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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!  

Sincerely,
Lorraine D. Richie
fangirl

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,

Lorraine




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.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Happy Birthday!!!!

Today happens to be Maggie's birthday!!  If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know that Maggie is a little girl that my daughter, Jessica, babysits three days a week at our home.  #maggiedays are our #favoritedays for sure!  This little girl is as sweet as sweet can be and today she's turning 2!!



HAPPY BIRTHDAY MAGGIE!!!!!

Speaking of birthdays, I had the cutest set this week for a little girl turning ONE!!  Her name is Sloan Piper -how cute is that name??  Her momma sent me an invite and that was the inspiration for the cookie set.  







I'm finishing up some last minute details on a set for the governors' holiday tour in Alabama and then I'm on to finishing up some personal baking and decorating.  I can't believe that we leave tomorrow for Alabama.  This is such a needed and anticipated trip for a number of reasons.

My hubby, Bill, is on his last day of a crazy work hours, six 12-13 hour days for the past 4 weeks.  He is beyond is exhausted and ready for a break.  I've been shipping cookies to the sweet people of Alabama for quite a few months now and I'm looking forward to meeting some of them, not to mention finally meeting Evan.  We've never been to Alabama and are ready to do some exploring while we are there and are in need of some serious time together.  Life is crazy busy and we don't take the time to slow down and enjoy ourselves enough at all.

Although we'll be gone for Thanksgiving and away from our children and family, there will be much that we are giving thanks for! This creative outlet being one of them and all of the great people who continue to ask for cookies from me!  Some days I can't even believe that any of this is real!

God is good and I can't wait to soak in His goodness on the streets and in the towns of Alabama!!  Tomorrow we have soccer and then have to get to packing.  Should be fun -I hope that I don't over pack -I have a feeling that's inevitable!!

I'll keep you posted!!  

God bless,

Lorraine


Monday, November 17, 2014

Let's talk turkey, shall we?

So Thanksgiving is just a little over a week away and we are typically in a last minute frenzy over here prepping to host our family Thanksgiving dinner - but not this year!! 



 This was from a few years ago, before we knocked that wall down behind Bill and removed that tacky plastic, printed paneling!

While the battle blazes on for the case of Christmas prep before Thanksgiving, we have our own battle here on the home front.  It's not a deadly battle, thank God, or even one to merit a meme, but it is a battle none-the-less.

Here are some whimsical and fun little turkeys that are heading south for the holiday!

You see for years and years, my husband, children and I have hosted our Family Thanksgiving dinner.  We've enjoyed preparing all of the food, a large turkey, sometimes two, cutting, boiling and mashing the potatoes, providing veggies from our garden, warm rolls and cornbread, homemade pie crusts and pies, and of course plenty of cookies.  While Bill would man the kitchen and handle all food planning and prep (with the help of little hands), I was in charge of cookies and table setting!.  On the day of, my job was to keep everyone out of the kitchen and make the place look pretty. Check!!  I've got this!! In fact, I would look for new ways to set the table each year.  We didn't have tons of room on the table for centerpieces and whatnot, but I did what I could to provide a different atmosphere year after year.

 our "kids" table one year

This year will look a little different for us and the rest of the family.  While we have experienced some change in the past few years, with families growing and doing their own thing and watching loved ones pass into eternity, we are familiar with change and the fact that nothing stays the same.  But sometimes, whether you choose the change or not, it's hard to let go of what once used to be.

If you don't already know this about me, I change around rooms like it's going out of style!!  This room is now our office but then was our dining room.

God has been teaching me how to be brave over the past five years or so.  Especially so over the last three years, I have heard His nudging and calling to let go and let Him navigate and orchestrate.  So with anticipation we've decided to take a break from what used to be, and my hubby and I are embracing change and taking a trip to Alabama!!  The kids are not happy at all about us leaving them on Thanksgiving and I'll admit, it feels a wee bit selfish.  But we feel that it's something that we have to do and that week just made sense for a number of reasons.

We always filled up on appetizers right before the meal was served.  What were we thinking?

So I guess the point of my post really is this......This is our first Thanksgiving without our children, our parents, aunts, uncles and cousins.  We'll be in a different state, where we have some contacts but no one that we "know" or "knows" us.  What do we do?  Turkey sandwiches from WaWa?  Wait, they don't have WaWa there.  Could we find a restaurant that isn't already booked up?  Should we make a mini Thanksgiving meal in our hotel suite?  I don't know.

 Bill makes a mean Pumpkin Pie!! 

We would love to experience a true Southern Thanksgiving.....but where do we start?  Alabama friends, what are your typical Thanksgiving dishes??  What should we know about Thanksgiving in the South?  What are your traditions?  We'd love to know!!


Can't wait to see Alabama and the sweet people there!!!  God bless, Lorraine

Monday, November 10, 2014

Who doesn't love a good tea party??

I LOVE tea parties!!  One of my best friends, Kathleen used to host a group of us at Christmas for a tea.  It was such a special time of fun and fellowship, especially when you're used to running around rushed and crazy, it's nice to slow down, breathe deeply and act "like a lady". There's just something about holding a dainty tea cup, sipping sweet, savory tea and nibbling on pretty little pastries and tea sandwiches......aaaaahhhhhhh! 


Oh sorry, I'm back with ya now.  A few weeks ago I was asked to create custom decorated sugar cookies for a special little girl turning 8!!!  Her party theme has to be one of the most popular tea parties ever. Are you a fan of "Alice in Wonderland"?  I am!!  I loved the original when I was little and I love the new version with Johnny Depp even more.  He is such a fabulous actor and does an incredible "Mad Hatter".  Anyway, the tea party scene is a classic and I couldn't wait to jump in and start designing and creating.


