A Knack For Unique Gifts…A Valentine’s Day Story

By:  Marianna Boyce  

“Who’s the Best in All the Land?”

Does Someone Hear a Marching Band?

image3For me, Valentine’s Day is like most other holidays.  We shouldn’t wait for a specific date on the calendar to be thankful, patriotic, giving, or loving.  We would all better benefit to celebrate these wonderful qualities on a daily basis.

Holiday or not, my husband Gerry has a knack for giving very unique gifts.  The gift he gave me in 2004 is by far, the most unique gift ever!  Stay with me a minute.  There’s a backstory.

It was my son’s sophomore year in high school.  Cody was also a marching band member.  As band parents, we chaperoned most of their trips and events.  It was no surprise when we were asked to help with their Disney trip that year.  I would be responsible for twelve students and Gerry would have thirteen.

Days before our departure, I was busy packing for our trip.  I didn’t even think about being in the Magic Kingdom for Valentine’s Day, but someone else certainly did.

Once we arrived at Disney’s All-Star Music Resort, we met our group for breakfast.  It image1was February 14, and I was still oblivious to the fact it was Valentine’s Day.  We distributed their breakfast vouchers and told them to meet us back at a popular place near the castle at noon.  This was when we would give them their lunch vouchers and verify our that group was all still alive and accounted for.

The funny thing is, instead of venturing away from us, they all stuck with us like glue.  You should’ve seen the expression on the ride attendant’s face when he asked how many, and our response was twenty-seven!  He actually accommodated us so we could all ride together.

When we exited the ride, we saw two students from another group.

They ran toward me shouting, “Mrs. Boyce, Mrs. Boyce!”  My heart was pounding because I thought someone was hurt.

When they got to me, a young lady handed me a small envelope and said “This is for you.  Happy Valentine’s Day.”  They both ran off giggling.

Our large group of clingy high school students knew exactly what it was.  It was one of those small childish Valentine cards you would buy for your second grader.  I flipped the card over and read the sweetest note on the back from my dear husband.  I also read it aloud for the kids.  They loved it as much as I did.  Of course, I saved them and thought I’d share a few with you.  If you zoom in, you can read one or two as well.

image2What I didn’t know at the time was that Gerry had purchased several boxes of these childish “Will you be my Valentine” cards.  He wrote on each one, sealed them, and secretly handed them out to about 50 of the band members at breakfast that morning.  He instructed them to hand deliver these personal handwritten cards from him, if and when they saw me throughout the day.

About every 15 minutes, I had a random band member running up with excitement they had found me.  It was like a wild goose chase for them (I was the wild goose)!

I received cards that entire day and well into the evening.  I felt like a Disney Princess!

Gerry’s goal involving the students in the fun was for an important teachable moment: material things are not needed to make someone feel special.  For me, this gift is the best and most unique in our 31 years of marriage…and it only cost him about $8.00.  The effect?  Priceless!

image4Thoughtful gifts for no particular reason are great; however, this unique gift wouldn’t have worked well on say… April 8th.  It had to be given on February 14… at Disney World… by 50 of our awesome 2004 band students.  “Who’s the best in all the land?  White Knoll High School Marching Band…” along with my very loving and thoughtful husband!

 

This year, my gift to Gerry is being able to share this true and very unique story with the world!

 Happy Valentine’s Day Sweetie! 

 I Love You!

 

 

Our Lucky Collards

By Shannon Boatwright

img_1063It’s the new year, and we’re all eager to kick start our year with positive thoughts, wishes and goals of good health, abundant happiness, and financial security. One of my traditions is to cook a new year meal that “promotes” and “represents” all these things. Black eyed peas, collards, pork chops/ham, cornbread, and grapes are the staples for our good luck meal. My favorite is the collards. I always like to buy my collards from local farmers: they’re the best, the real deal, and even the most affordable.

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Over the years, family members and friends have taught me all sorts of tips and tricks to making the best collards ever. These tricks range from making sure to wash the collards 3 times (I wash mine 4 times and use some vinegar when I do the last two washes), to cutting the collards into the shape of dollar bills (I like to pretend mine are $100 bills), to putting chunks of ham in the collards as they cook.

I like to cook two batches. For one (my favorite), I just use chicken broth, good ole Lawry’s seasoning, fresh garlic cloves, salt, and pepper. This year we actually had some leftover ham, so I put some ham chunks in as they cooked to add to the flavor. The other batch I make super spicy, with pepper, crushed red pepper, garlic salt, and whatever our favorite hot sauce is at the time –whether it’s Sriracha hot sauce or Tapatio’s hot sauce.  The collards are always my favorite part of the meal because it’s something I typically end up cooking literally only once a year.

