Thursday, September 17, 2015

Sweet Gatherings

Last week was a busy one at the Richie's house, not only do the fall activities typically start this week, but for us, this week is dotted with birthday celebrations!!

On Sunday night (the 6th), Jaysen had a handful of friends come to spend the night and celebrate his 14th birthday on Monday.

14-17 year old guys aren't hard to please; pizza, soda, Double-Stuff Oreos and M&M's was about all it took to satisfy!!

Wednesday night we kicked off fall with our youth group friends at a black Light party packed with games and Rita's water ice.

Thursday morning was the Ladies Tea at church; it's always so fun to come up with a decorating plan for the ladies!  They love to see what we've come up with!!  This time we celebrated Fall and I knew that my plaid blankets were going to be perfect, coupled with my vintage thermos collection and a few other rustic things, I think it turned out just right!!

Thursday was also my son Jon's 24th birthday!!  We had soccer practice, then it was cancelled and we had to run to the nearest wholesale shop to pick up everything we needed for the biggest celebration of the week coming Sunday.  He and his girlfriend went out to dinner and we all met back up at the house later and celebrated at 10:00!!!!  #livingtherichielife has come into play.  We are a busy family but not too busy to celebrate one another -even if it is at 10 pm!!  lol

Little pockets of time throughout the week were spent preparing for a larger gathering to come on Sunday the 13th.  But before that, Julia had her first soccer game of the season on Saturday, the 12th, which also happened to be Jessica's 19th birthday!!!!  I'm exhausted just typing this!!  It was a busy, busy week - but filled with such wonderful things!!!

Bill and I are the coaches for her team, which actually means Bill is the coach, Joe helps coach at practice and my name is on the roster as assistant coach! lol  I like to think of myself more like the team mom.  My girl killed it in goal for the entire game!!!  The girls played a GREAT game and won 3-2!!  

Jessica came home from college on Saturday night around 10:00 and we were in full party prep for the next day.  Using left over cake mix, Julia made a cake for Jessica in, yes, a metal bowl and presented it to her at MIDNIGHT!!!!!  You thought 10:00 was bad?!?  Remember #livintherichielife?  Yep, it's just how we do!!  

Sunday morning came quickly and there were still lots of things to accomplish before our last celebration of the week!!  There are so many pictures that I'd love to share from Sunday, but I'll spare you!

We had the honor of throwing Jon and Cali a baby shower for Oliver Lee, due to join us in November!! Here are just a few shots.
They got so many great gifts and Oliver is so very loved already!! The rain held off, the sun came out, friends and family gathered, children ran and laughed, the dogs loved being outside all day and my heart was overflowing with gratitude!! 

To top off an incredible day (and week), after the last gift was opened, Jon took a knee and asked his love if she would marry him!!!!  "Calaine Ann Graham, will you marry me?"  After a few moments and some tears, he stood up and proclaimed, "SHE SAID YES!!!!!"  It was such a sweet moment!!  My momma heart was bursting!!!

It's already Thursday, almost a week has passed by since the celebrations.  There is still residue from all of the celebrating.  It's so easy to get under the mess and feel miserable, but the mess is a reminder of all that is good and celebration worthy!  There is still celebrating to be done in the midst of cleaning up the mess!  Small mundane moments are moments worth celebrating if we choose to do so.

What moments, big or small, are you celebrating this month?  I'd love to hear from you!!

God Bless <3

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Art of the Journey

A few minutes ago I shared this on my Instagram and Facebook pages.  I can't get it out of my mind, so I thought that I'd share it here as well and maybe talk a bit more about it.  I have a bumble bee themed baby shower cookie order coming up.  I had decided two weeks ago to use a square cookie cutter and since they said it was a burlapy (word?) rustic theme, I went with an ivory/gold base and planned to put a bee hive on half of the order and a bumble bee on the other.  I'd maybe use the airbrush to add some shading around the edges and interior, trim it out and call it done.  Cute right?  But then last week I thought about how great it would be if I had a honeycomb stencil to use as a background.  I even went to a few stencil websites to look and came up empty handed.  Plus there was no guarantee that I'd even get it in time.  So I dismissed it and moved along.

This wasn't my original plan and I was quick to be disappointed. (which is so often the case) When encouraged to look at it through different eyes, I saw it as something acceptable, exciting, a possibility that I couldn't see on my own.

It immediately reminded me of God and how His plans are rarely what we see for ourselves. We make plans, and when they don't work out we are quick to be disappointed.

