Mother’s Day Gift Guide

By Leslie Dinaberg

Still struggling with what to buy your mom for Mother’s Day (or her birthday, or just to say “I love you” any time of the year, for that matter? Stress no more, here are a few things she’s sure to appreciate.

Once Upon a Book Club, courtesy photo.

Once Upon a Book Club, courtesy photo.

Put a new twist on her summer reading with a monthly subscription to Once Upon A Book Club! I loved this gift so much I bought it for both my mom and my mother-in-law (don’t tell …).  The way it works is you sign up for a monthly box to arrive at her front door.  You can do it once, or multiple times, it’s up to you.

Once Upon a Book Club, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Once Upon a Book Club, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

She’ll open the adorable book-shaped box and find the selected book, along with 3-5 perfectly wrapped gifts with page numbers.  They even have shredded book pages for stuffing. It’s so cute! Want to know what is in the gift? They are carefully curated to enhance the book.  For example, one of the characters in the story pulls out a magical stone from a leather bag at a heightened moment in the book. As mom reads this, she is signaled to open one of the gifts: a replica of the described stone (that’s actually a bar of soap) inside a useful/trendy leather purse!  You get the idea. It’s really fun!

Yummy Cupcakes in a Jar, courtesy photo.

Yummy Cupcakes in a Jar, courtesy photo.

Yummy Cupcakes are another favorite recent find. These are not your ordinary cupcakes (which she also probably loves), these are delicious gourmet cupcakes that come stacked four in a jar. The packaging is adorable (almost too pretty to eat), with flavors ranging from brown sugar cinnamon to French toast, nutty red velvet, Snickerdoodle and more. They even have a vegan version. I tried the Vegan Chocolate/Vanilla which was very tasty. And they deliver everywhere! 


Dear Heart Designs Jewelry, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Dear Heart Designs Jewelry, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Dear Heart Designs is a beautiful way to give your loved one with a necklace that will remind her how you feel about her every time she puts it on. The company is faith-inspired jewelry brand whose feminine yet minimalist pieces have garnered the attention of celebrity designer Joanna Gaines, among others. The You’re a Gem necklace (pictured) is one of my favorites, and they also have customized versions with the names of your children inscribed, or special messages with scripture verses just for mom.

The PediPocket Blanket, courtesy photo.

The PediPocket Blanket, courtesy photo.

For moms on the go, the PediPocket blanket is great for travel. These lightweight and easy to pack fleece blankets are nearly 6 feet long, so it covers her shoulders and her feet at the same time and a special 20” pocket keeps her feet extra warm and snuggly. With 10 different colors and patterns to choose from, these are actually great gifts for everyone in the family and are perfect for tailgate parties, beach barbecues, and outdoor concerts as well as on her next trip.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Originally published on May 11, 2018 in Santa Barbara Seasons.

Cocktail Corner: Popping the Cork for Mother’s Day


© Pac | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

© Pac | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg

One of my favorite things about Mother’s Day is that it’s a terrific excuse reason to have Champagne for breakfast.

Of course, you can do this anytime you want—and pretty, pretty please invite me over!—but on Mother’s Day, unless you’re visibly pregnant, no one looks at you strangely when you order a bottle of Champagne with your Eggs Benedict (which is a fabulous pairing, by the way).

But here’s an even better reason to toast mom with some bubbly this weekend: new research has just come out that three glasses of Champagne a week can help to improve your memory!

I have to say, this is probably my favorite Mother’s Day gift yet!

As reported by the international edition of The Drinks Business, “Scientists at Reading University say that a regular dose of bubbles can help in the fight against brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.”

They quote Jeremy Spencer, the biochemistry professor who led the research as saying, “Dementia probably starts in the 40s and goes on to the 80s. It is a gradual decline and so the earlier people take these beneficial compounds in champagne, the better.”

The earlier the better is right! Why wait till Sunday when you can pop that cork right now?

Apparently it’s the phenolic acid in the grapes that provides the memory boost.

This isn’t the first time that Champagne’s health benefits have made the news. reports that in 2009, research from the British Journal of Nutrition found that champagne has health benefits similar to those often attributed to red wine. “Sipping a few glasses of champagne may lower blood pressure and potentially reduce your risk of stroke and heart disease.”

