We Survived the Elf

We survived the elf.

Our daughter is 17. When she was a little girl…not sure how old, maybe six or seven…”the elf” appeared at our house. You know…the elf who appears the day after Thanksgiving and stays till Santa takes him/her home with him on Christmas Eve? That elf.

“It will be fun,” my friends said, and they got elves too.

And honestly, it was fun.

For those who are not familiar with The Elf on the Shelf, I will get you up to speed. Parents of small children purchase the elf and pretend it magically appears the day after Thanksgiving…sent by Santa to watch the children and report back nightly to the North Pole. The kids are not allowed to touch the elf, because he will lose his magic. He “magically” flies back to the North Pole every night while the kids are asleep to report to Santa, and when he returns, he lands in a different spot in the house…sometimes doing something mischievous or bringing a small gift. But the big deal is that every morning, he will be somewhere different when the kids wake up, so they have to look for him in the house. At first, it’s a lot of fun trying to come up with new hiding places and new fun ideas…till you forget one night.

Imagine this: kid wakes up and walks downstairs to find the elf hasn’t moved from where he was the day before. The kid is horrified that his elf hasn’t moved and questions the parents about the authenticity of the story behind the elf. Parents have to think on their feet. I came up with this: Oh, honey, it was so foggy last night! The elf couldn’t go back to the North Pole in dense fog! Too dangerous! I’m sure he will go back tonight!

Fast forward to about 2am the next day when I woke up and realized I hadn’t moved the elf again. My pulse rate quickened, and I jumped out of bed to try to hurry up and quietly move the elf…yep, 2am. Don’t even ask how long it took me to go back to sleep.

These things happened all the time at our house. I would forget to move the damn elf and have to come up with another excuse. Here’s a list in case you need it for a future elf fail:

  • There’s the first excuse: the fog was too dense. (LIE)
  • It stormed during the night, but you (kid) didn’t hear it. (LIE)
  • Air traffic had planes backed up in the Charlotte area, so it was too dangerous for him to try to get out past all those planes. (LIE)
  • He must think this hiding place is extra special. (LIE)
  • I think he fell asleep, because he was so tired from flying back and forth the last few nights. (LIE)

Seriously, even little kids will question those lame excuses, but they got me through the situation.

But having to hide one elf wasn’t enough. People gave her elves as gifts! At first, she questioned how people could just give them as gifts…she thought they magically appeared, so I had to explain…after we put him on the shelf the first night, he will get his magic during the night and fly back and forth to the North Pole. But that meant I had more than one elf to move and hide creatively.

Oh, it got more complicated. Our young child started writing notes to her various elves with questions. “Do you have a boyfriend?” “Do you have a girlfriend?” “What is your favorite food?” What is your favorite drink?” “Do you have a pet?” “Who is your best friend?” Oh, the questions went on and on, and she expected answers to every question the next morning. So, as a good mom, I had to sit down and come up with a different handwriting for each elf before I went to bed at night…and I had to remember which elf had which handwriting! Insanity…but yes, a small child would notice a discrepancy in the handwriting. Not kidding…

And to make things more complicated, she heard the elves brought gifts to some children, so of course, there had to be gifts. I went to Target and stocked up on every candy and cheap trinket I could find.

The elves had to be mischievous too. They spilled sugar or flour everywhere. They hid in candy bowls. They went ziplining between the banisters on the stair balcony. They wrote words with toothpaste. They even “came in like a wrecking ball.” I know there are some people who think I shouldn’t be proud of that one…but I’m proud of that one. One elf was sitting on an aluminum foil wrecking ball hung by yarn from our oven door…Miley Cyrus-style. And embarrassingly, our daughter knew exactly what it was. Don’t judge.