We must realign our vision with that of Gods. His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. His plans are always much better than ours.

Creativity/art can't be contained in our best laid plans, just as God can't be contained. So thankful for this unexpected lesson.

I had to make a trip to the store yesterday for some supplies and even my plan with that shifted and changed as I went along.  I didn't originally plan on going to Michaels, I was just going to go to Hobby Lobby, but like I said, plans changed and I found myself at Michaels.  We were on a time schedule and needed to get in and out of these stores (which is a task, if you know me)!  Luckily for me, Jessica was with me and she is a no nonsense kind of girl!  I did manage to slow my pace as I passed their clearance bin........something caught my eye!!  A honeycomb rubber stamp!  Not was I was looking for, it wasn't even on my conscience radar but there it was!  On clearance!  I grabbed it up and figured there was no better time to try my hand at stamping on cookies.  It's something that I've wanted to do but never took the time to try......until now!  

I am reminded of so many times that my plans changed and I grumbled and complained, even threatened myself to quit!  But I am also reminded of all of the times that, even when I did grumble, God took over and created an end result that was far better than my original plan.  I see Him work in this manner in all sorts of ways, from large dreams to small steps in a day or moment.  When I am willing to approach my day, circumstances or dreams with open hands, heart and eyes, I allow God the room that He desires to work in my life.  Trust me when I say that His plans are ALWAYS, INFINITELY BETTER!!!!!

A creator knows his created like non-other - even better than the created itself in some cases- why oh why do we INSIST that we know better.

Psalm 139 is a beautiful reminder of "how" He knows us:

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.
19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
    Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
    your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
    and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
    I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

I am on a journey of entrusting my moments, my thoughts, my dreams and plans into the ever capable hands of The One who created me, The One who knows my inmost being, The One who calls me by name.  I can look back and see where His plans have far outweighed my own and many others who have gone before me, as well as those that walk beside me even today.  I pray that this encourages you to open up your hands and mind to The One who calls YOU by name.

Side note:  I decided to jump into water coloring a weeks ago and I'm so glad that I did!!  It's teaching me so much about myself, God and life!  I have a long way to go, but again, I'm enjoying the journey!

Where do see you see God teaching you a lesson?  Do you have any creative outlets?  I'd love to know!!

God Bless

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Table Time

Some time last week, my daughter, Jessica was trying to coordinate a get-together with her friends before they left for college and a friend/previous youth leader/mentor.  They were discussing different places and days that they could meet.  Being who I am, I threw out the option of them all coming here!!  (ha-ha-ha)  At that moment, the plan was set into motion.

Fast forward to Monday and I realized that the plan that I instigated was for the next night.  Thankfully, I didn't have to do anything to get ready for this, as Jessica is as much of a gathering planner as I am and she was set in motion.  I've been working on an order that's due this weekend and literally stopped and cleaned up my mess less than an hour before anyone arrived.

Jessica had already made banana cupcakes and took off to the store for ingredients for spinach artichoke dip, chips, fruit for fruit salsa and ice cream for milkshakes.  I had a few fleeting thoughts about set up and decorating but they left my mind as quickly as the minuets left my day!!  Ha!  Over the years I have learned a very hard lesson, but a lesson that I am so glad to have learned: a gathering is only a gathering when you have people to gather -not cute decorations and table settings!  Even the food doesn't have to be a big deal! 

We cleared the table except for a pink cake plate with a burning candle on it.  All of the food went on the table in the containers that they came in, the friends gathered and the night was a success!  We ate until we were sick, we laughed until it hurt and we gathered past our bedtimes.  I don't know why we don't stop more often, even in the midst of our busyness, and just gather.  I'm always hoping that one day I will do that more often, that it will just become a way of life.  Sometimes I believe that if I change my location, it will just naturally happen, but I know that's not true.  What needs to change is my attitude, thoughts and perspective on what it means to gather.

I'm so drawn to the title "A Place to Gather" and yet I don't often create space for that in my life.  When I do, I fully cherish those moments, no matter how few and far between they may be.  I have to learn to not look to the future full of "if onlys" and look to right now and the moments that I have right in front of me.

