Friday, March 29, 2013

Happy Easter!

I am one happy chick this week, as my Peeps centerpiece has been featured by Reader's Digest in a slide show of 25 Easter crafts. Find that post here.

With love and blessings from our family to yours, happy Easter!

"For I remember it is Easter morn,
And life and love and peace are all new born."

~ Alice Freeman Palmer

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Blessings Springing Up

I am pleased to share some wonderful, exciting news with you. Monday I will be joining Hoffman Media as assistant editor of Victoria. This is an opportunity I dreamed of, but never really dreamed I could pursue. I have loved Victoria since I discovered it as a newlywed. Thumbing through past issues, I couldn't help but smile seeing old addresses printed on the covers. As a subscriber many years ago, I could not have imagined that I would someday find my name listed in the masthead. God is good!
As an avid reader of Hoffman Media books and magazines, I am eager to meet the creative teams behind favorites like Southern Lady, Teatime, Cooking With Paula Deen, Cottage Journal, Taste of the South, Celebrate and more. During the interview process I met a few staff members, and everyone has been so gracious. Can I tell you what a thrill it was to sit down with Victoria editor Barbara Cockherham a couple of weeks ago? She exudes a spirit of warmth and welcome. During our afternoon together we shared lunch brought in from Edgar's Bakery, and near the end of our meal publisher Phyllis Hoffman DePiano joined us. Sitting between these two creative, successful women was a moment I will always remember.
I look forward to sharing more of this adventure with you in the days ahead. I would appreciate your prayers in this new endeavor and hope you will pick up a copy of the magazine. Be sure to look for my name in upcoming issues now that you can say you have a friend on the staff of Victoria!

Congratulations to Suburban Prep, winner of the Thirty-One Gifts cosmetic bag giveaway. Suburban Prep, please contact me through e-mail or in the comments below. Please contact me within the week, or we will choose another winner.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Thirty-One Cosmetic Bag Giveaway

Hooray for the first day of spring! To celebrate, I am feeling blessed to give away this URU cosmetic bag, a gift from Thirty-One Gifts rep Holley Collier. We offered this giveaway in December, but the prize was not claimed, so we are happy to offer it again. Wouldn't this be a nice addition to your Easter basket? Please leave a separate comment for each entry you choose.

(1) Leave a comment if you follow A Little Loveliness.
(2) Visit Holley's Thirty-One Gifts page here, and come back to tell us your favorite project.
(3) Ask to join Holley's Facebook group page here.

Due to shipping costs, this giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. We will announce the winner before Easter.

Congratulations to Ashley, who won a copy of our latest book club selection. Ashley, please e-mail me your contact information or leave a comment below. If you didn't win, pick up your copy of A Lasting Impression by Tamera Alexander here.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Treasure She Shares

Wednesday night I was rounding up the children to head home from church when 6-year-old Olivia caught my eye. Her face brightened, and she hopped up from the pew where she was sitting to hurry toward me.
“I made this for you,” she announced proudly, a twinkle in her eye as she extended her hand to reveal a bulging manila envelope.

“For me?” I asked with surprise as she placed the envelope in my hands. Olivia came to our house for Emma’s fourth birthday party, but that was three years ago. I speak to Olivia when I see her at church, but I don’t recall teaching her Bible class or having extended interaction with her since the party.

She nodded emphatically, blond curls bouncing as her lips curved into a little smile.

I turned the envelope over to read the inscription. In her neatest little-girl handwriting, Olivia had printed “Mom Dad Kids” across the back of the envelope.

I could tell from the look of pride on her face that this envelope held something of great value – perhaps some of her best work to date. “Are you sure you don’t want to give this to your parents?” I asked, uncertain that I was really the intended recipient of such a special gift.

“Yes,” she insisted. “It’s for you.”

I opened the envelope slowly, careful not to spill its contents. Inside I found several sketches drawn on notebook paper and folded kindergarten-origami style into interesting shapes. I admired the pictures, then pulled out the real masterpiece: a book fashioned from folded note cards, fastened with a row of staples to create a neat little spine. I flipped through the book, admiring Olivia’s colorful illustrations and noting how much work she had put into this project. Captions below the drawings shared some of Olivia’s favorite things like “grape’s,” “choklit” and “the oshin.”

