Wednesday, March 31, 2010

An Heirloom Dress for Emma

I still need to make a slip for Emma's Easter dress, but I wanted to give you a sneak peak of my progress so far.

Earlier this year, I was thrilled to learn that my local sewing shop was offering a full-day class with Michie' Mooney. Highly regarded in the heirloom sewing community, Michie' has her own line of patterns; she teaches for the Martha Pullen School of Art Fashion; and her work is featured regularly in sewing and embroidery magazines.

Joe was out of town on the day of the class, but a sweet friend generously agreed to watch my children until class adjourned. I went to the sewing shop right away to register for the class and purchase my materials. I was stunned to learn it was already full. I joked afterward that crumpling onto the floor and sobbing uncontrollably must have worked; days later a spot opened up and I was able to join the class. (I didn't really cry in Beth's, but it is quite possible that I danced around my kitchen just a little when I found out I could participate after all.)

We had a choice of two Creations by Michie' patterns to construct for the class, and I chose the Heirloom Dress (#124-L). Reading over the pattern instructions the night before, I began to wonder if I had gotten in over my head. But as class began the next morning, Michie' assured all of us that she would walk us through each technique. And she did! She was a patient and easygoing teacher who put the class at ease. In the course of the day, I learned how to do pin tucks, lace shaping, lace insertion and bullion roses.

I plan to photograph Emma at Jasmine Hill Gardens this spring, so look for the completed heirloom dress soon. To browse heirloom patterns for beginning to experienced seamstresses, visit Creations by Michie'. For heirloom sewing tips and pattern variations, visit Michie's blog.

To read last year's sentimental letter to Mary Ashley on the true meaning of an heirloom garment, revisit "Notes on a Dress" here.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Holiday, Holidays

While we're dying eggs and filling Easter baskets, Matthew Mead is already busy in Santa's workshop collecting creative ideas to fill our stockings with holiday cheer.

Head over to Holiday with Matthew Mead to find out how you can win the opportunity to have your blog or online shop mentioned in the magazine. Holiday with Matthew Mead is a "book-azine" celebrating and offering inspiration for the Christmas holiday season. To be released in October 2010, Holiday is offered via online orders only -- in limited quantities -- and will not be sold on newsstands. But, by simply following the BUY HOLIDAY MAGAZINE link below their banner, you can reserve your own copy of this beautiful magazine, with guaranteed delivery of the magazine straight to your mailbox! Holiday with Matthew Mead is144 pages of holiday inspiration with well-known and admired designers, bloggers and top-notch features, printed on beautiful paper and not drowning in ads!

Now, head on over for your chance to win!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Today's Special

I'm hoping these tins made it safely down the halls of our elementary and intermediate schools this morning.

We wanted to remind our teachers how special they are by surprising them with a fresh spring lunch of chicken salad croissant, fruit salad, crackers, broccoli salad and jellybeans.

I found pretty pastel tins at Michaels craft store. With their clear lids, I thought they would be perfect packaging for an Easter surprise. I lined the bottom of each tin with a pretty napkin and used cupcake liners to create compartments for this refreshing menu. (Wouldn't this be a fun way to deliver lunch to a shut-in or surprise girlfriends at a springtime picnic?)

Pretty ribbon ties everything together and holds cutlery. A fluffy bow adds the finishing touch.

I hope our teachers will have a spring in their step today!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Broccoli Salad

A luncheon of fresh spring salads just can't be beat, and this one is a definite southern favorite.

Broccoli Salad

1 large bunch broccoli, broken into florets
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup cashews
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar

In a large bowl, combine first 4 ingredients. In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, vinegar and sugar; and pour over broccoli mixture. Toss until dressing covers entire mixture. Refrigerate several hours before serving so dressing will marinate broccoli. Note: For variation, add 8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled; replace cashews with 1/4 cup chopped pecans.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Family Treasure

The Gift Of An Ordinary Day from Katrina Kenison on Vimeo.

My mother-in-law shared this video with me yesterday. This is a message I need to be reminded of every now and then, so I share it with you on this mid-week, mid-month, mid-year, mid-life day.