I woke up to one mess of a kitchen, I couldn't see the bottoms of my sinks and there were dishes precariously perched on top of one another.  Counter space?  Forget about it!  As I forced myself to deal with the mess, I took charge of my thoughts and instead of grumbling about the mess, I relished in the memories of the night before. I thought of the faces that sat around my table, how my life has been impacted by each one, of how God is shaping and molding them and using their young lives to further His kingdom.  Dish by dish, I was thankful; thankful for each plate, each cup and utensil, each baking sheet and bowl, each food item that was prepared and purchased (man did we have some good eats), thankful for the young women that gathered at my table and thankful that God gave me a desire for gathering.

I only took one picture last night and it wasn't even thought out or staged.  Just a random shot of a messy table full of half eaten food and that was good enough.  Sometimes we need to keep these special moments just for ourselves and not worry about capturing every second for the world to see.

 A gathering of 8th graders and their small group leader and friend, Erika who is headed to serve in Ecuador for a year!

 I'm guessing that this was from a Mother's Day.

 A girls retreat gathering!  The weather didn't cooperate and our party was forced indoors!  Thank God for the lessons that I've learned.  The chaos of my home didn't bother me one bit!!

 A small, spontaneous gathering with one friend and whatever I had on hand!

 Another small gathering with a friend, last minute, I am sure!!

Big or small, if you put more of your heart and less of your stress/energy, you're guaranteed a sweet gathering!!  Here's to taking those moments captive and making the most of what you've got and even more of the people that have gathered in your life!!

Share with me:  Does hospitality come easily for you or is it a far off dream?  What are some of your go to pieces when gathering friends or family?  I'd love to hear from you!!!  Tell me about your table time!!

God Bless

Friday, July 24, 2015

South Bound!

Hey friends, we're getting geared up to head south in TWO WEEKS!!  You may remember the trip that Bill and I made to Montgomery, AL last November over Thanksgiving.  We got to meet some Instagram friends, deliver cookies to the governors mansion and help Evan G. Cooper.  Bill took care of some renovation projects that Evan needed done and I got to lend a hand with some flower arrangements!  The week went way too quickly and we knew that we would have to get back there sooner than later. We're heading down for Evan's #bigtopbirthdaybash and decided to make a family vacation out of it.  The kids weren't very happy that we left them behind the last time, so we really didn't have a choice this time around.

There seem to be so many things that need to get done before we leave on the 7th; getting the camper ready, which due to a mouse family taking up residence, it needed to be completely emptied, stripped and scrubbed down with a bleach solution),  packing, filling orders, Evan's birthday cookies, not to mention the daily things that need attention.  I don't want to get there and realize that we have no idea of what to do or where to go.  So, I thought I'd ask for your opinions. 

Like I mentioned, we will be camping for the week (we have a large pop-up with air conditioning) and our children's ages are 18, 15, 13 and 11!  So with six of us, we need to do things as cost effectively as we can.

We do plan on eating out once or twice, but intend to prepare most of our meals at the camper.  So, here are my question(s) to you or ya'll:

What are the "must see" attractions in or around Montgomery?
What things aren't really worth the time or effort?
Where do you go for some family fun at a fair price or free?
How do you beat the heat?  It gets pretty hot up here, but I understand that it's a whole different kind of hot in 'bama! 

We did follow a link that a follower shared on my facebook page and it looks like there are plenty of things to do!!  Which is awesome, but a bit of feedback from you would be awesome!

We are hoping that this trip brings a bit more clarity for us.  We are ready for a change and God has seemed to plant a seed in our hearts of Montgomery.  Honestly, we'd love to open a shop there and become part of the community.  There are still quite a bit of unanswered questions and obstacles to get through, but we are seeking the Lord's will and just doing what we believe is the next step.

We are looking for "less house, more home", in other words, we are ready to downsize our home, property and schedule.  On our last visit, we spent quite a bit of time with a realtor and saw many homes that we loved.  We get updates on new homes that hit the market and are keeping an eye on a few that we would purchase right now if we could.

Even is Alabama isn't a part of the plan, it's been fun exploring what we want and where we want to be.  It's led to lots of conversations about what it is that we're looking for out of life and how we can best impact the world around us.  We feel that God has given us the gift of hospitality and would love to share that.  Montgomery seems to be bursting at the seams with creative business owners and that excites me - there doesn't seem to be much of that around here.

So, I better get back to filling those orders and prepping for this trip!!!  Can't wait to get down there and see you all (hoping to meet some new friends -let me know if you'll be around that week)!

God Bless

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Sweet Home Alabama - The Last Days

Alright, let's wrap this trip up shall we??  It seems like it's been forever since it took place and I realize that the whole thing is old news.  But for the sake of completing something that I started, let's just keep going.