And as early as 2007, an article published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reported findings that identify Champagne as a source of brain protection that may help protect the brain from the injuries common with Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and stroke. (

As if we needed yet another great reason to toast our moms this Mother’s Day, cheers to your health … and your mom!

Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

Leslie Dinaberg

When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie considers herself a “goal-oriented drinker.”

Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on May 10, 2013.

Happy Mother’s Day!

© Paha_l | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

© Paha_l | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

Given that I wrote a weekly newspaper column for almost a decade, I guess it’s no surprise that I’ve got a Mother Lode of columns about Mother’s Day. Here are a few of my favorites:

The Mother Lode, sometimes hearing just a little bit about someone else’s mother is all it takes to really appreciate your own.

My Secret Mother’s Day Wish for a remote control to stop time whenever I want to.

That Other Mother reflects on the reality that I was a much better mother before I actually had a child.

Mom’s the Word, Happy Mother’s Day, mom. This one’s for you.

Happy Mother’s Day!

My Secret Mothers Day Wish

© Peterkozikowski | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

© Peterkozikowski | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

For those of you who have no exposure to TV or calendars or school art projects, it may come as big news that Mother’s Day is coming up.

Now, I wouldn’t say no to being showered with diamonds, although I’d settle for a real shower alone for 10 minutes without someone interrupting me on an “urgent” matter. Candy and flowers would be good, just not sour worms and dandelions. However, what I really want this Mother’s Day is my very own remote control.

No, this isn’t one of those columns about men and their need to control the television remote — although my six-year-old son has mastered the picture-in-picture swap features and figured out how to TIVO every episode of the Power Rangers for the next 327 years. How is it that he still can’t figure out how to get his clothes off his body and into the hamper?

Anyway, what I want for Mother’s Day is that remote control that Adam Sandler has in his new movie, Click.

What a perfect gift.

The next time Koss chatters incessantly about Pokemon — seriously, the kid can go at least 10 minutes without taking a breath — I could simply push the mute button, and smile and nod and think about George Clooney. Or better yet, I could rewind to when Koss was a year old, just learning to talk, and I reveled in his every word.

Still better, I could rewind my life to the time I “just missed” meeting George Clooney at a party because I spent that extra 17 minutes changing outfits because I couldn’t decide what to wear when I met George Clooney. Of course every outfit I’ve ever owned would look ravishing, if I could just rewind my life to that one summer when my height was actually in perfect proportion for my weight.

Ah, the good old days.

I could rewind to 1986, and meet my husband during that legendary summer when he was “peaking,” and supposedly had better abs than George Clooney. That I’d like to see.

That I’d like to be able to even picture.

But enough of the past, my Mother’s Day remote would have a wicked fast forward that I could use to have written a novel, lost 20 pounds, learned Spanish, run a marathon, and avoided a lifetime of awkward conversations — all without the actual effort of writing, dieting, studying, training or talking. That’s my kind of remote.

The pause button could be pretty cool too. Adam Sandler uses his to slap his boss around a little and hit a little kid in the head with a baseball, but I like to believe that I’d be a non-violent remote controller. When that lady with 14 items in the “10 items or less” line at Vons starts to count her $19.99 in change out r-e-a-l-l-y s-l-o-w-l-y, I would simply pause her shopping and place her butt in the appropriate non-express line. It would all be very civil, no violence required.

Same goes for the mega minivan parked in two spaces at Five Points. I would simply pause all of the other shoppers while I double-parked behind Ms. Minivan and got a few errands done.

Hey, maybe I could use the picture-in-picture function combined with the pause, and simply be in two places at one time. You know, like the lady who sits under the hairdryer at a salon but is also cleaning her oven. I could be sitting at T-Ball cheering on my team while getting a massage, or cooking a gourmet dinner while playing an exciting game of Klondike on my computer, or eating an ice cream bar while running a 10K.

What a great gift that remote will be.

Here’s hoping the batteries don’t run out while I’m speed rewinding past childbirth.

