The Gift That Keeps On Giving…

By Stacy Thompson

As an obsessed Gamecock fan, the only thing I love more than the game itself is the tailgate before, and usually, after!  Even the set-up and take-down are entertaining, as I channel my inner ‘pit-crew’ to improve on my time from the week before, while doing my best interpretation of a real-life Tetris game as I methodically pack the tents, chairs, tables, more chairs and TV into the back of my SUV.  Although we take great pride in our tailgate food, my favorite part is the chance to catch up with friends and just enjoy the atmosphere surrounding the stadium.  Our tailgate invitations basically have no limits, and are usually RSVP’ed with the standard question – “What can I bring?”

Typically I reply and say, “Nothing, just yourself!” but recently I was a guest at another rabid fan’s tailgate and started thinking about all of the things I could have brought my host/hostess.  Maybe it’s the Southerner in us, but I think most people do not like to join a social gathering empty-handed, so here are some suggestions if you’re tagging along at a tailgate or possibly attending one of many holiday parties this season.

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Best to bring:

  • Cookies – (store-bought more than acceptable) – everyone loves cookies!
  • Brownies – same reason
  • Boiled peanuts – usually available around the stadium; mixed nuts or roasted peanuts are always welcome
  • Flowers – yes, I said flowers – I’ve only had one person bring these to a tailgate, but it really brightened my day – so I’m going to add flowers to this list even though it may possibly be in violation of the Official Tailgating Rules (I’m sure there are some out there)
  • Your own beverages – you know what you like and unless you are a mainstream water-drinker, then your host/hostess may not have something to your liking – this goes double if you are one of those “Cherry Vanilla Caffeine-Free Diet Coke” people
  • Nothing – yes, this is contrary to the actual point of this blog post, but sometimes it really is OK not to bring anything – but your empty hands can be put to good use in the set-up or clean-up! As a hostess, I truly appreciate anyone who will hang out before or after the game and help out!

Best NOT to bring:

  • Prepared dishes/dips/desserts, particularly if they have to be kept hot or cold – if the host/hostess has planned the meal, he/she has also planned how to keep each dish hot or cold – don’t add to it!
  • Dips without chips or crackers – if you make a dip, bring the chip/cracker that the dip is served with – I know that sounds basic, but I have several unused jars of salsa in my fridge as a result of that oversight
  • Competing dishes – by that I mean, if your host/hostess sends out a menu featuring chili, then for goodness sake, don’t bring your ‘world-famous, can’t-tell-you-the-recipe-or-I’d-have-to-kill-you’ chili – and while we’re on the subject, you can tell anyone who will listen how amazing your chili recipe is, just don’t do it in earshot of your host/hostess and certainly not while you’re stuffing your face with the ‘inferior’ chili

Happy Tailgating Everyone!

New Christmas Traditions

By: Rachel Sircy

My husband and daughter and I are in Ohio visiting my family for the holidays. On the way up we listened to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, read by Patrick Stewart. I’ve seen several different movie versions of A Christmas Carol and my husband and I listen to the book on CD every Christmas that we drive up to Ohio. Needless to say, it’s a story that I know a-christmas-carolpretty well, and I’m pretty sure that anyone reading this blog post will be equally familiar with it. Most years that we watch the movies or listen to the book read aloud, I think of it as just one of those quintessential Christmas stories, one of those stories that’s told so often that Scrooge and Humbug and the Spirit of Christmas have become bywords in our culture.

For some reason as we listened to it this time, the story’s bizarre nature struck me like a blow to the head. It’s a Christmas horror story, really. I mean, the parts about ghosts wailing and rattling their chains is fairly reminiscent of hell. I started to wonder why on earth Dickens decided to tell a story about Christmas in this way, and why the public ate it up in the way that they did. How did this weird little spook story become such an inseparable part of our modern idea of Christmas?

According to Wikipedia (the source of all knowledge) Dickens wanted to use people’s awakened interested in Christmas (in his day Christmas traditions were changing; Christmas trees were becoming popular as were Christmas cards) to promote awareness of poverty and social injustice. So, he created a strange story about a tight-fisted misanthrope being scared straight just in time for him to spread some Christmas cheer.

I have said all of the above to say that I have been thinking about the new Christmas tradition that Dickens created, and that has got me to thinking about creating new Christmas traditions of my own. Since my daughter – I’ll call her HRH (short for Her Royal Highness) – was born, I have been trying to find ways to simplify the holidays, honor the memories of loved ones, and teach HRH the true “reason for the season.” Here are three new traditions, two I have tried and one I want to try next year.