We left off at Wednesday and the "If Only" post about the dreamy B & B idea.  Earlier that week I talked with one of my friends and previous customers, Melissa, and she invited Bill and I to share Thanksgiving dinner with her and her family.  When I say that I "talked" with her, I mean that we texted.  We hadn't actually had a spoken conversation before and come to find out, we were both hoping that the other wouldn't think the situation was just weird.  Thank God, neither of us did!  Since we are who we are, we knew that we couldn't show up empty handed.  Also, and not that there is anything wrong with it, we also knew that stopping by the store to pick something up other than drinks wasn't going to sit well with us.

So, what did we do?  We baked two pumpkin pies, nope, not the pre-baked ones in the cute little aluminum pans.  We bought everything that we needed to bake the pies from scratch, crust and all.  Now, settle down, before you start thinking and asking out loud "Are you crazy??", let me just tell you, YES!  WE ARE!!  But technically I think we would argue that we aren't really crazy at all, it's just who we are and what we do.  Nope, it's not too much trouble, or even a little bit of trouble, it's truly just who we are!!

We had a lovely time with the Wright family and friends and even though it wasn't our home or our family, it was a close second!!  We are so thankful for the way social media can bring people together.  It truly felt like we had known each other for ever!  A gift from God for sure.

Friday, our last day there, we had offered to help Evan around his office with whatever he needed help with.  I was so excited about this day, yes I am fan girling - so what? It was a dream come true.

Let's see.....I used to work for a florist, I've always loved design, creating and color coded, organized shelves full of supplies/props, so this seemed like the perfect day to me!!

Evan had a wedding that coming weekend that he needed to do the flowers for and his office was right in the middle of a renovation and he was a week out from his first holiday open house!  There was plenty for us to do. On that Tuesday we had met up with Evan for lunch and he took us back to his office.  We started to clean things up while we were there and move some of the furniture back to where it belonged.  Friday we split up and I helped Evan with his flowers and Bill painted those huge urns, primed and painted a fireplace mantel, painted a mirror frame, moved furniture and hung things on the walls. 

Evan was even kind enough to let me play around with his mantle design.  I knew he'd change pretty much everything that I did and that was okay, because I would do the same exact thing!  It was still a blast and I loved every minute of it!

All day long, I just kept looking around and thinking "I can't believe I'm sitting here, working with Evan G. Cooper!".  Now, I know that he would say that he's nobody special, I know that because it said it more than once to me that week.  Yes, I would agree with that in the sense that he really is just a regular guy with amazing talent and an amazing personality.  He's making a name for himself in the event planning world.  But from an IG followers perspective, this was a pretty spectacular opportunity!!  I was in awe of the fact that I was there!
We finished up the day and went out to dinner together.  It was a really great, really fast week!  I couldn't believe that we were heading home the early next morning.  We made great friends, saw a lot of great houses, and made great memories that I will hold for a lifetime. 
We plan on heading south again, hopefully sooner than later.  In the meantime, we're hoping that Mr. Evan G. will make a trip North to visit us!!  I think he'll have to wait until the weather warms up quite a bit.
Thanks so much for following along with us!! 
God Bless,
Lorraine and Bill

Monday, January 12, 2015

How do I.......?

Disclaimer:  I am fully aware that I am being overly dramatic.  I'm not as bad as I am bound to make myself sound in this post.  I am merely dumping my exaggerated feelings here, in this place, where they will stay.  I fully intend to pick myself up and move on.....eventually, but.....for now,

HOW DO I????????
First let me back up for those of you who aren't currently aware of what is going in my life, which is probably very few of you, considering the only people that I know read this are people that are family or friends in real life or follow me on IG and FB.
Saturday we took our daughter, Jessica, of "Tea Tidbits and more", to college.  If you know us, you know that she is my right hand gal, heck we could even go as far to say that she's both of my stinkin hands and my brain!!!!!  She has been such a GINORMOUS help to me and the rest of the family.  It's Monday, it's raining, we're here and she's......there!  Needless to say, I am LOST! 