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This year I scored a total win with my parents. I actually got my Dad, who has always claimed to not care for any cooked greens, to try my collards. I had to do a little convincing, but he loves spicy things, and I think when he saw my spicy collards cooking, he couldn’t resist. Let’s just say, I got him to come around, and he officially admitted that he likes my collards! Plus, my Mama declared that my regular collards were the best she’d ever had!

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Though there has been a bit of a collards shortage this year due to the hurricanes and cold weather, you can still find some. And guess what, if you didn’t get your good luck new year meal in yet, it’s still January, so you’ve got time! I’d love to hear about any cool, good luck foods you and your family eat to bring in the new year, so do share!

Here’s to a new year full of wealth! Wealth in health, happiness, and money!

Time to Kiss and Make Up

By: Jeanne Reynolds

The company I work for has locations in both the United States and the United Kingdom. As our communications team worked together last week deciding what kind of internal story to do for the Fourth of July, I started to feel awkward. I mean, there we were talking with our British colleagues about celebrating a holiday that says, to them, “Nyah, nyah, nyah!”

OK, it’s been more than 240 years since that ugly parting of the ways and most people on both sides of the Big Pond would agree we’re now BFFs. So I thought let’s look at it another way: the great gifts each culture has given to the other and things we love about each other.

That led to some pretty interesting research. For example, American as apple pie? Umm, not so much. We can thank the early English settlers for bringing that to our shores. And if, like me, you think everyone in England enjoys a big roast goose on Christmas (hello, Charles Dickens), then we’re both a little outdated. Brits long ago went cold (well, hot) turkey and adopted America’s native bird for their feasts.

And there’s so much more to love. The British sent us the Beatles and Cary Grant. We shared Elvis and Paul Newman. One of theirs invented the World Wide Web, one of ours created Google. We gave them the magic of Disney and they gave us the delight of Downton Abbey. We both love Jane Austen (theirs) as much as Mark Twain (ours). We’re equally dazzled by the royal family and Hollywood celebrities.

If two of the greatest powers on earth can successfully move past a tumultuous past to a shared future, I wonder if we as individuals can do the same in our own relationships. Of course, a couple hundred years and fighting side-by-side in a couple of world wars surely smoothed the way for the U.S. and the U.K. to become pals. Still, it’s hopeful to think bitter divorces, gut-wrenching breakups and long-standing family rifts could eventually evolve into more cordial relationships and mutual appreciation.

For now, hurry up and cut me a piece of that apple pie. There’s an old Cary Grant movie about to come on and I don’t want to miss it.

4 Healthy Recipes to Try This Independence Day

By: Kristen Nida, Guest Contributor

Hosting a Fourth of July celebration this year? You’ll have to try these four quick and easy recipes for your holiday festivities. Not only do they take little time to prepare, leaving you more time to enjoy with your family and friends, but they are also healthy!

Barbecue Pulled Chicken: A Fourth of July cookout isn’t complete without barbecue.
This BBQ pulled chicken recipe is a unique reinterpretation of pulled pork that slow-cooks chicken in tangy tomato sauce. Whether served over mashed potatoes or served as a sandwich, it is sure to be a hit. Click here for the recipe.

Creamy Spinach Dip: This healthy, fresh take on classic spinach dip is irresistible.
The low-fat ingredients in this tasty recipe will save you over 80 calories in each serving. This versatile dip can be served with pita chips, fresh vegetables, or even spread over a sandwich. There is an option for everyone! Click here for the recipe.

Red, White & Blue Popsicles: This easy, 3-step recipe is as quick to prepare as it is tasty to eat.
Juicy raspberries and blueberries are in season and this recipe takes full advantage of that. The natural sweetness of these fruity popsicles is unbeatable and the colors scream Independence Day, perfect for the occasion. Click here for the recipe.

S’mores Banana Ice Cream: The lightest, quickest “ice cream” you will ever prepare!
S’mores, bananas, and ice cream are each so delicious on their own. The only way to make them better is to combine them into one tasty treat! The best thing about this recipe is it takes only four minutes to create this dessert for your family and friends to enjoy. Click here for the recipe.

Local, Family-Friendly Fourth of July Celebrations!