Many blessings to you as you unwrap the gift of an ordinary day!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Painting Pottery Eggs

One of the highlights of last week's spring break was our annual tradition of painting pottery eggs. As we were preparing to leave for the pottery studio, one of Carson's friends called to invite him to play. Now that Carson is a "tenager," time with friends is very important to him, but he turned down his friend without even asking me. It made me smile to know he still enjoys this special family time enough to skip a play date!

I love to watch the children paint. From year to year I am eager to see the color palettes they favor and the techniques they choose. They become so engrossed in their work that you can practically hear each brush stroke -- music to my ears!

I have amassed a lovely collection of pottery eggs since we started this tradition several years ago, and I can't wait to add this year's masterpieces to the display!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring Is Springing

I couldn't resist these beautiful tulips I found this week. Their petals almost look handpainted.

Throughout the week this bouquet has added a lovely touch of spring to our home.

Tomorrow is the first official day of spring, so I hope warm weather will soon awaken the landscape around us.

"Awake, thou wintry earth
Fling off thy sadness
Fair vernal flowers, laugh forth
Your ancient gladness!"

-- Thomas Blackburn, "An Easter Hymn"

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mint to Be

My friend Sylvia Joyce shared this recipe for chocolate mint brownies with me, and I thought it would be the perfect sweet finish for a Saint Patrick's Day lunch. This recipe is a Joyce family favorite. When I told 6-year-old Mary Ashley that our friend Rebecca Hatcher, Sylvia's daughter, wanted to serve these at her wedding, Mary Ashley said she wants them at her wedding too. She asked me to help her learn how to make them and has been carefully copying the recipe in a notebook -- quite an endeavor for a kindergartner! I think these mint chocolate brownies are now a Lester family favorite, too!

Chocolate Mint Brownies
3 (1-ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup and 1 tablespoon margarine
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine 2 squares chocolate and margarine in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until melted. Let stand 10 minutes. Beat eggs until blended and gradually add sugar, beating well. Combine flour, baking powder and salt and add to creamed mixture. Add chocolate and melted margarine. Stir in vanilla. Bake in a lightly greased and floured 13-x-9 inch pan at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Cool 10 minutes. Spread with mint frosting. Combine 1 square chocolate and 1 tablespoon margarine. Melt over low heat and drizzle over frosting. Chill at least 1 hour. Cut into small squares. Store in refrigerator.

Mint Frosting
1/4 cup margarine, melted
2 tablespoons milk
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons peppermint flavoring
Green or pink food coloring
Combine ingredients and beat until smooth, adding a little more milk if needed to thin the icing.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

This teacup and saucer belonged to Joe's late grandmother. Nanelle brought them back from a trip to Ireland, so they are perfect to display in honor of the holiday.

I am sharing lunch with my mother today, so I'll share photos and a new recipe tomorrow -- as long as no leprechauns cause computer problems for me again, that is!

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

To the Letter

Sweet blog friend Melanie of Pretties and Posies has just opened a dreamy new etsy shop called Lettered Threads. She invites us to brew a cup of tea, curl up with a cozy blanket, and shop her lovely custom creations. Sounds like the perfect way to spend a leisurely morning to me!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Camp McDowell

Last week I had an unexpected break from blogging when lightning took out our modem. Now we are back online, but pictures from this past weekend's ladies retreat at Camp McDowell in Nauvoo, Ala, remind me that sometimes stepping away from the computer is just the thing we need. The tranquility of this sprawling 1,100 acre retreat facility was perfect for gathering with ladies of the East Walker Church of Christ in Sumiton, Ala. What a wonderful and gracious group of women! I appreciate their giving me such a warm welcome and hope our paths will cross again.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Heart at Home

On my recent trip to Calhoun, Ga., Deana Brannan served as my gracious host. This cozy vignette was a welcoming sight when Mary Ashley and I arrived at her home Friday night.

With comfortable chairs, blankets and a blazing fire, this scene reminded me of one of my favorite illustrations from the book Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver. Weaver was moved by Robert Boyd Munger's article "My Heart Christ's Home," in which Munger talked about welcoming the Lord into his heart and giving Him a tour.

