Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas!

"There'll be much mistletoeing and hearts will be glowing when loved ones are near."

This has been a time of transition for our us, as Carson graduated from high school and began his freshman year at Harding University. So far, he is absolutely loving campus life. We are so happy for him but miss having all four children under one roof. Knowing that we will be at home for the holidays, together again, makes this truly the "hap-happiest season of all."

Monday, December 18, 2017

Make Beaded Victoria Bookmarks

"The only gift is a portion of thyself." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

This has been a special year for Victoria magazine, as we have marked our 10th anniversary with Hoffman Media. To celebrate this milestone, I wanted to craft a special keepsake for each member of our staff.

I count it a privilege to work with such a talented team of creative women and thought it would be special to commemorate our shared success with a handmade bookmark.

This idea dawned when I found pretty brass and silver shepherd's hook bookmarks at Christmas Village, an annual holiday-shopping festival in Birmingham. Each one had a ring on the end for affixing a charm. Find a similar selection of styles here. Above, a completed bookmark rests on a Sasha Nicholas plate custom-made for the occasion of our 10th anniversary. See more of the celebratory festivities in our November/December issue!

I cut the miniature magazine covers from subscription insert cards and found perfectly sized frames in the jewelry section at Michaels. You could, of course, frame other ephemera or use another type of charm for the focal point. Other supplies for this project include jewelry wire and cutting pliers, crimping beads and crimping pliers, and assorted Swarovski crystal and pearl beads.

To make the bookmark, slip a magazine cover or other ephemera into the frame and adjust the positioning, if needed. Using cutting pliers, cut a length of jewelry wire a couple of inches longer than needed for the strand of beads. Bend the wire at about 1/2 inch, and loop the wire through the ring of the frame. Slide a crimping bead onto the long piece of wire, also catching the loose end; pull taut and crimp the bead. String approximately five decorative beads onto the wire, careful to cover the loose end of wire, and end with a second crimping bead. Loop the wire through the ring on the shepherd's hook, and thread the wire back through the crimping bead and two or three decorative beads. Pull the wire taut, and use cutting pliers to carefully clip remaining wire.

Making these sweet little bookmarks not only offered a delightful evening of crafting but also served as a reminder of how blessed I am to work with talented people to produce a magazine that I have loved for so many years. Here's to the next decade of bliss!

"But I'm always dreaming, even when I'm awake; it is never finished." ~ Peter S. Beagle

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Season's First Snowfall

"The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?" ~ J.B. Priestley

A blanket of joy and wonder fell over the South this past weekend, as we experienced the loveliest snowfall I can remember in Alabama. Last week saw temperatures above 70 degrees in our region, so this winter wonderland was such a sweet surprise. The slower pace offered a much-needed reprieve from the usual holiday bustle, and I think the weather brought out the kid in all of us!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Classic Sewing for the Holidays

"Methinks it is a token of healthy and gentle characteristics, when women of high thoughts and accomplishments love to sew; especially as they are never more at home with their own hearts than while so occupied." ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne

An exciting highlight of the Christmas season has been getting to see Emma on the cover of the Holiday issue of Classic Sewing. A sister to Victoria, Classic Sewing is one of the newer publications at Hoffman Media. This quarterly magazine includes full-size patterns that are certain to delight beginning to experienced sewists. In response to reader requests for styles suitable for the older girl, the editors have offered the sophisticated dress shown above. The elegant neckline, scalloped bodice and softly gathered skirt make this a pattern perfect for special occasions of all kinds. Emma modeled the dress at one of our in-house studios this summer, and we have eagerly awaited its release. Catch her on the newsstand at Barnes & Noble, Joann Fabric and Crafts, or in your favorite specialty sewing store. To purchase the issue online, visit the Classic Sewing store.

"All my scattering moments are taken up with my needle." ~ Ellen Birdseye Wheaton

Monday, December 4, 2017

Memories of Thanksgiving 2017

So once in every year we throng
Upon a day apart,
To praise the Lord with feast and song
In thankfulness of heart.
~ Arthur Guiterman

We were blessed to welcome my side of the family for Thanksgiving this year. Our gathering of twenty loved ones was a feast of gratitude, with a delicious spread of food, plenty of laughter and conversation, and a heartfelt devotional time together.  

Gathering in late afternoon allowed us to capture the waning autumn sunlight for family portraits. Before we began final preparations for the meal and set the cousins loose to play, my brother, Nathan, took all of the group photos in this post.

For our dining room tablescape, I filled a pumpkin soup tureen with roses and hydrangeas in a soft palette of blue, green, pink and cream.

The holiday week offered Carson his first opportunity to come home since leaving for college in August. I was already counting down the days to his return, but a traffic accident that totaled his car just an hour from campus made us even more grateful to be reunited. Thankfully, he was not seriously injured, and we are left with appreciation for the kind strangers who stepped in immediately to help. My mama heart was so happy having all four children under one roof again!

For the first time ever, I used disposable plates, napkins and cutlery for our holiday meal. I was unsure about this decision at first but ultimately enjoyed exchanging some of my time in the kitchen for more relaxed enjoyment of our guests.

Time with my father and siblings is always a treasure!

Atop a ruffled linen runner, smaller arrangements in coordinating soup bowls echoed the hues of the larger centerpiece of blooms. Glazed ceramic pumpkins, little leaf bowls filled with cranberries and candles, and fresh-cut foliage filled out the tableau.