I can't apologize for that.  I warned you!!  Highly Dramatic!!!!  But still, the stinkin song keeps playing through my mind, over and over and over and over and.....well I think you get the point. I was having a hard enough time this month figuring out what to do with myself without cookies to keep me busy, now I have no cookies and no Jessica!  I seriously could go sit in a corner and rock and be perfectly content.  I won't do it.  The floor is uncomfortable and I'm not a fan of being uncomfortable.  So instead I am giving myself this day, this dreary, cold, rainy, lonely day to "grieve" the separation between myself and my arms and brain.  I'm doing a whole lot of nothing and IDEC!!  (I don't even care - for those of you not up on the text lingo of the younger generations)
On a happier and much less dramatic note, Jessica is doing fabulous (of course, who would've doubted that).  Okay, I was starting to wonder as Friday after Maggie left, tears found their way to Jessica's otherwise dry eyes and it was pretty much over from that point on.  It was an emotional departure. 
Maggie - the little girl that Jess babysat and we will continue to babysit!!  #maggiedaysarethebestdays
We got her there, un-bunked the beds, unpacked her stuff, did the orientation stuff, president's dinner etc. and then walked her back to her room.  Let's just say that the final "see ya" wasn't at all dramatic.  It was OVERLY dramatic, mostly because of the 10 year old who depends on her big sister even more than I do.  A brother may have shared in the dropping of tears ritual - he shall remain nameless.  We had to pull Julia off of her sister and drag her away.  It was heart wrenching and slightly annoying, because, HELLO??  I'd like to have some room for my tears too!!!!!!!  But I put on my big girl undies and remained the rock for my emotional children, hey it's what we moms do.
As you may have seen on IG, these were our "not about to fall apart, we're totally excited" faces. (lies, all lies.)
So honestly it was a blessing, because I don't really enjoy crying.  It's not a good look and I do like to feel needed, so I guess it was a win win!!  Orientation weekend kept our girl busy, which even though she was dreading it, it did end up to be a blessing.  Turns out that the 9:00 p.m (P stinkin M) kick-ball game was optional!!!  OMGTY!!!!!!  (oh my God, thank you -I don't know if that's a thing, I just made it up, right there!)  She, instead, played bored games, I mean BOARD games and met a few more people. 
Joe's elbow on the left, Julia lounged on the bed, Jay was in the chair and there are Jess's little feet!
From as much as you can grasp through texting, I thought she "sounded" great at the end of the evening.  11:40 PM and she was jumping in the shower and heading to bed!  Sunday morning had the kids rising early and heading to the city for breakfast, praise and worship and a session or two.  She got to meet her roommate and they hit it off.  They did a bit more rearranging of their dorm room and got to know each other better.  Later in the evening she headed off to Wal Mart with some other girls from her hall.  I truly didn't doubt that she would settle quickly and jump right in, it's just who she is.  But I think there's always a little tiny nook in the corner of a mother's heart that harbors such doubts, more like "what ifs" if you will.
The Library
We got to talk to her on the phone yesterday too and I swear she "sounds" like a college student.  I don't know what that sounds like exactly, but after an emotional weekend, it was so good to hear her sound like that! Monday morning Wait!  Today is Monday! THIS morning, she and her roommate "K" went to breakfast with a few other girls and played a game.  Today is the first day of classes, which were delayed due to ice.  I'm anxious to hear how her day went.
I'm getting a new perspective on being a mother.  It's hard not being with her.  Not because I'm a hovering mother, but because I'm used to being with her, to experiencing life with her.  Remember this is the girl who, when taken to Disney with her friends in January, opted to hang out with me and her dad and the friends readily agreed!  So this, it's weird.    I need to be aware of myself and my tendencies to try to be a part of everything.  I realize that I have to let her go.  She needs the space to spread her wings and begin to find her place in this world. 
Jess and Shelby
I know that she'll share everything with me when she can, so remembering that will be key.  Also, she knows me, so I'm sure that she will give me some room to be a meddling momma here and there.  :)
The time goes so quickly friends.  Enjoy every minute you have with your people!!!!  I'll be back later this week with a wrap up of the Alabama trip!!  After that, I have no idea!!  We'll see how this new chapter goes!!  I do have some bedroom pics to share as we are changing and rearranging bedrooms!  So stick around!!! 
God Bless

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Sweet Home Alabama Part Three

Hey there!  Welcome back!!  Moving on to the next property that we looked at, I want to preface this by saying, when we found this place on line, the first line of the description hit our biggest dream of all.  It simply said, "Could this be your bed and breakfast?".  Now, if you don't know us, I'll tell you that owning and running and B & B is our biggest dream to date.  We've stayed in a few and with both of us having a heart for hospitality, to say it caught our eye would be an understatement!