  1. Homemade Christmas Gifts: One way that I have been trying to simplify Christmas is to make each child on my list a gift rather than just buying a billion toys that will get thrown into the corner to collect dust after the child plays with them for a week. I want each child in my family circle to have something meaningful, something that Mommy or Aunt Rachel made them that they can keep and pass down. The work that goes into a homemade gift is personal. I think about each person as I make the gift, and that thought is part of the gift. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely buy a few toys as well, but my main gifts are almost always something I have made.
  2. Honoring Loved Ones: My husband’s grandmother passed away in 2012, and her passing was keenly felt by all the family. This year I wanted to revive a tradition that Grandma Sircy started during her lifetime – making a personalized ornament for each member of the family. I began this year with a simple project, wrapping styrofoam balls with fabric, yarn or tulle. I suppose this falls in the same category as the homemade gifts, but this particular homemade gift is really a tribute to Grandma Sircy – something to remind us of her.
  3. Making the story of Christmas come alive for children: My brother and sister-in-law found a Christmas activity on Pinterest that I absolutely love, Joseph and Mary on the Shelf. The idea behind this activity is basically the same idea behind Elf on the Shelf: you make it seem like toys (or Nativity set pieces) are moving around the house while the children are asleep. However, this particular version of this activity comes with the added bonus of teaching children the Christmas story. My brother and sister-in-law partially set up their Nativity scene, putting up the stable and adding the animals to it, BUT they left out Mary, Joseph, the Baby Jesus, the wise men and the shepherds. They began the month of December by reading their children the Christmas story from the Bible and that night and each night afterward, the children have to find Mary and Joseph who are somewhere in the house, making their way toward the stable in Bethlehem. One night, Mary and Joseph were found on the kitchen counter “eating” some of the kids’ chicken nuggets to sustain them for their continued journey. Mary and Joseph arrived in the stable on Christmas Eve and Jesus, the shepherds and wise men were waiting for them on Christmas morning.

So, these are my new Christmas traditions, ones that I hope will bring the spirit and the reason for this holiday season close to my family. If anyone has any traditions that they have created for their family, or that their parents created for them, I would love a comment about it!!

Suggested Reading: A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.

Buckeye Nuts

By: Rachel Sircy

buckeyes

If you ever want to get a hysterical laugh going in my family, especially around the holidays, just tell someone near to you that there are Buckeyes in the kitchen. This inside joke works best if my mother is just within earshot – my mother will become indignant and everyone else will start laughing.

The story behind this joke is the famous Christmas when our family was inundated with gifts of Buckeye candy from my mother’s friends. For those of you unfamiliar with this treat, Buckeye candy is made to look like the nut of a Buckeye tree. I don’t know how popular they are in South Carolina, but in my home state of Ohio (the Buckeye State) these chocolate peanut butter confections are the staple candy gift at the holidays. For some reason that Christmas my mother’s best friend and her husband decided to make countless dozens of them. When they realized they had more than they could handle, they foisted them off on us. We had candy coming out of our ears. My mother harassed the whole family and all of our guests that year trying to get us to eat the candy just so that she could be rid of it. By the end of the season we were so sick of chocolate we couldn’t stand to hear the word “Buckeye,” and still my mother harped, “Hey guys, if you have a sweet tooth, there are Buckeyes in the kitchen.” Nobody had anything resembling a sweet tooth for months after that Christmas.

Nevertheless, if you are looking for a delicious, easy to make edible gift, Buckeyes are great choice. The best part is that they are gluten free!

Since my family threw out all our recipes for Buckeye candy after the famous Buckeye candy incident of ’03, I am going to share a link to the Allrecipes website. This is a pretty authentic looking recipe and it will make quite a bit of candy.

Give the Gift of Receiving

By: Jeanne Reynolds

christmas season

The closest I got to shopping on Black Friday was a quick trip to the grocery store. (Downside of Thanksgiving dinner at someone else’s home: You don’t have a fridge full of leftovers to enjoy the rest of the weekend.)

Actually I must be missing a girl gene because I hate, detest, loathe shopping. Especially this time of year. My ideal Christmas shopping is more like a military maneuver: a lightning-fast surgical strike that identifies the target, removes it as quickly as possible and gets out.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t love giving. There’s no better feeling than seeing the delight on someone’s face when they receive something they truly wanted, or maybe didn’t even know they wanted and are surprised and thrilled.