As my sister, Jennifer, said so eloquently, "These kids. They are special and unique in their own way. I am so blessed that I get to call each of them my own ... my child, my niece, my nephew. As they get older, time becomes more precious and memories more dear."

Although the calendar has already slipped into December, I could not move into the Christmas season without sharing the happy memories from our Thanksgiving Day celebration -- cherished hours of togetherness that I will always hold close to my heart.

"Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow." ~ Edward Sandford Martin

Friday, October 27, 2017

Celebrating Autumn Beauty

Oh, how my heart thrills to the sight of heirloom pumpkins stacked into glorious towers of color! I snapped this photo at Leaf & Petal at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens earlier this month. Nestled among flowers and topiaries, these vibrant gourds greet guests outside the gate. Even before I stepped into the gardens, I had already decided that this lovely vignette was worth the trip.

This weekend also holds the promise of memory making, as I will be speaking for a ladies day tomorrow at the Hoover Church of Christ. If you live in the Birmingham area, please join us for a special morning. Registration begins at 8:30, and the event concludes with lunch. Hope to see you there!

"October is a hallelujah! reverberating in my body year-round ... ." ~ John Nichols

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Impressions of Fall

The softened light, the veiling haze,
The calm repose of autumn days,
Steal gently o'er the troubled breast,
Soothing life's weary cares to rest.
~ Phebe A. Holder

Monday, October 16, 2017

Roses in October

"And then the rose-border. What intensity in those odorous buds of the Bon Silene, making the very spirit bound as though a message had reached it from heaven." ~ Sarah Smiley

Since we moved to Birmingham, I have had grand intentions of visiting the city's botanical gardens at least once every few months to view each season's blossoms. I haven't done so well at visiting regularly, but Antiques at the Gardens offered a perfect opportunity for joining a friend for an afternoon of loveliness. After we perused the antiques show, we paused for lunch on the terrace of the onsite cafe then spent a couple of hours strolling the grounds. A highlight of the trip was discovering that the rose gardens are still in full bloom. In this flower-filled post, view some of the amazing buds that piqued our attention. And if you get the opportunity, invite one of your amazing buds to take a peek at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens!

Look for more garden beauty to come in upcoming posts!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Teapots Steeped with Memories

“Tea is quiet,” explains author and tea authority James Norwood Pratt, “and our thirst for tea is never far from our craving for beauty.” Many of my loveliest moments have unfolded over teatime — beginning my day in the hush of early morning with a steaming brew, welcoming friends to my table for an afternoon of conversation and dainty treats, or traveling to an exotic destination for the weekend and taking tea in the elegant environs of a historic venue. Whether a few minutes of solitude or leisurely hours shared in the company of loved ones, teatime, for me, is always an occasion to be sipped and savored.

In my home, accoutrements related to serving tea have been elevated to prized objet d’art. Many of these treasures were purchased during visits to tearooms, and their presence evokes fond memories. A porcelain teacup and saucer, tucked among cookbooks in the kitchen, bring back memories of the sweet friend who first invited me to tea then gifted me afterward with this rose-covered memento. A towering trio of white cake plates highlights a buffet in our living room — their shapely pedestals and gently scalloped edges an artful complement to the serene d├ęcor. And gleaming atop a tufted ottoman in the sitting room, a silver tray showcases a selection of my favorite teapots.

These teapots, in particular, hold a special place in my heart. When my husband was in law school and we lived frugally on my starter salary at a publishing house, going to tea felt like an ultimate luxury. Joe does not share my affinity for much of the traditional tea menu, but he loved watching my eyes light up at the sight of such exquisite offerings. During those years, we celebrated my December birthday with an annual visit to an area tearoom, and after our meal, I would wait eagerly in the car while he purchased my Christmas present from items I had pointed out in the gift shop. Decades later, I appreciate not only the prettiness of these keepsakes, but also the sacrifice of love that each one represents.

Today, these teapots add a grace note to my interiors. Sometimes they catch my eye on a busy day — stirring sentimental thoughts of the past. Other days they encourage me to slow down, brew a fresh pot of a seasonal blend, and fill our prettiest china cups for an impromptu teatime. For parties, they often crown the table, brimming with fragrant blossoms. Always, always, they give me glimpses of beauty and remind me how truly blessed I am.

What objects in your decor hold great sentimental value?

Photo by Nathan Prichard. Used with permission.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Celebrating Autumn Pumpkins

"October, ruddy-cheeked, comes o'er the plains,
And as with rustling step it speeds along,
Its feet beat music to the harvest song ... ."
~Albert Laighton

During autumn, my heart quickens with the thought of gathering a cornucopia of pumpkins, gourds and fall flowers. Last year I did not find the array of seasonal colors that I love, so I asked our Victoria stylist if she could recommend a local farmers' market or shop worth exploring. She led me to Andy's Garden Center, with several locations in Birmingham. I began counting down the days to a weekend visit to the company's Hoover nursery. Take a peek at the fall finery just waiting to add harvest beauty to your home!

"October, I lo'e thee! Thy whisper is soothing;
There is Lore in thy face, there is wealth in thy bowers:
Thy pensiveness adds but a charm to my musing
And sweet are my dreams through thy fast ebbing hours!
~ James Rigg

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