A Weekend to Remember

Wow! I turned 52 on Memorial Day. While I have always loved my birthday, this one was extra special…and most memorable.

On Saturday, I flew to Los Angeles with a friend. She was my “plus one” for another friend’s wedding on Monday, because my husband needed to stay home to make sure our teenage daughter prepared for final exams at school.

We flew home Tuesday, but we still haven’t stopped talking about the wedding reception!  The bride is someone I met in LA a couple of years ago, and she is gorgeous on a regular day, but she was positively radiant on her wedding day, which also happened to be her birthday too! And I’m sure she will remember it for the rest of her life as well.

I remember when she got engaged. I remember she said these words to me, “I hope you’re ready for a big African wedding!” And honestly, I was flattered to be invited. She is a special lady who loves looking out for others and making other people happy. She is Nigerian, and her new husband is as well. Have you ever been to a Nigerian wedding? If you haven’t, you’re missing out. I can’t believe it took me 52 years to have that fabulous experience! There was so much to take in: the incredible handmade dresses of fine fabrics and beautiful colors; the culinary delights of the food; the African music we had never heard, but all the Nigerians knew every beat and every word; the exciting processions of both families and different groups associated with the bride and groom; the DJ who worked the crowd; the love of the families; the dancing! I could never write a description that would do it all justice, but I can say we met some lovely people and had an incredibly memorable experience. And I got to see my sweet friend get married. She and her new husband look so peacefully happy with each other.

Before the reception, I had wondered what food would be served. I was hoping I would get to have some Nigerian food, and I was not disappointed! For first course, we were offered an option of Peppered Goat Soup or Yam Porridge. I consulted with the bride’s cousin, who was seated next to me, and she steered us toward the Yam Porridge…spicy and mellow all in one bowl. It was fantastic, but I wanted to make sure I had room for the other courses, so I ate about 3/4 of the bowl. For the entree, we had a choice of five different things, and the cousin recommended the Fried Rice, Moi Moi, Assorted Meats and Plantains. I think Meg (my plus one) and I surprised the cousins by eating so well! The fried rice had a little kick to it, while the plantains added a little sweetness. And the meats…chicken and I think, goat ribs…incredible spices. We dined like queens!

If you ever watched The Wonder Years, you might remember the episode titled Birthday Boy, in which Paul (the main character’s best friend and neighbor) has his Bar Mitzvah on Kevin’s (the main character) birthday. I don’t remember everything about the episode, but I do remember Kevin was a little envious of Paul’s family traditions and history. Listening to Paul’s grandfather talk about his own Bar Mitzvah had Kevin wondering about his own family history…and I get it. Being at my friend’s big Nigerian wedding made me think of that episode of The Wonder Years. I found myself looking on in awe at how these lovely people had managed to hang on to Nigerian traditions in the United States. The people are American, but they remember their African heritage…and I loved every minute of it.

I will likely never have another experience like it. If it took me 52 years to be able to experience it once, it’s not likely I will get to do it again. But I will always remember it. I wish my daughter could have gone. I wish she could have experienced it. I learned a lot, and the bride’s cousins answered all my questions, even though it had to be difficult to hear me, since I can’t talk above a whisper with laryngitis. They were so kind and patient while I tried to ask my questions about details.

So yes, I had a happy birthday…it was fantastic. Most of all, I am grateful to my friend for inviting me to celebrate her new marriage with her…a happy birthday, indeed!

Let’s Talk…We’re the Been There Moms

My friend, Maureen, and I recently started a site called Been There Moms. I have loved spending time with Maureen for years…we chat, we laugh, we share, and now, you can join us for our chats! Been There Moms is a quick look at the things we discuss…and the humor we share. We make videos discussing topics of interest to parents and other folks, too! We share our own parenting fails, share our lessons, and sometimes we just “kvetch” about the hazards of parenting. And we laugh…a lot.

We have a great time, for sure. Maureen’s twenty-something son is very patient with us when he’s helping us with the videos. We are grateful for his patience, his directing skills and especially his mad editing skills. I know it’s hard to believe, but sometimes, we get carried away when we’re talking, and he has to reign us in. We can turn a three minute video into 15 minutes of chat, so he has to edit a lot. Lots of times, he has given us the “wrap it up” sign, and when he turns off the camera, we all laugh. Seeing our chats on video, I’ve realized some things: Maureen is especially talented with her sense of humor. She comes up with the best one-liners. I’m definitely the squirrel chaser, so Maureen has to get me back on topic. I’m the long, drawn-out storyteller. Come to think of it, I’m probably the reason our chats run long. I should apologize to her son, our director/editor.


Maureen has four children, ranging in age from 14 to a second year law student…three boys and a girl. I have one child…a 15-yr-old girl. Together, we cover a lot of topics, and we offer different perspectives. Maureen is from the north, and I’m from the Deep South. She went to a highbrow, liberal arts college. I went to a big state university. We’ve had different experiences, but we are great friends.

So far, we have discussed some parenting parenting dilemmas: children flying alone; shopping with teenage girls; Homecoming proposals; being nice; high school sports; being the new mom at school; and summer reading. There are more videos to come, but since it’s not our day job, we have to make them when it’s convenient. We are having a great time! It’s a good excuse for us to get together!