Munger says the two paused in the library of his mind and stepped in to see the workshop of his talents. Willing to be completely vulnerable, Munger even showed the Lord his messy hall closet of secrets. But it was in the drawing room that the two felt most at home. They decided to meet there daily. The communion of their prayer and Bible study was so sweet that soon the two began calling their meeting place the "withdrawing room."

But as worldly demands pressed in, Munger found himself skipping appointments with the Lord from time to time. Setting aside time for prayer and Bible study became increasingly difficult, and before too long he found he never entered the withdrawing room anymore.

Munger reveals, "I remember one morning when I was in a hurry. ... As I passed the drawing room, the door was ajar. Looking in I saw a fire in the fireplace and the Lord sitting there. ... 'Blessed Master, forgive me. Have You been here all these mornings?"

The Lord's poignant response: "The trouble with you is this: You have been thinking of the quiet time, of the Bible study and prayer time, as a factor in your own spiritual progress, but you have forgotten that this hour means something to Me also."

Joanna Weaver, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World (Colorado Springs: WaterBrook Press, 2000), 71-73.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Monday Musings

This pretty bouquet greets me this Monday -- a day full of housework and laundry. Although I don't enjoy many of the household chores on my t0-do list today, I am working on being a better homemaker.

In her book The Spirit of Loveliness, Emilie Barnes addresses the need for a sense of order in the home: "A welcoming home has a sense of order about it. Not stiff, stultifying order that goes to pieces over a speck of dust or that sacrifices relationships in the interest of cleanliness, but a comforting, confident sense that life is under control. A sense that people, not posessions, are in charge of the household, that emotions are expressed but never used as weapons, that life is proceeding with a purpose and according to an overall plan."

On the subject of cleaning house, Barnes offers a spiritual perspective: "Most of us respond positively to that kind of order in our lives because we are made in the image of God, and because God organized the whole universe to proceed in an orderly fashion. Think of the creation, when God created a beautiful, populated globe out of darkness and chaos. He is the ultimate Organizer, and the results of His ordering Spirit are always good. We automatically feel more comfortable and more welcome when we sense His kind of order in our lives."

"She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness" (Proverbs 31:27).

Here's hoping we can all find joy in the tasks this Monday brings!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Path to Love

For years I would have said the great love story of my life began on a late summer day in Tennessee. A freshman at Lipscomb University in Nashville, I had been on campus just over a week when we met.

Classes started on a Wednesday that semester, and our first session of class voice met the following Tuesday. There were only three of us in the class. I had met Kristy during a freshman mixer, but didn’t recognize the boy who sat next to her. The last to arrive, I took my seat beside him on the front row just before class began. He sat between us girls, an air of confidence and cool detachment about him. As class began, our music teacher called him Joe. He had brown hair and olive skin. He was so cute. My heart fluttered when I stole a glimpse of him.

The hour lapsed swiftly, and as our first session of class voice drew to a close, the director showed us the music book we would need for class and sent us off in the direction of the bookstore. As Joe, Kristy and I headed out of the music building together, I noticed how his blue eyes sparkled in the afternoon sunlight. He was witty and dynamic, making us girls laugh with his funny stories. He flashed a dazzling smile, and my heart melted.

The three of us crossed a parking lot and stepped onto the sidewalk. As we headed toward the bookstore, we stopped when a classmate spoke to Kristy. I averted my eyes as Joe and I stood there, hoping he wouldn’t see the color that crept into my cheeks when he looked at me. As Kristy chatted with her friend, Joe and I stood quietly for a few seconds. I held my breath, inwardly pleading that we should go on to the bookstore without her. Moments later, I struggled to look nonchalant when he motioned that we should head on.

I looked briefly at this boy named Joe, then turned my gaze toward the sidewalk that stretched before us. I hoped he couldn’t hear my heart beating. Conversation was easy as we headed down the path, talking about school, home and family. There was something so significant – so electric – about our first encounter that when I went back to my dorm room later that afternoon, I called my best friend back home and told her I had just met the boy I would marry.

Many Paths
If that sidewalk in Nashville is where our love story began, the preface was written years before. The eldest of three children, I had come to Lipscomb from the rolling hills of East Tennessee. I grew up beneath the warm gaze of my parents, Bob and Sharon Prichard – high school sweethearts more in love with each passing day. Daddy is a minister, and Mother has always been his greatest encouragement and closest confidante. A devoted preacher’s wife, her warm, gentle nature has been an asset as she has served alongside him in congregations in Tennessee, North Carolina and Alabama.