Happy Mother’s Day!

What would you do with a universal remote? Email email

Originally published in Santa Barbara Daily Sound on May 5, 2006.

That Other Mother

© Paha_l | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

© Paha_l | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

I was a much better mother before I actually had a child. I did so many things right back in the old days, when I was that other mother.

That other mother lost her pregnancy weight in two weeks, breast fed for three years, and had a child who immediately slept through the night, allowing her beautifully romantic relationship with her husband to be completely unaffected by parenthood.

That other mother was naturally slender, polite and patient. She cooked healthy, yet tasty food and kept an immaculately clean house. She was tolerant and fair and she didn’t make snap judgments when her kids appeared to be guilty of something. She wasn’t a pushover. Once she laid down the law, she stood her ground.

She spoke fluent Spanish, Chinese, German and French, and could play piano by ear and sing with perfect pitch. She taught her children sign language, and they did simple little experiments on her home particle accelerator.

Teachers and coaches were always telling her how wonderful her kids were. Her children were the ones that other mothers used as examples of perfect behavior when their own kids misbehaved. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “I bet Leslie’s son would never talk back to his mother like that. I bet her son goes to bed immediately when told and does his homework without complaining a bit. He even likes to do the extra credit pages.”

This woman, this other mother, never once lost her temper with her child or her husband or even that lady with 14 items in the “10 items or less” line at Vons who always counts her $19.99 in change out r-e-a-l-l-y s-l-o-w-l-y and then finds a coupon in her wallet and has to re-count the whole thing again. This other woman had a street named after her.

Plus, she never had a bad hair day in her life, and looked perfectly groomed without a stitch of makeup. She was quite amazing, this other mother, the one I was going to be before I had kids. She was really kind of perfect, but in such a down-to-earth, good-humored way that nobody even hated her for it.

And then there’s me.

I’m the mom who asked her son what he had eaten on Saturday, and when he answered “pancakes and Pringles,” pretended to be horrified, but was actually relieved he had eaten anything at all, since I couldn’t remember feeding him.

I’m the mom who told her son that the swear words he learned at camp weren’t really the worst swear words in the world, and then, more interested in expanding his vocabulary than avoiding detention, went on to give a few examples.

I’m the mom who forgot to tell the Tooth Fairy to come to our house the other night, and then tried to blame her son for not putting his tooth in the right place. “Silly boy. Tooth Fairies never look under the left side of the pillow.”

I’m the mom who teaches her son logic by giving “because I said so” as the reason for making him do something whenever I can’t think of a better one.

I’m the mom whose son once told me I reminded him of the bossy girls at school. Then he shook his butt at me and, rather than punish him, I laughed. I couldn’t help it. I do that a lot–laugh inappropriately at butt shaking, arm farts, belches, and other behaviors that I absolutely know I should not encourage.

For example, when my son was three, he used to eat his boogers. When I’d scold him, like that other mother would, he’d always say, “tastes like chicken.” It cracked me up every time.

That other mother–not that her child would ever in a million years exhibit such imperfect behavior, but let’s just say for example’s sake that he did, maybe because some other mother let him eat too much cake, ice cream and cotton candy at a birthday party–would have scolded him gently and explained why that was disrespectful in kid-friendly language.

That other mother’s family probably sends her to the spa on Mother’s Day, just so they can take a break from her perfection and eat take-out burritos on paper plates and not worry about cleaning the kitchen.

Guess what I’ll be doing on Sunday?

Not being that perfect other mother, and maybe, just maybe, being OK with that.

Originally appeared in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on May 11, 2007

Mom’s the Word

© Fredgoldstein | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

© Fredgoldstein | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

“You’ll never know how much I love you until you have children of your own.”

I can’t tell you how many times I heard those words come out of my mother’s mouth when I was growing up.

While other kids’ moms told them to stop making faces or their mouth would freeze that way, or elaborate tales about walking to school in the snow or having only one toy to play with, my mom always told me how much she loved me.

It didn’t matter whether she was proud of me-for getting a good report card or remaining a good sport when I lost a hard fought tennis match -or disappointed -for honing my sarcastic wit at the dinner table or rolling my eyes when my little sister annoyed me -I always knew how much she loved me because she never stopped telling me.