This past weekend, my nephew visited with a friend, and the friend (she’s 22) told me she loves the Been There Moms site! Yay! We have a young fan who isn’t even a mom! According to my nephew, his friend watches our videos regularly and walks around saying, “We’re the Been There Moms!” Seriously, I was so excited, and when I saw Maureen at my daughter’s field hockey game Friday afternoon, I could hardly wait to tell her: our young fan thinks we’re funny! I guess it’s not just for moms anymore! Anyone who knows me knows I love a good audience.

So, here’s the deal: we are always looking for new topics to discuss. I have a running list, and Maureen does too, but we would love folks to send us some topics to discuss. Check out our Been There Moms Facebook page here; like the page, and then send us a message or comment with some topics! We would love to hear from you! And who knows? If you offer up a good topic, we might invite you to be a guest on our “show”!



My Favorite Hostess Gift Ideas

We’re getting closer to spring…Mother’s Day, graduations, and summer weddings are just around the corner.

That means spring brunches, teas, and bridal showers. When I attend a brunch or tea in someone’s home, I like to take a small token of appreciation to the hostess…a hostess gift. There are times I’ve had to grab something on the way, but other times, I’ve done the smart thing and planned ahead. It’s best to tailor the gift to the recipient.

Wine is often a good hostess gift, but sometimes I like to mix it up. Some of my favorite ideas for hostess gifts are listed below. Some of my friends and I love to drink Champagne and Prosecco, simply because it turns any gathering into a celebration. For any of those friends, I feel like the on-the-go Champagne cocktail kit I included below would be a fabulous hostess gift. Do you have friends who cook? There’s something listed. Friends with a sense of humor? It’s here too. Friends who appreciate art? Yep..it’s there. Friends who wash their hands? Oh yeah…that’s all-encompassing. The prices are right on all of these favorites, and they would delight any hostess.

Here are a few of my favorite ideas for Hostess Gifts:

HAND PAINTED COASTERS BY KAIT WREN ART Everybody needs coasters in their home, and these are custom made by Alyssa Wrensted of Demopolis, Alabama. A friend introduced me to her work during the holidays. I gave some of these as hostess gifts for holiday parties, and every one was well-received. Each of her creations is one of a kind, and she also has custom wall hangings. Tell her what colors and shapes you want, and she can customize coasters or wall hangings at great prices. All her coasters and wall hangings are hand painted and glazed. You can see her work online at her etsy shop by clicking hereCheck out her work on Facebook here. Prices start at $25 for a set of four coasters. Tell her Kelly Mattei sent you!


SUGARFINA W&P DESIGN CHAMPAGNE COCKTAIL KIT I love this little kit from Sugarfina, the candy store for grownups. This on-the-go champagne cocktail kit includes small batch elderflower syrup, jigger, bar spoon, linen coaster, and Champagne gummy bears and is just $25. Add a split of your favorite Champagne or Prosecco, and it makes a cute gift for any hostess! A friend gave me one, and I love it so much, I want to share the joy of the Champagne cocktail! I discovered Sugarfina a few years ago in Beverly Hills, and one visit to the store sold me on their products. They offer gummies in lots of different flavors, chocolates, gift sets, and they’ve partnered with Tito’s vodka for a special line. Everything about Sugarfina is beautiful, especially their packaging…from their bento boxes to their bags. Sugarfina makes a lovely gift. Right now, the Champagne cocktail kit is sold out on the Sugarfina website, but you can get it at Neiman Marcus by clicking here.

ANNE TAINTOR TEA TOWELS Priced at just $11 each, these tea towels from the hilarious Anne Taintor line are always a hit for a hostess gift. They’re colorful and expressive…and did I mention hilarious? With classic pictures of women from a bygone era doing chores or lounging, they say what we sometimes think. One of my favorites depicts a woman with an oven in the background and says, “You’ll never forget to turn off the oven…if you never turn it on.” If you’re attending a brunch or party at the home of a friend with a good sense of humor, this could be the perfect hostess gift. You can purchase these here.

OLIVE THIS! OLIVE OILS I will admit that when this store first opened in the Piper Glen Shopping Center on Rea Road in South Charlotte, I thought these people must be nuts. How in the world would they sell enough olive oil to stay in business? I’m happy to report I was wrong, because they have been around for a while now. I’ve purchased their oils and received them as gifts, and they are unbelievably good. They have fused oils and infused oils, vinegars, and gift packages. If you don’t know the difference between a fused oil and and infused oil, you’re not alone. It is explained in detail on their website. I’ve had several different ones…the Rosemary one has great flavor. You can purchase in their store, or purchase online here.

CLAUS PORTO GUEST SOAP WHITE BOX These soaps are infused with shea butter, so they soften as they clean. They also are beautifully packaged. Claus Porto has been making handmade soaps for more than 130 years, and they have perfected the art. A friend gave me this box as a gift, and it was so pretty, I almost hated to open it. Of course, I also wanted to use these gorgeous-colored soaps, so I had to open them. Priced at $23, they almost look like gourmet candies lined up in the box! Your hostess will love this gift and likely invite you to more soirees in hopes of getting another box! You can purchase these at Claus Porto online by clicking here.

I’m stocking up now for spring events. I’ve ordered two of each item to use as hostess gifts this spring, and I even ordered an extra of each for myself!

Brunches and showers and parties! Oh my!

Bring on Spring!


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