Being able to share that feeling is also a gift — one that requires us to allow others to give.

And that seems to be difficult for many of us. Yes, gals, I’m talking to you, and to moms in particular. Genetic or cultural, most women I know are wonderful givers and caretakers, but sometimes struggle being on the receiving end.

christmas season

Case in point: My mom is 84 and lives nearby for the first time since I was in high school (we’re talking decades here). She’s a widow with a limited income and I’m half of a DINK household, so it’s fun to be able to treat her to lunch or tickets to the theater once in a while. When she comes to my home, I enjoy cooking for her and doing all the things she spent so many years doing for us.

The problem is she often has trouble accepting these “gifts.” She says it’s too much trouble for me, or I’m surely too tired, or she must pay half. I’ve tried to explain how happy it makes me to be able to give back to her, but I guess she’ll never stop feeling like she should be taking care of us. While I appreciate the love behind that, it does take a little of the joy out of giving for me.

I’m probably no different. How many times have I insisted I could handle a task myself instead of accepting sincere offers of help, or only accepting an invitation if I pay my share or contribute in some way? So, in the spirit of removing the plank from my own eye first, here are some mantras with which I’ll coach myself this holiday season (and beyond):

  • Thank you, I’d love to!
  • That would be wonderful. Thank you so much!
  • I really appreciate your help.

It’s a blessing to be able to give to others. And that includes giving others the chance to be givers, too.

3 Easy Steps for Sustainable Holiday Gifts

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: time to start shopping for holiday gifts. A shopper at heart, I love buying gifts for the special people in my life. As a “green girl,” I shop with sustainability in mind and wanted to share some tips so you, too, can be a more sustainable holiday shopper.

Think local. The Midlands area has really become a mecca for unique, locally produced items. One of the best locations for finding them all in one place is Soda City, Columbia’s Main Street market open every Saturday morning 9AM – 1PM, year-round, rain or shine. Recycled ornamentLocally produced products support the local economy, and they’re created here – not shipped in from across the country or even across the world. The footprint of your gift will be smaller and result in a cleaner environment.

Consider consumables. Having issues with clutter myself, I refuse to create more for the holidays, for me or for others. My standard gift is usually a recycled-content ornament, but this year I’m only buying gifts that can be used or eaten. The Cotton Mill Exchange at the SC State Museum has a great selection of Palmetto State gifts, including gourmet foods produced within our borders. Or select a gift card to a local restaurant, bakery or micro-brewery. Personally, I’ll be asking Santa for a gift certificate to Spotted Salamander, a downtown Columbia café featuring inventive Southern cuisine with fresh, high quality local ingredients.

Another favorite consideration? Think experiential. In the Midlands, it’s easy to find something for everyone on your list to enjoy, like tickets to a play or attraction you know they like. A donation in the name of your recipient will go a long way, too. At the top of my list is a membership to The Nickelodeon, Columbia’s art house theatre on Main Street.

Where is your favorite place to buy sustainable holiday gifts? And what is it you recommend there? What’s on your list for Sustainable Santa?

Old World Wonderful

By: Katie Austin

I recently came across a unique gift idea and just had to pass it along to my Every Woman Blog family!  I was on the hunt to find a wedding gift for my niece. I wanted it to be special- something that no one else would give them. It was during my trip to the City Market in Charleston, SC that I found what I was looking for and it was perfect!

I just love walking through the City Market and try to visit at least twice a year. As I perused the variety of items before me, I came across a booth for Old World Glass Studio. Their display of bottle creations caught my attention.

I had to walk over to get a closer look at the flattened bottles, which were standing upright with a wedding invitation attached to the back and with a small, decorated knife in the opening. They even went as far to add beading to the knife to match the invitation colors. I turned to my husband and said “This is perfect!”. And perfect it was, as it was a great way to capture the wedding invitation that the happy couple could display to remind them of their special day. They could be used as a cheese platter or simply put on display. I was so impressed that I am planning to dig out my wedding invitation to have one created!

The next time you are in Charleston be sure to stop by to check out their wonder work!  Or, you can visit their website or Facebook page at the links below.

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Old-World-Glass-Studio/127402493963820

Website: http://oldworldglassstudio.com/