Now I have no idea if we could ever even pull off a dream like that.  But I don't think we ever thought that we'd see a hint of possibility, but here it was!!  Again, I'm not saying that anything is happening.  There are no concrete plans, but there are dreams and wishes and tiny prayers of big things.  It's in God's control as I've mentioned before. 

This property is at the other end of the road that the sweet cottage is on.  It boasts of 12 acres, a silo, horse barn and so much more.

 Hey, a girl can dream, right?!

We entered through the back of this massive home, but trust me when I say it has a grand entrance!!  A nice wide front hall, large staircase, and access to several rooms on the main level.  This home was full of surprises, including the "original" claw foot tub complete with original fixtures!  

We can totally picture making breakfast in the large sunny kitchen for our guests.  Hosting tea time in one of the beautiful sitting rooms, filling the two front balconies with guests as they enjoy their event (hosted by none other than the fabulous Evan G. Cooper).  The 12 acres is dying for some extra TLC.  Bonfires, Hayrides, Horses, Stables, expansion of the B & B with specialty suites, gardens where we'll pick fresh herbs and flowers for our meals and bedrooms.  That little red run down "shack" is the perfect little residence for the innkeepers.  We walked hand in hand around the entire property sharing dreams and ideas with one another and with our sweet Lord, whose hands our future rests.

This experience was so amazing on so many levels that it's unreal to me that we even experienced it.  God is so good and He never ceases to amaze me.  The way that He longs for us to give Him our future, plans, hopes, dreams, fears and hearts.  He's good for it, He won't let you down.  My best laid plans don't hold a candle to what He has planned for me (not even a three wick candle!) 

Like I continue to say, I haven't the faintest clue as to what is going on in our lives.  All that I can say is that we are trying to be diligent in seeking His will and His timing for our lives.  We are careful to look for the next step that He calls us to take, no matter the size of the step.  Knowing that any size step toward His plan is a goooood step, no a great step.  We can't go wrong when we surrender all that we are and all that we have to our Father in Heaven.

Jeremiah 29:11 says "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Sounds like a good deal to me!!

Until next time, God bless!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Sweet Home Alabama Part Two (lots of pictures)

In my last post, I jumped right to Tuesday so that I could answer some questions.  But now, let me back up and start from the beginning of the trip.

Bill and I figured that it would be a good idea, since Alabama was now on our radar and we were going to be spending a week in a place that we've never been to,  that we may want to check out the housing market there and connect with a realtor.  Monday, we did just that!  Prior to our trip we found a realtor and had a great conversation with her about our situation, what we were looking to get out of our trip and made sure that she knew that time spent with us was not a guarantee of sale.  We are not in the position to buy or sell and this was merely research.

She graciously accepted our request and gave us her entire day!!  She had quite a list of homes for us to look at and they covered quite a range of housing specifics.  Here is some of what I shared with her on the phone about our interests:

1. we would love to downsize
2. but we're not opposed to a larger home (since the pricing there is beyond reasonable)
3. we are ready for more of a neighborhood environment (living in the middle of nowhere is taking it's toll)
4. but we're not opposed to some space
5. The perfect condition, the feel of country life but close to people and places
6.  of course she had to know that three of our five children would be moving with us, in addition to two large dogs and two cats
7.  currently we have goats and chickens.  We are okay with not having space for that
8. but are not opposed to having space for that

Yes, she had her hands full with us!!  God bless her, she pulled together exactly what we needed to see and it gave us a great opportunity to really think about what we would want "if" we were to ever move.

So here are some shots of a few of the houses that we looked at.  It was Tough to only pic a few pictures to share because we absolutely LOVED each of these homes.  So if you want to see more of them, just let me know ;)

First up was a smaller, completely updated home, in a neighborhood, with a very small yard.

It was beautifully decorated (I can't help but notice those things).  It was small, but a good small.  Four bedroom, two bath, fireplace, eat in kitchen, laundry room and it had a great outdoor space with a water feature.  We loved it!  The yard size and outside storage space concerned Bill and rightfully so. We would have a lot to get rid of and the small yard would take some getting used to.

Next up was a magical sort of dream home.  We fell in love with this place before we ever even reached Alabama!!

I didn't get a great shot of the front of this beauty, but trust me.  It's a stunner!  The back yard had all of these great little sitting areas and it had such a magical, whimsical feel about it.  Even though the greenery and flowers were not there to put on a show, their sleep state allowed my mind to wander around the possibilities of a warm day, with everything in full bloom and I ate it up!!  The inside did not disappoint either!