By: Meg Cowan, Guest Contributor

The Fourth of July holiday isn’t complete without a celebration! From running a 5k, to enjoying a parade, or even boating on Lake Murray, there are tons of local family-friendly options. This Fourth of July, kick back at the following Independence Day events in the Midlands:

Lake Murray’s Star Spangled Celebration
July 1, Annual Boat Parade starts at 12 pm

Spend a day on Lake Murray, beginning with a festive boat parade. Fireworks start at approximately 9:15PM, launched from both Dreher Island and Spencer Island.

https://www.lakemurraycountry.com/things-to-do/events/columbia/Lake-Murray-Fireworks-Celebrations

Star-Spangled Symphonic Salute by the Lake Murray Symphony Orchestra
July 3, 8 pm at Saluda Shoals Park

An evening of patriotic music and fireworks with the Lake Murray Symphony Orchestra!

https://www.lmso.org/star-spangled-symphonic-salute

Born in the USA Four Miler in Columbia, SC
July 4, Race starts at 7 am

Compete in a four-mile race around Forest Acres Lake and Golf Course!

http://www.strictlyrunning.com/BUSA/index.html#Participantinformation

59th Annual Lexington County Peach Festival
July 4, 9 am to 11 pm at the Gilbert Community Park on Rikard Circle in Gilbert S.C.
Fireworks at 10 pm, field behind Gilbert Primary School

Featuring a parade, recipe contests, live entertainment, fireworks and, of course, peaches!

http://www.lexingtoncountypeachfestival.com

Independence Day Fireworks at Lexington County Blowfish Baseball Games
Games July 3 & 4

Watch the Lexington County Blowfish play some ball, and stay for the celebratory Fourth of July fireworks at the end of the game!

http://www.goblowfishbaseball.com

Love Is in the Air – or Is It in the Wallet?

By: Azure Stilwell

Valentine's Day

It’s that time of year, the time where couples celebrate being a couple and single people try to find ways to avoid the day altogether. Valentine’s Day is not a favorite holiday of mine. I find it to be very commercialized and overrated. My husband and I have a hard enough time remembering our anniversary, so forget about Vday. I know those who are in romantic, loving relationships just cringed at the thought of letting a chance to get flowers go by, but I have a funny story about that.

My husband and I had been married a couple of years when for the first time ever he decided to send me flowers for Valentine’s Day. He sent me beautiful roses, a complete surprise because we don’t buy into the holiday or flowers for that matter. I decided to call and thank him. He proceeded to tell me it was a complete spur-of-the-moment decision (which probably means his coworkers were discussing what they had bought and he felt bad) He then went on to let me know that he looked at his bank account and realized he didn’t have enough to cover the cost, so I had to transfer money to his account. It was probably one of the funniest and most “us” moments we have ever had. We still laugh about it every Valentine’s Day!

We decided long ago we are just not mushy romantic people. We are more practical, in the way I find it so attractive when he folds the laundry and he loves it when I cook him dinner. For us, those little things are as – if not more – romantic than the big things.

So for all of you single people out there dreading this holiday, just know that not all couples buy into the hype. And if that doesn’t make you feel better, then buy yourself some flowers and call it a day – but make sure you have the funds to cover it first! 🙂

Make a Joyful Noise

By: Jeanne Reynolds

christmas carols

My husband has a great singing voice. As a teenager, he even turned down an opportunity to go pro with a barbershop group in favor of going to college. (Did I say he has good judgment, too?) My voice isn’t as strong, but I have a good ear for pitch and sing capably in the alto section in my church choir.

So this time of year, as carols and old favorites fill the airwaves, it’s not unusual for us to sing along with the radio — or even a capella — as we drive over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house or wherever. And we make a pretty good duet, if I do say so myself … with one exception.

No, it’s not “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.” We can nail that, and don’t even get us started on the kids’ version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” with the funny asides between lines.

It’s “The First Noel.” Yep, plain ole kindergarten-easy “The First Noel.” Not the whole song, though, just the chorus:

“NOEL, NOEL, NOEL, NOEL!” 

The louder, the more off-key, the more obnoxious, the better. It’s a family joke with a story behind it that I’ve long forgotten, which doesn’t make it any less funny … at least to us. In fact, we can barely get out the first two “Noel”s before we’re laughing so hard we can’t sing. Others along for the ride and hearing this, ahem, performance for the first time are somewhere between bewildered and stunned, and I’m sure would leap from the car if it weren’t moving.

This is the stuff of holiday memories! Our unholy chorus holds a place of honor in my heart, right alongside my famous gingerbread men, the hush of candlelight at Christmas Eve service and the hunt for bows the cats have stolen off beautifully (until then) wrapped packages under the tree. No, it’s not the pitch-perfect Norman Rockwell moments I’ll always remember. Rather, it’s the quirky, unique, only-family-and-your-best-friends-could-appreciate-it times that make holidays memorable. I’ll bet — I hope — you have some, too.

We haven’t had a sing-along yet this season, but I’m sure it’s coming. Don’t know when — Christmas is full of surprises, right? So now you have fair warning. If you’re around us and hear the opening notes of “The First Noel,” leave quickly — or better, yet, join in!