She still tells me, almost every single day, and sometimes more often than that.

She shows me too, by always being there for me in a million different ways.

So here I sit writing a column about her, trying to be funny and not make her mad. It’s not that easy. My mom is often hilarious, without trying to be, but doesn’t really like to be teased or the butt of our jokes. Plus, the last thing I want to do is publicly embarrass someone who has enough dirt on me to fill a small park

“Just write that,” says my husband.

“That’ll make her mad,” says my son, who’s precocious enough to know that moms-and especially your mom’s mom-rank number one on the list of the top five people you don’t want to tick off (the others are your principal, your teacher, the person who’s making your dinner and the guy with the pit bull across the street).

“That’s the thing about having a great mom, though,” I tell him. “It’s okay to make her mad because you always know she loves you.”

“Really?” His little nine-year-old eyes light up.

“That doesn’t mean you should try to make me mad,” I warn. He knows that look, and drops the matter right away.

Smart kid.

It took me until I was at least ten to figure out that my mom had a full range of super powers: eyes in the back of her head, a knack for being able to let me know what she was thinking with just a look, and the ability to fling guilt rays at me from a thousand feet away. She can fling them from even farther away if there’s a telephone involved.

Until I had a child of my own, I didn’t realize what a thankless job it was to be a mother. If surviving nine months of pregnancy and 37 hours of back labor aren’t enough to help you develop a sense of humor, there’s breast feeding, changing diapers, cleaning spit-up, and wiping bottoms to enjoy. Would you do that for someone you didn’t love?

And it’s not like kids ever grow out of needing their mother. When I had bronchitis a few weeks ago, my husband laughed as I whined that I wanted my mommy to come and take care of me. Within minutes she was there, bearing homemade chicken soup. Eyes in the Back of the Head Woman, to the rescue!

Food critic Ruth Reichl wrote a book, Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise, where she talks about dressing up in her mother’s clothes and going out to restaurants disguised as her mom. As much fun as that might be, I have no illusions that I will ever be able to fill my mother’s shoes-even though she hands me down a practically new pair that “hurt her feet” every other week.


Available at

My sister and I are both convinced that we’re her favorites, as are her three grandchildren. Even her sons-in-law think they’re her favorite. But the truth is our mom’s got more than enough love to go around. She managed to take hordes of family friends, classrooms full of Roosevelt School students and scores of SBCC football players under her maternal wing, without ever making any of us feel neglected. Some of my childhood friends still call her “Mom” and she’s much better at keeping in touch with them than I am.

She’s got more energy than someone half her age, more friends than a brand new lottery winner and does more for other people than anyone else I’ve ever known. She defeated breast cancer and lung cancer while hardly missing a tennis match, and while she officially retired from teaching, that doesn’t stop her from teaching her grandchildren, the kids her granddaughter’s school and anyone else who will listen, at any opportunity.

She’s still teaching me things, and I’m still listening, Mom. I love you too.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Originally appeared in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on May 8, 2009.

The Mother Lode

© Alexkhrom | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

© Alexkhrom | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

While she snipped away at my curls, the hairdresser’s caffeinated swirl of invectives about what a terrible mother she had filled me with sympathy. I know there are horrible mothers out there–Mommy Dearest is one of my favorite horror movies–and clearly this girl had been deeply, deeply screwed up somewhere. I just hoped she wouldn’t take it out on me with her scissors.

Still, I smiled as I tried to picture my face with a mullet, knowing my own mom would tell me how beautiful I looked, no matter how much of a “don’t” my “do” turned out to be.

Good mothers are like that. They say just the right thing to make you feel better. My mom is great at that.

When it comes to mothers, I was lucky: I hit the mother lode. Every time someone complains about their awful mother, I say a silent prayer for mine. I don’t always say it out loud, but I know I’m really lucky to have her.

I may be grown up and perfectly capable of using the microwave, but I still whine for her homemade soup when I’m sick–and usually get it within minutes. Whenever I’m feeling down she seems to magically know when to call or stop by, usually bearing a brand new pair of shoes that “hurt her feet.”