One year, at about Thanksgiving, before any elves had arrived for the season, my daughter came running into the kitchen, where I was cooking, with an elf in her hand! She had found it in my nightstand drawer and was confused. “Mommy? Look what I found in your drawer?” I’m good. I’m really good. Without batting an eye, I exclaimed, “He’s here! It’s magic! He knew you were going to look in that drawer tonight! He’s magic!” She bought it…hook, line, and sinker.

But the first year, when we had just one elf, heartbreak struck when we had our daughter’s bedroom painted. We bagged up all her “babies,” the stuffed animals she had collected over her lifetime and put them in the garage for “safe keeping” till the room was finished. No big deal…except, somehow, the bag got thrown away. The heartbreak was real when we discovered it. The tears! She was heartbroken, but I was too…so many memories. I had no idea how some of the “babies” would ever be replaced, but fortunately, I had photos of most of them. I got on eBay that night and started searching…and purchasing. I went anywhere and everywhere I could online to find replacements that night. I know…silly…but right then, it was important. And fortunately, I even had duplicates of a couple of special ones hidden away. So that night, after our daughter fell asleep, I got one of the duplicates from a trunk in the attic and propped it up with her elf for her to find the next morning.

When our daughter woke up and came downstairs the next morning…all puffy-eyed from crying so much before bed…she walked around looking for her elf. He was sitting on the sofa in the living room…with the duplicate rag doll that was identical to something that had been accidentally thrown away. When she found them, her face lit up…and she actually cried tears of joy! And so did I. Eventually, most of the babies were replaced by the elf over the course of the next couple of weeks. She really believed in her elf after that!

We were thankful we had the elf that first year, even though I woke up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night numerous times when I realized I hadn’t moved the elf. His ability to make those “babies” reappear earned him a special place in my heart. And it earned him a special place in our daughter’s heart too.

He was so special, in fact, that after opening gifts and having family lunch on Christmas Day, our daughter just didn’t seem herself. I sat her down and asked if something was wrong. Was she disappointed with her Christmas gifts? And she broke down in tears! She explained to me that no, she wasn’t disappointed with her gifts; she was sad her elf had gone back with Santa!

And you know what I did. I broke every elf rule. I comforted her for a while, and then I went into the kitchen and had a word with my husband, explaining to him that I needed him to go get the elf out of my nightstand drawer when I gave him the cue…and he needed to place it on the dining room table. Oh, I was thinking on the fly. I went back into the living room and told our daughter…so sweet…that since it was still Christmas Day, she could make a Christmas wish, and it might come true. Maybe she should make a wish that he would come back? I got a candle and told her to close her eyes and make a wish, then blow out the candle…close her eyes again and count to 20…slowly. While she did all that, my husband was quietly retrieving the elf and placing it in the dining room. We were breaking all the rules, but who wants to have a desperately unhappy child on Christmas Day?!?! I know…it could have been a valuable teaching moment…whatever. When she opened her eyes, I told her to see if her wish had come true. When she found that elf in the dining room, you’d have thought she had found Santa himself! We had more tears…of joy. And because it was after Christmas, we let her hold that damn elf for the rest of the day. I think he might have even slept in her bed that night. But I told her he could only stay for one more month, and he would likely stay in one place the whole time.

Whew! That was long ago. Go ahead…I get 30 lashes with a wet noodle for breaking every elf rule, but desperate times call for desperate measures. And really…was she harmed psychologically by any of it? No. Does she still believe in the elf at 17? No. In fact, a couple of years ago, a neighbor/friend posted a photo of her child’s elf that had accidentally melted when it was placed too close to a lamp. She put out a desperate plea to see if someone had an elf that looked like it. Guess who did?!?! We did! I asked my daughter if I could give it to them, and she was thrilled to get to save the day! I called my friend and said, “Come get it! It’s yours!” If you have an elf and hate it, just know you’ll get some good memories out of it. One day, you’ll look back on it fondly. And if you need some elf ideas, here are a few pics of some things we did back in the day…

Need Gift Ideas for Mom?

Mother’s Day is May 12. Need some gift ideas? What is the perfect Mother’s Day gift?