Now approaching their 40th wedding anniversary, Daddy still dotes on Mother – filling her car with gas, helping with household duties, and taking her out to eat several times a week. I have seen the depth of his love for her as she has battled multiple myeloma, a rare form of blood cancer. Daddy has proven himself a strong and faithful companion through grueling treatments that pushed Mother’s body to the brink of death. He has taken her across the country to seek the best medical treatment available, and he has kept vigil at her bedside during the very worst of days.

With her petite frame and porcelain skin, Mother has always been beautiful. I knew it was difficult for her when chemotherapy claimed her hair, but Daddy’s heart never wavered when her physical appearance changed. In fact, his love for her only deepened as he witnessed quiet strength emerge in his delicate flower.

My other early influences were my grandparents, Mema and Papa, the late Robert E. and Gladys Williams, married nearly 50 years; and Grandma and Granddad, John and Frances Prichard, who will soon celebrate their 60th anniversary. Many of my happiest childhood memories were spent in their company.

I never knew Papa as my mother remembers him – a well-read college professor of economics who loved the outdoors so much he walked to the university each day. Paralyzed by a massive stroke just five days before my parents married, he was completely bedridden by the time I came along. As a little girl I played with his wheelchair and tended my baby dolls beside his hospital bed. I marvelled at his faith in God, and to this day my eyes well with tears to sing “Be Not Dismayed Whate’er Betide” because at every family gathering Papa gathered us to his bedside before we parted to sing the chorus: “God will take care of you, Thro’ ev-‘ry day, O’er all the way; He will take care of you, God will take care of you.”

For more than a decade, Mema was Papa’s devoted caregiver. Papa became a hero to our family for his positive attitude in the face of adversity, but it was Mema who quietly shouldered the burdens of his physical care along with managing the finances, yard work and household duties. Theirs was a happy home, peaceful and content. I grew up blissfully unaware of the challenges they faced, yet keenly aware of the great love that carried them through.

If Mema and Papa represented the companionship of old age, Grandma and Granddad demonstrated the joy of the golden years. They continue to lead such vibrant, active lives that in my mind Grandma and Granddad have not aged since my childhood. In fact, I think I am catching up with them!

With Granddad’s building skills and Grandma’s creative gifts in the areas of music, sewing and painting, I have often said there is nothing those two cannot do. They enjoy travelling and are always eager to take on a new challenge – whether it is helping a son with a building project or sewing a baby dress for a great-granddaughter. With Grandma and Granddad, life is a great adventure and their zest for experiencing it fully is contagious.

Joe grew up a few hours south of Nashville in the picturesque city of LaGrange, Ga. When he found out I had moved six times growing up, Joe joked that his biggest move was from upstairs to downstairs in their lakeside home. His parents, Betty and Louis Lester, also met at Lipscomb. When they married, Betty left her Tennessee home to join her husband’s family in LaGrange. For more than 40 years, Betty and Louis worked together in the family’s successful floor-covering business. Throughout their marriage the two have worked in their community – building the business, growing the church, and leading in civic activities. This past summer we celebrated their Golden Anniversary.

Joe enjoyed a happy childhood in the bosom of extended family, led by his grandparents, Howard and Janelle Lester. Known affectionately as Big Daddy and Nanelle, you could not find a more beloved couple in LaGrange. Big Daddy had a golden touch in business and a giving heart for the Lord. He supported a variety of worthy causes and was instrumental in planting churches throughout West Georgia. A firm believer in Christian education, he served on the board of Faulkner University for many years. In fact, Lester Chapel in the Bible Building on campus bears his name.

For more than 60 years, Nanelle was his beloved wife. The epitome of a gracious southern lady, Nanelle was known for her easy smile, good-natured temperament and warm hospitality. Ten years after her death, people still talk about her legendary banana pudding!

When her health began to fail in later years, Nanelle clung to Big Daddy. As Alzheimer’s clouded her mind and memories began to slip into a sea of confusion, come what may, he was her lighthouse. His name was on her lips day and night, and his presence steadied and soothed her worried mind until the end.