Before I become a mom she used to always tell me, “You’ll never know how much I love you until you have children of your own.” Now I know just what she means.

It didn’t matter whether she was proud of me –for getting good grades or being a good sport when I lost a hard fought tennis match–or let down–cringing while I honed my sarcastic wit at the dinner table or rolled my eyes at my annoying little sister–I always knew how much my mother loved me because she never stopped telling me.

She still tells me, almost every single day, and sometimes more often than that. And she shows me too, by always being there for me in a million different ways.

So here I am, once again, writing a column about her and trying to be funny without making her mad. It’s harder than it seems. My mom can be unintentionally hilarious, but doesn’t like to be teased about it. Not one single bit.

Plus, the last thing I want to do is publicly embarrass the one person who knows more about me than I know about myself. I can’t hide anything from her. I swear, the harder I try the better her memory gets. It must be all of that Ginkgo biloba and green tea.

“Why don’t you write that?” says my husband.

“That’ll make her mad,” says my son, who’s smart enough to know that moms–and especially grandmas–are people you really don’t want to tick off.

“But the thing about your mom is that it’s okay to make her mad because you always know she loves you,” I explain.

My son’s face lights up. Uh oh…

“But that doesn’t mean you should try to make me mad,” I warn him.

Then I ruffle his hair and tell him that I love him. He says, “I know that mom. You only tell me that like, a million times a day.”

I just smile, and look into his eyes that are so much like my mother’s.

You’ll appreciate it someday, kid.

And by the way, mom, I do.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Originally appeared in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on May 9, 2008.

City Spring Activities: Mother’s Day Treats

Mother's Day Treats, originally published in the spring 2010 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.

Mother’s Day Treats, originally published in the spring 2010 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.

It can be challenging to come up with a sensational way to celebrate the woman who birthed you, clothed you, fed you, nagged you and dragged you to get you on the path to where you are today—all in the name of motherly love, of course.

This Mother’s Day is your turn to put her on a pedestal for a change. Here are some of our favorite mom-worthy ways to honor yours.

Whisk your mother off to the charming secret garden of Enchante Cottage Spa in Solvang. This sweet white cottage was converted into a mini-day spa where guests are greeted with tea and homemade scones before being pampered with pedicures, deep tissue or hot stone massages and other princess-like treats. Owner Deborah Paxton also serves a delicious lunch with advance reservations.

Why send flowers when you can treat mom to a “First Bloom” tour of Rose Story Farm in Carpinteria? Owners Danielle and Bill Hahn have 18,000 stunning rose plants in 150 different varieties. Don’t miss the White Tranquility Garden with more than 1,000 white roses grown together with white companion plants. Call in advance to make reservations for tours, which take place every Wednesday and Saturday.

The roses are also in bloom at the A.C. Postel Memorial Rose Garden. Just across the street from Mission Santa Barbara, this is a great spot to toss a frisbee, have a picnic or just relax with mom on her special day.

Treat your mom like the Queen Mum with high tea at the ocean-view Bella Vista at Four Seasons Biltmore Resort. Traditional British treats like finger sandwiches, miniature pastries, teacakes and scones are served with an assortment of teas or a “spot of sherry.”

Andersen’s Danish Bakery & Restaurant brings a touch of Copenhagen to the traditional English tea service. Marzipan is a specialty and we recommend the Sarah Bernhardt, a marzipan cookie dipped in dark Ghirardelli chocolate.

Enchante Cottage Spa, 385 Alisal Rd., Solvang, 805/693-1231,

Rose Story Farm, 5950 Casitas Pass Rd., Carpinteria, 805/566-4885,

A.C. Postel Memorial Rose Garden, Los Olivos and Laguna streets, Santa Barbara, 805/564-5418

Four Seasons Biltmore Resort, 1260 Channel Dr., Montecito, 805/565-8237,

Andersen’s, 1106 State St., Santa Barbara,

Santa Barbara Seasons Spring 2010 cover Originally published in the spring 2010 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons. To read the story as it appeared in print, click here: Sea_SP10_074