Ask different moms, and you will get different answers. Some want jewelry. Some want flowers. Some want to spend time with their families, while others would want to have  time alone…in the form of a massage or a facial. Or maybe they just want to be alone.

I’ll tell you what I want for Mother’s Day. I want to have some time with my family over brunch on Mother’s Day, and I’d like to have some time to just hang out with my 15-yr-old daughter with no distractions…maybe check into a local hotel for one night, find some movies or sports to watch on TV, and order room service. That would be a great gift…hint, hint.

On Mother’s Day, every year, we go to brunch as a family at our country club. I make the reservation well in advance and select a table for us on the terrace…the indoor terrace. I don’t want to have to battle the elements…sun? rain? wind? bugs? I’ll stay indoors for brunch, thank you. One year, when the club was undergoing renovations, we had brunch in a big tent outside on the back patio of the club. There was live music, and it was beautiful, but it was a little warm. The food was great. The atmosphere was great, but I don’t like sweating while I dine. I’m glad that renovation is done.

I’ve spoken with some of my friends about how they would spend their ideal Mother’s Day, and here are some of the answers:

  • Sleep in. Breakfast (with hot coffee) in bed. Go for a mani/pedi later in the day with friends.
  • Have friends over with their families to swim in the backyard pool and cook out.
  • Spend the night in a hotel alone the night before and then brunch with the family.
  • Go to an afternoon movie with some other mom friends and go out for dinner with them afterward.

And when I asked my friends about Mother’s Day gifts, almost all of them said no gift was required…but it’s nice. That’s how I feel.

If you need some Mother’s Day gift ideas, here are a few I’ve found in my shopping adventures over the past few months:

  • Good Measure Cocktail Recipe Pitcher. Y’all, I’m not kidding when I say this is pure genius. Like to make summer cocktails by the pitcher? Well, you need this pitcher to help make them just right! I got one for myself and then purchase another one as a gift recently. I think they are great! In fact, I might get mine out and use it today. Get it at Amazon here.
  • Bathrobe. I know…it sounds boring, but no one wants to buy themselves a bathrobe. Get her a really good quality one…maybe one from her favorite luxury hotel? If she doesn’t have a favorite luxury hotel, then you can find a great one here. the-ritz-carlton-waffle-terry-robe-rtz-404-01_lrg
  • Live Plants. If she is into gardening, you might get her some live plants to add to her garden. If not, most people enjoy having some live plants indoors. Personally, I would love it if I came home from brunch and my husband planted a few tomato plants for me on Mother’s Day. Last year, he planted them, and I took care of them, and it turned out to be a great combination. We had tomatoes galore! Nobody loves homegrown tomatoes more than I do.IMG_3414
  • Patio Furniture. This doesn’t necessarily mean a whole patio of furniture, though mine needs replacing now. My mother had a favorite chair on her patio. I’d like to have my chair on the patio. (But I also need all the other seating to be replaced.)IMG_3413
  • Photo book. I’ve been a prolific Shutterfly.com customer for years, and if I had been smart over the past 15 years, I would have asked my husband and daughter to make me a custom photo book on the website for the past 15 years. In fact, I will be asking them to do that this year. You can make photo books on Shutterfly.com here.
  • Jewelry. I don’t need a lot of jewelry, but some moms are really into the jewelry. If she has a Pandora bracelet, they make Mother’s Day charms. Tiffany.com has a Mother’s Day gift guide, with prices for jewelry starting at $135…and you know they are quality gifts.IMG_3416
  • Baked By Melissa. I’m a sucker for these bite-sized treats. If you’re not familiar with them, you can see them here. They have special Mother’s Day gift boxes…just order online and have them shipped directly to Mom! And they are delicious.

Don’t forget…Mother’s Day is May 12. Make brunch reservations and order gifts now. You’ll be ahead of the curve, and you won’t find yourself scrambling for a way to honor Mom on the big day.

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