I was struck by the change in Big Daddy after Nanelle died. He only lived a few years after her passing. Larger than life in his early years, he became more subdued, more retiring, after she was gone. Observing the contrast, I realized he was able to be the fullness of himself – the great man God made him to be – with his beloved by his side.

Joe’s maternal grandparents, Carl and Eula Belle Nix, lived in Tennessee during his childhood. Known in their community for operating the telephone exchange in their home for many years, Joe remembers enjoying the simple things in life during his visits to Granny and Papaw – walking to the corner grocery near their home; drinking SunDrop from a bottle on a hot summer day; and sampling vegetables fresh from the garden. Joe remembers Papaw as a quiet, hard-working man who never complained; Granny, a skilled seamstress and doting grandmother. They, too, were married more than 50 years.

Converging Here
That hot summer day in Nashville, when I met the boy I would marry, I could think of no one else. It was as if the rest of the world faded from view and all that was left was the two of us standing on that sidewalk leading to the bookstore. The path stretched before us, full of all our hopes and dreams and the promise of what was yet to be.

But looking back now, nearly 20 years after Joe and I first met, I am so thankful for the loved ones whose paths brought us to that point. Carried by their love and prayers, we were ready to step out in faith, knowing that finding true love was worth the risk. How blessed we are to have grown up with parents and grandparents whose love stories have become part of our own. Their long, successful marriages serve as examples for us every day.

I thank God when I think about my parents, grandparents and in-laws. Their stories remind me that although the road will not always be easy, the journey will be blessed when each step is taken hand-in-hand with the one God made just for me. Y

This article was written for Our Families Magazine, a publication of the Cloverdale Center for Family Strengths at Faulkner University in Montgomery, Ala. Photo by Lee Cathey of LaGrange, Ga.

Joe and I were surprised and humbled to learn we were named the Cloverdale Center for Family Strength's 2010 Tower of Strength Family. Notice of the award came on a day full of housework -- always a challenge for me -- and my first thought was that we are not worthy. But the more I pondered, the more I appreciated the encouragement. Being a wife and mother is not always easy, and I make more than my share of mistakes, but what a blessing it is to receive recognition for a lifelong job that usually brings only intangible rewards. We appreciate the reminder that this journey might not always be easy, but it will be worth it in the end. Here are a few photos taken at Tuesday's Friends for Faulkner luncheon, where we received the award.

We missed my mother, who could not travel due to illness, but appreciated my father, Bob Prichard, and Joe's parents, Betty and Louis Lester, for joining us for the occasion. (Photo by Leigh Brannan)

I snapped this photo of the children after the luncheon.

I'm so thankful the journey Joe and I began nearly 20 years ago includes these dear ones!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Some Bunny's Roses

Despite some bursts of cold winter weather here in Alabama, this little bunny reminds me that spring is just around the corner!

"It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade." -- Charles Dickens.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Heart and Hands

Referencing Luke 10:38-42, our theme for a ladies day at the Calhoun, Ga., Church of Christ over the weekend was "Martha's Hands, Mary's Heart." When we sat down to lunch after our Bible study, at each place we found a sweet hand print cookie with a heart cut out of the center.

I enjoyed a wonderful visit to Georgia over the weekend for a ladies day at the Calhoun Church of Christ. Joe was also out of town for the weekend, so the children spent the night with some of their favorite people in the world -- their cousins Hollis and Reese. Mary Ashley surprised me by offering to accompany me to the ladies day. She said she didn't want me to have to go by myself. I appreciated her willingness to sacrifice time with her cousins to make sure I didn't get lonely.

After we dropped off her siblings, Mary Ashley and I headed up Highway 27 toward Calhoun. She was resting quietly in the back seat when I told her, "Thank you for coming with me. We are going to have such a special time."

With this she popped to attention: "Are we going shopping?"

Mary Ashley and I left Calhoun with handprint cookies to share with Carson, Christian and Emma; a pretty teacup and saucer from the ladies of the church; and a heart full of memories from our visit.

Here's hoping our hands will be busy and our hearts will be blessed as another busy month begins!

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