When Olivia assured me once more that she really wanted to share these special treasures with me, I said thank you and gave her a big hug before we said goodnight.

The next morning, I was still thinking about Olivia’s gift. I marveled that she chose to give it to me, smiling as I remembered the look of joy on her face as I opened it. But then I realized with a start that I didn’t know where I had put it. In the flurry of getting home from church and ushering the children into the house and to bed, I wasn’t sure if I had brought the envelope inside or left it in the car.

I rushed to the kitchen counter, but couldn’t find the envelope with our other church papers. I headed outside and discovered Olivia’s treasure in the van. Somehow the envelope had slipped between the console and passenger seat on the way home, and I found it on the floor peeking out from beneath the seat.

As I picked up the envelope, I thought of the other treasures shared with me at church the night before. Those treasures weren’t presented in manila envelopes, but they were gifts from the heart just the same. Several treasures were shared in our ladies Bible class – frantic news from a daughter keeping vigil at the bedside of her father in a nearby hospital; tearful revelations from a mother concerned for the future of her child; concerns from a woman living too far away to assist a friend in a legal crisis.

“Please pray,” she asked softly, a tear in her eye as she extended herself to reveal a bulging heart.

As I clutched little Olivia’s manila envelope to my chest, I considered how easy it is to collect treasures at church – prayer requests from friends who are facing sickness, uncertainty and angst – but let them slip from our minds on the ride home.

In 2 Corinthians 1, Paul told his fellow Christians about the hardships suffered in Asia and confessed in verse 8 that he and his comrades were “so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.” Paul urged his brethren to pray, insisting, “You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many” (verse 11).

Romans 12:12 urges us to “be constant in prayer.” As well as being continual in prayer, we must also be steadfast. When a friend reaches out to share the concerns of her heart, we need to prove ourselves faithful in carrying that treasure to the throne of God.

Olivia’s little book of favorite things now sits among my most-used references in a special spot on my bookshelf – a reminder that gifts of the heart are treasures to be handled with care.
"When you pray, rather let your heart be without words than your words without heart."  ~ John Bunyan 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

"St. Patrick's Day is an enchanted time -- a day to begin transforming winter's dreams into summer's magic." ~ Adrienne Cook

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Top 10 Pie Recipes

Icebox Pie

Last year on March 14, I was caught unaware when Facebook friends wished people a happy Pi Day. With my sweet tooth, how could I not know about a holiday celebrated by eating pie? This year, 3-14 finds me prepared with 10 favorite pie recipes I have shared over the years. Click the pink caption below each photo to find the recipe. One of our favorites is icebox pie. This recipe is so easy, I can let 9-year-old Mary Ashley and 11-year-old Christian like to make this recipe with little help from me. We like to double or even triple the recipe to fill our freezer with a quick and easy dessert option.

Special Delivery Tarts

There is something so charming about individually prepared desserts. In September I developed a recipe for special delivery tarts. These little hand pies can be prepared one at a time or en masse.

Peanut Butter Pie

Another good dessert to keep in the freezer, peanut butter pie is a family favorite. We will be slicing one up for dinner tonight at Carson's request. He was voted co-captain of the middle school wrestling team, and to celebrate he chose peanut butter pie for dessert.

Strawberry Pie

Light and refreshing, my mother's easy strawberry pie recipe tastes like spring. The recipe makes two pies, and they hardly last a day in our house.

Fudge Pie

My husband's Thanksgiving menu must-have is fudge pie. Last year I made mini-pies to go along with our assortment of desserts. We like to balance the richness of fudge pie with a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie

My father's wife, Vicki, brought a delicious chocolate chip cookie pie to our Thanksgiving dinner in 2011.

Daddy's Famous Apple Pie

Creative friend Teri Phillips uses stamps to decorate pies, like the apple pie she made for our book club meeting to discuss Sweetwater Gap by Denise Hunter.