From the moment we peeked through the glass paneled front door and saw the marble floor, grand staircase and gorgeous cat with blue eyes looking back at us, I knew.  It would be a tough one to walk away from if need be.  Classical music wafted through the air and pictures of us dwelling there came to mind as we went from room to room soaking in all of the beauty that this home offered.  Big windows with light flooding in, spacious rooms for entertaining or relaxing, not one, but two gorgeous sun rooms filled my mind with thoughts of lazy afternoons reading in the warm sunlight.  That kitchen!  Oh.my.word.  It was sublime.  Not a large space but a beautifully functional space with gigantic windows looking out to the magical back yard.  Built in old sconces, a gorgeous island and perfect details.  Yep, I'm still smitten with this beauty!!

Sadly, the location is just a teeny bit questionable.  So very sad.  So I tucked this one into my heart and dreams and moved on.  We headed out to a more rural area and a sweet three bedroom cottage on ten acres!

This home takes the sweetest cake!  It was adorable!  Sweet screened front porch, beautifully decorated, great space, on the smaller side.  Actually smaller than the first small home that we looked at.  This is a three bedroom, one and a half bath.  The ten acres are beautiful with space for plenty of animals.  Currently a gentleman is keeping his horses in the back six (I like saying that) and is willing to leave one of the horses with the property for it's new owners.  If that were to be us, we would offer to let him continue to keep all of his horses on the property thus giving us a perfect way into the community and history of this place.  We could picture long picnic tables under the many pecan trees filled with food and friends and family!  There is a pad for another dwelling in the back yard and would be a great spot for a small (ahem) cookie business, in-law suite or anything else that you could think up!  The covered area off of the detached garage is the perfect place for an outdoor entertaining area and the resident chickens would have a place to stay!  Plus a home with a great scripture on the chalkboard warmed my heart to bits!!!  I even joked that the owner had written Richies instead of riches :)  lol

The kitchen was small but warm and inviting, with wood counter tops and open shelving.  We could totally see ourselves in this space.  My one concern with this home was the size of the living room.  It's the first room that you walk into, it has two windows and four doorways, so there's not a lot of wall space for furniture.  It opens into the dining room with french doors, has a doorway to a very wide hallway and a door into one of the bedrooms, plus the front door.  It would be an adjustment.  But we really loved this house as well.

There is one more home that I want to share with ya'll, but I'll save that for the next post!!!  Thanks for coming by!  I hope you enjoyed looking at these houses as much as we did!!

God bless,


Monday, December 29, 2014

Sweet home Alabama

I suppose that I should start at the beginning by answering some of the questions that I've been asked over the month or so.  So here it goes:

What are you doing in Alabama? 

Well about six months ago I connected with Evan G. Cooper on Instagram.  He asked if I shipped cookies and I said Yes!  Truth is, I had only just shipped my first set of cookies to California and that was for a family member.  Shipping was not something that I had any real experience in and it was something that I really didn't expect to be doing very often.  I was wrong.  

If you don't know Evan, let me tell you that once he finds a product or a person that he believes in, he sticks with it.  If you happen to be that person with that product, well you have a friend for life, not only a friend but an advocate, an inspiration and a cheerleader!!  With that being said, Evan has been a huge supporter of "A Place to Gather" cookies, formerly known as "Sweets for your Sweet".  I have developed a friend/customer base in The Heart of Dixie and it was time to go meet some of them!!

Another part of this trip for us was exploring our dreams.  No, we haven't had dreams of Alabama per se, rather finding opportunities to do what we love.  It just so happens, that the dream trail led us to consider Alabama as a possibility.  Life since the job loss has been....interesting. It's had it's moments, but overall, it was a good experience.  God carried us and continues to do so, but it also gave us opportunity to ask ourselves some good questions.  Like, what do you really want out of life?  What is the one thing that makes you "come alive"? If you could do anything, what would it be?

I honestly fell into this cookie thing by no attempts of my own.  God has definitely had His hand in this and it's been fun to look back and see just where He has shown up.  Now I'm not saying that we're moving to Alabama but I am saying that we are open to what ever and where ever God has for us!  It's a freeing place to be!  We're not trying to write our own story, we are simply giving God the pencil and letting Him do what He does best.....write His own story on our lives.

