth a readhere. The two men are now in business together, selling photos of Liberia and more. You can purchase their productshere. When you give Mom her gift, tell her the story behind it, and she will be thrilled to be a part of it.png_book_1024x1024.png

Whatever you choose to do for your mother, remember…you only have one mother. After mine passed away, a friend said to me, “I cannot imagine losing my mother. I don’t have any other family.” I said, “You have your husband!” She said, “I can get another husband. I can’t get another mother!” Of course, we laughed.

Spend some time with your mother and do something thoughtful for her this Mother’s Day. These were some suggestions, but every mother is different. Do something she will like.

God bless mamas.

XOXO,

Kelly

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

 

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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BIG gift box tradition

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We all have our own traditions. Some of our traditions are similar, but don’t we all have some that are just our own?

My mother and her friend, Polly, used to love sending BIG boxes of little gifts. Some might think they were traditional “care packages,” but they were more than that. They would send them to say “thank you” or “congratulations,” when someone had a baby, to a friend who was sick, to a family member who needed a pick-me-up, and often, for no reason at all. We considered it a tradition. I remember receiving gigantic shipping boxes (the kind people use to pack things when they move) FULL of stuff…sometimes there might have been 50 little things in one box! They were so much fun to receive, so it is something I have continued. Once I started putting them together, I realized how much fun it is!

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There are all sorts of ways to put these gift boxes together. The main thing is to consider the recipient and the message you want to convey. You can make it about the recipient, or you can just make it completely silly.

Recently I visited another city, and a friend hooked me up with some special things to do in her city. Since she has never visited Charlotte (and I would love for her to visit), when I got home, I put together a gift box of Charlotte/North Carolina products. Some of it was to entice her into visiting: a big coffee table book with beautiful photos of Charlotte, a copy of Our State Magazine, and some bourbon-infused honey bottled in Charlotte (it’s so good, she might walk to Charlotte for it!). I added some fun Charlotte stuff too: highball glasses with “704” on them, a North Carolina embroidered dish towel, and a Charlotte t-shirt with a dead penguin on it (For the story behind the dead penguin, click here. To order a t-shirt, click here.)Then, I added some things that have nothing to do with Charlotte, but they are  some of my favorite small gifts.

IMG_0149One of the favorite things I included was a Couch Guest Book. It’s completely silly. When I first saw it in Paper Skyscraper in Charlotte, I found it amusing, and then I remembered sitting on the couch in my friend’s office.  In this guest book, the pages aren’t blank. There are questions, one of which is, “What are you thinking (while sitting on the couch)?” It also asks who is with you and some other silly questions. I filled out the first page and put the book in the box. You can find them at Paper Skyscraper on East Blvd, in Charlotte, or order one here.

IMG_5523Another of my favorite things I sent her was a Dry Divas Shower Cap. It had nothing to do with my visit, but I posted about it on Instagram back on December 14. Some of you thought I was nuts. How can a shower cap be post-worthy? Well, this one is. I’ve purchased lots of shower caps, and none of them kept all my hair secure. I’ve used those dreadful hotel shower caps that some people use to cover food in their refrigerators. Maybe they work for covering food, but they don’t keep hair dry. I have a lot of hair, so I need a good shower cap that fits snugly and holds up in steam. The Dry Divas Shower Cap does, and it looks pretty too, as they are all styled in a pretty print with a jewel on the front. You can buy them directly from drydivas.com here, but some are on sale right now at Neiman Marcus here.

Mother and  Polly were really good at finding little knick-knacks, and they were always on the lookout for things when they were out. I try to tailor the knick-knacks to the recipient, just as they did. When I was in college, my mother sent me big boxes all the time. Often they contained nonperishable snacks, a t-shirt, some socks, cough drops, pens, candy, pencils, erasers, magazines, books…anything she thought I might use. Most of the time, she added some silly things to make me laugh…silly sleep shirts or crazy socks. I loved coming in from class and finding a big box from her, because I knew it would be full of fun!

kira-auf-der-heide-330895.jpg We all have those friends and family members who are difficult to categorize. Here are some themes to consider: college teams, professional teams, favorite sports, favorite foods, hobbies (golf, tennis, travel, reading, knitting, etc), occupation…the possibilities are endless. Maybe there is a holiday or pseudo-holiday coming up…even if it’s just Groundhog Day, you can come up with something. Once, when I knew a friend had a big European vacation coming up, I made of box of travel-related items (sewing kit, compass, travel size toiletries, sleep mask, ear plugs, etc), and I since I had some map wrapping paper, I wrapped each gift individually.

Whatever you do, stuff it full of goodies. It’s what Mother and Polly used to do. It was always fun to dig through the boxes. The more you can stuff in there, the more fun it is for the recipient.

Most of all, I love this tradition, because it brings JOY to the person on the receiving end. I feel sure most people are flattered someone assembled a crazy gift box for them.

If you decide to send a big gift box, you will get as much joy as the recipient. As always,  please share your ideas with me. I’m always looking for unique things to add to gift boxes.

After all, what’s more fun than receiving a gigantic box full of gifts?!

Sending one.

XOXO,

Kelly

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