Cheesecake Tarts

A re-purposed gift box made a cute disposable dessert container for a friend who had just had a baby. Find a link to the recipe, along with thoughts on delivering comfort, by clicking the title above.

Joy's Impossible Ham Pie

We have shared a few slices of savory pie over the years, too, like our friend Joy's recipe above. This made the perfect quick-fix entree for a delicious friendship tea menu.

Chicken Pot Pie

I have always been a fan of chicken pot pie. Topped with leaves cut from puffed pastry, this recipe got the fall treatment for our Little Red Riding Hood family dinner party.

Let me be among the first this year to wish you a happy Pi Day! Whether you sample a sweet or savory recipe -- served in pieces or prepared individually -- I hope you will enjoy a slice of pie today.

"To whoever invented fantasy, redwood trees, and apple pie for breakfast: well done." ~ Dr. Sun Wolf

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Spring Book Club Selection & Giveaway

A Lasting Impression
by Tamera Alexander

 "Better than sweet tea on a veranda, A Lasting Impression is a winner. I want to live at Belmont!"
~ Francine Rivers, New York Times bestselling author of Redeeming Love

To create something that will last is Claire Laurent's most fervent desire as an artist. It's also her greatest weakness. When her fraud of a father deals her an unexpected hand, Claire is forced to flee from New Orleans to Nashville, only a year after the War Between the States has ended. Claire's path collides with that of Sutton Monroe, and she considers him a godsend for not turning her in to the authorities. But when they meet again and he refuses to come to her aid, she realizes she's sorely misjudged the man. Trading an unwanted destiny for an unknown future, Claire finds herself in the middle of Nashville's elite society and believes her dream of creating a lasting impression in the world of art may finally be within reach.

All that Sutton Monroe holds dear lies in ruin. He's determined to reclaim his heritage and to make the men who murdered his father pay. But what he discovers on his quest for vengeance reveals a truth that may cost him more than he ever imagined.

Set at Nashville's historical Belmont Mansion, a stunning antebellum manor built by Mrs. Adelicia Acklen, the richest woman in America in the 1860s, A Lasting Impression  showcases the deep, poignant, unforgettable characters that set Tamera's stories apart and provides an inspiring love story that will capture readers' hearts and leave them eager for more.

Guests voted on this quarter's book club selection, and our choice for spring is A Lasting Impression by Tamera Alexander. The first in the Belmont Mansion Series, A Lasting Impression promises suspense, romance and drama. I hope you will plan to read along with us. Click the book title anywhere in this post to order.

U.S. readers, leave a comment below for your chance to win a copy of the book. I will announce the winner soon!


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Cajun Moon Book Club

One of the highlights of last week was co-hosting our congregation's ladies book club. My friend Missy Jones and I wanted to transport guests to New Orleans for an evening at fictional Ledet's fine French Quarter restaurant. 


Under the Cajun Moon
by Mindy Starns Clark

Our book club was eager for a mystery, and Under the Cajun Moon by Mindy Starns Clark delivered with suspense and fast-paced action. Click the title above to learn more about this book. One attendee said this is her favorite book club selection thus far. Since reading Under the Cajun Moon, she has read and recommends all of the author's other works.


In the book, well-known etiquette expert Chloe Ledet is summoned home when her father, a famous New Orleans chef, is shot. His French Quarter restaurant, Ledet's, made the perfect setting for our book club dinner.


My chalk board platter served as a welcome sign for book club guests dining at Ledet's.


A Ledet's menu topped each place setting and served as the evening's program.


In keeping with our vision of a fine New Orleans restaurant, Missy and I topped tables with white tablecloths and fine china, crystal and silver. We save money on paper goods each meeting by collaborating on decorations and bringing what we have from home.


Missy and I provided appetizers, bread, dessert and drinks and asked guests to bring a favorite Cajun or restaurant-inspired dish. Missy had a pot of gumbo simmering on the stove when guests arrived, and the spicy aroma welcomed diners to the French Quarter. Find her recipe here. A highlight of each book club meeting is the reveal of the new book selection, kept as a tightly-guarded secret until the end of the evening. We mixed things up for this meeting, though, and gave the ladies three selections to choose from. Discover the chef's specials below.