How did you get invited to the Governor's mansion?
In addition to that, I had 8 dozen holiday open house cookies for Evan and he had invited me to provide some special cookies for Governor Bentleys' holiday mansion tours!  So this was a chance to hand deliver these sweet treats and save my friend some crazy shipping costs!   We picked Thanksgiving week because Bill would just be finishing a month of working six twelve hour shifts per week and we needed some time away!!

Our time there was incredible!! My emotions and feelings fluctuated between feelings of being a "star gazer", if you will, and the confidence that I'm gaining in knowing that I was supposed to be there and it was "no big deal"!  For example, the south jersey stay-at-home-mama in me is still freaking out that an event planner in another state wants my cookies!  I'm still freaking out that I actually went to Alabama to meet said event planner and on top of that.....THE GOVERNORS MANSION!!!!  I.Can't.Even!!

Then the flip side is taking all that I've gained over the past two years, specifically the past six months and feeling like I was exactly where I was supposed to be!  The fan in me wanted to take pictures of every little thing and "selfie" the heck out of Evan and Laura, but the cool, calm, collected side of me wanted to just take the experience as it came, like I've been there all along.  It was weird.  And I loved every minute of it!!

 What a stair case!!!!

Okay, here's a word from the "fan girl" in me.  When you are going to meet a very talented event planner and his super adorable assistant for the first time, and you get the opportunity to have your very first picture taken with said "amazing people", the above conditions are NOT the conditions that you would consider for said opportunity.

Please note:

          1. While I am considerably shorter than both of these individuals,  I have to inform you that I ended up standing in a drainage ditch for the governors pool.  So, to be accurate, I'm not THAT much shorter!!  lol  

          2.  In the bundle of nervous energy that I was in, I was talking to Bill when he took this shot.  This ONE AND ONLY SHOT!!!!!!!  Have I not taught that man anything about taking pictures????  Who doesn't know that you never, EVER take only ONE SHOT!!!!  I was going to bury this pic for.ever.  But what fun would that be!!!  So there you have it, my awful, first picture with Evan G. Cooper and Laura Jean Belle!  

Lorraine D. Richie

Okay, back to the story!!  Here are a few more pictures of the mansion. 

 We're so teeny tiny!!!!

 The Governor and First Lady Bentley have seven granddaughters and a grandson on the way.  Evan went with a family friendly theme in the dining room and I made cookie place cards with their granddaughters names on them.  Evan and his team finished them off with beautiful red ribbon and sealed them so that they could be keepsakes for the children.

 The master at work. Evan G. Cooper

 This is Collier, she is the Initiatives Coordinator for the First Lady.  Bill and I made up bags of mini cookies in four different flavors to hand out to customers and other people that we met on the trip.  Collier was through the roof about this tasty little treat and promptly sat on the floor in the dining room and ate those cookies up!!!  

 Mini-Dippers; mini sugar cookies in chocolate, vanilla, chocolate chip and brown sugar n- spice.  Comes with it's own little tub of icing to dip in.  They were a hit!!

 We went through them pretty quickly and had to make up more bags each night!

 Bill and I hit Hobby Lobby on Monday night for some supplies for a project I had that week and I came across this bracelet.  It's says "Just Breathe".  This short statement got me through some tough times during the job loss and unemployment.  It was a good reminder on the eve of meeting Evan and Laura and going to the governors mansion.

Well, that's it for now.  That's only day two of our week stay.  I'll be back with more info and pics from our time in Montgomery!!

I originally wanted this post together and out to you the week that we returned, but as life would have it, I have been swamped with orders since we returned and have only now had the time to sit down and process!!

Hope you had a blessed Christmas and will have a super New Year's Eve!!

God Bless,


Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Place to Gather goes to Alabama- The Prelude

Hey ya'll!!  I can't help but say that after being in the south for almost a week! I really thought that I would post daily about our time here in Montgomery, but our days have been fuller than I expected and  we've been exhausted by the end of the day.  Sunday night we were in bed at six o'clock!   Bill was fast asleep and I was not too far behind him!

There are some pars of this trip that I'm not quite ready to share yet, like what God has been impressing on our hearts, but that day will come sooner than later I believe.  In the mean time, I'm going to need a bit of time to process all that this week has been for us.  In short, it's been fabulous! We've gotten to meet online friends  who are now face to face friends and have seen some of the beauty of the south, in its nature and it's people.

Here are just a few shots that I can share with ya'll.