Tonight's Specials

Which book would you choose for our next read: the Low-Country Boil, the Southern Feast or the English Tea? I will share our winning dish, along with a book giveaway, later this week. Learn more about these three books by clicking on the titles.

Veil of Pearls
by MaryLu Tyndall
Lasting Impression
by Tamera Alexander

The Maid of Fairbourne Hall
by Julie Klassen


We concluded our dinner with an authentic New Orleans treat: cafe au lait and beignets.


I experimented with a homemade beignet recipe the night before our meeting, but opted for an easier option for the party. Find traditional French Quarter favorite Cafe du Monde products here. We prepared decaffeinated cafe au lait and served steaming cups alongside freshly-prepared beignets. I had plenty of coffee and beignet mix leftover after the meeting, so treated my family to a delicious New Orleans breakfast Saturday. Beignets and cafe au lait make a perfect combination on a chilly winter day.

Raspberry sauce was delicious for dipping and drizzling. I shared the leftovers with the children Saturday, and Emma begged me to let her eat the last drops with a spoon. ... She said it was delicious.
Raspberry Sauce
Adapted from Sandra Lee's beignets with raspberry sauce recipe, found here.
1 (12-ounce) package frozen raspberries, thawed
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Add raspberries, powdered sugar and lemon juice to blender, and puree until smooth. Serve with beignets or drizzle over cake or ice cream. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.


We enjoyed a lively discussion of the book during dessert, and then it was time to reveal the new book. Usually we give away a copy of the new selection as a door prize, but since the choice was a surprise to us, I brought a half-dozen review copies of Christian fiction books to share.


I prepared "checks" for each guest, and six of the bills held a message urging its recipient to choose a book to take home. This was a nice surprise for the ladies, so we talked about incorporating a book swap into our next meeting.


I was so busy making beignets in the kitchen, I did not make it to the front of the house to photograph our restaurant. Missy photographed the tables with her phone; see her photos in the collage above.


Thankfully for Missy and me, there were no critics in the house when we hosted our private party at Ledet's -- just 22 sweet Christian women who love to be together. Be sure to stop in later to find out our new book club selection -- and to register to win a copy of the book. I close our book club dinner post with a sweet review from an even sweeter friend.

"Friends, food, and fellowship make a perfect combination. Discussing a great book is just powdered sugar on the beignet!" ~ Sharon Lyle

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Easter Project Inspiration

"Easter spells out beauty, the rare beauty of new life." ~ S.D. Gordon

With Easter only a few weeks away, I had better hop to it to figure out this year's Easter dresses. For the past two years I have purchased smocked dresses for Mary Ashley and Emma, but most companies only carry smocked styles up to size 8. I'm not sure if I have time to start heirloom dresses at this late date, but I have to make a plan. Perhaps a trip to the fabric store will yield some inspiration. While I seek ideas, here are some Easter project ideas from years past at A Little Loveliness.


I made this arrangement by nestling a smaller vase inside a larger one and filling the space between with rows of pastel jellybeans. I made the original arrangement for Easter but kept the candy vase for quite a while and refilled it for several occasions.


My little bunnies loved these cabbage cupcakes last year, made by piping green icing on with an angled cake decorating tip.


Photographing this bunny topiary last year, I could picture it as the crowning touch for a spring tea party. If time does not get away from me, I hope to make that happen this year. Want to make the bunny topiary happen? Find directions here.


Visit this post for a recipe for white chocolate nests.


This bunny vase remains one of my favorites. Whether filled with roses, azaleas or vegetables, this little guy adds a touch of spring to our decor.


This season is a wonderful time to bless others. Find ideas for Easter basket lunches for teachers here.


To share the love with friends, revisit this post to see how my friend Stacey treated the girls and me to an Easter tree party. Our daughters were all pre-school age. How I miss those days!


For a sweet favor, how about this precious bunny in a jar? My sister-in-law Shannon made these for all the grandchildren at Easter last year.

"For I remember it is Easter morn, And life and love and peace are all new born." ~ Alice Freeman Palmer

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