Thanks to Kara Anne from Kara Anne Custom Paper & Lettering, I knew exactly where to start.  She created an amazing custom invite and it provided me with so much inspiration I couldn't wait to have these cookies come to life.
 
 
I decided half way in that I was going to try my hand at hand painting some of the details, especially the ones that I took directly from the invitation.  I know, not the best time to try something new, but if not now, then when?  This cookie adventure has pushed me beyond my cramped little comfort zone and I couldn't be happier! 
 
 
I decided to try it out first on some of the smaller cookies, like Rabbit's stopwatch.
We're late! We're late! For a very important date!!!!! 

 I also painted the lettering on the potion bottle.  I liked how they turned out and felt confident that I could move on to the bigger cookie design!  No problem!!

You have a beautiful smile Chesh!!  Ever notice how contagious a smile is?  Especially a great, big genuine smile?  If not, try it out! Notice who's smiling and smile back!!
 

 
I don't know that I did the invitation any justice but I sure tried!!  Hand painting on a cookie is time and labor intensive, but soothing and rewarding at the same time!!  I hope that the birthday girl loves these cookies as much as I loved creating them for her!!  Happy Birthday Nikki!!!  Hope you have a magical celebration!!  8 is a pretty big deal!!!  You're just two years away from double digits!!!!!  But remember, just because you're getting older, don't ever lose the child inside!! Slow down, have tea parties, play with dolls, laugh - a lot!!!!!!  Birthdays are great but it's the inbetween moments that make up a magical life!!
 
God Bless
Lorraine

 




Friday, November 7, 2014

Why I love Fall!! {warning: lots of fall photos}


Let's be clear, I love every season for different reasons, but it happens to be fall, so fall is what I'm focused on.  Plus, it seems that it could very well be gone tomorrow, no matter what the calendar says!  The weather has been unpredictable to say the least, so I'm learning to look for the gifts and capture them when I can! 

Today, Jessica, my daughter, asked me if I could take some pictures for her blog. She really isn't very fond of taking pictures and says that she's just not able to think of creative settings for the things that she wants photographed.  I literally jumped at the offer!!!!!  As soon as I asked her what the content of her post was going to be, the ideas just started coming to mind!  I couldn't wait!



I have these great adirondack chairs that I literally just look at through the window (how sad) and I knew that this was where I needed to start!!  The yard already provided a perfect backdrop, I just had to gather some of it together and get to work!  As I was on my way out the door I thought about a basket or some sort container, so I diverted and went to my garage!!  Old metal picnic basket, check!!  Back to the yard, I took three steps outside and thought "plaid blanket, burlap pillow"!!  Got it!!  I passed by the stump sitting on my patio although I was pretty sure that I'd be back for him!

 
I moved the chair over to the birch trees and started setting up!  Jessica came out and I mentioned that I should have grabbed a coffee mug -so she brought me one!  :) For me, this is such a great picture of a perfect fall moment.  It's chilly but not too chilly, the leaves are leisurely falling from their high perches, big cup of coffee or hot cocoa, warm blanket and a good book!!
 
 
I don't have any pictures of the books with chair and the birch tree, you're gonna have to go check out her blog to see them!!  But after staging under the tree I moved over to the picnic table, that happens to be under our other birch tree.  These are her recent book finds.  I just found a really neat editing app on my phone so I had even more fun changing the pics up a bit!
 

 
I spotted this little nook at the base of the birch tree that was covered with moss and surrounded by leaves, I grabbed my picnic basket and headed there next!



 
We are still getting roses from our rose bushes and even though the hydrangeas are dying out, they are still incredibly beautiful with their ombre color.  I love flowers and this home came with over 50 rose bushes and we promptly added plenty of other flowering bushes to the mix!  It's so nice to be able to step outside and have a fresh bouquet of flowers in your hand in a matter of minutes!  Such a gift!
 
 
Later in the day Jessica had commented that she felt that this had been the perfect fall week.  The weather has been a mix of chilly and warmish, the leaves continue to fall and we've seen our fair share of clouds, rain and sunshine.  Then in a matter of moments it started pouring and the wind wipped up out of nowhere!  It had been raining off and on throughout the morning but we had hit a dry spot.  In the next few minutes the sun was shining brightly and the sky was blue!  So crazy!! 

 
Our back yard is one of my favorite places to be.  I don't get to spend the kind of time that I'd like to out there, but I sure do spend my fair amount of time gazing out the windows and just taking it all in.  In every season this home and yard has been a gift, save for a few weeks in the spring/summer when the horse flies are as big as a hummingbird!!  {yes, we were warned!}  This last shot is my absolute favorite spot in the yard.  As the sun sets it falls perfectly into frame inside a cut out area between our evergreen trees!  I love to run out and capture that shot all of the time.  I don't think I can have to many copies of it!!
 
 
In two short weeks, the hubs and I will be heading south for a little vacation in Sweet Home Alabama!!  I've already started to think about what to pack!!  Do they have a fall?  Is it anything like ours? (I'm thinking not) What's the weather like?  Should I bring my boots and cardi's?  I really don't know what to expect but I can't wait to find out!!  I may have to ask my friend, Evan what he thinks I should pack!!
 
Have a blessed weekend friends!!  Go out and enjoy all of the gifts that Fall has to offer!!
 
God bless,
Lorraine

 
 
 


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Road Trip Time!!!!!

Okay, so here's the deal!!  We're headed to Alabama!!!!!!!!!



WHEN:  Saturday, November 22nd - Friday, November 29th
(I know, Thanksgiving??  We picked this week because it was less vacation days for my hubs to take!)

WHERE:  Montgomery, AL

WHY:  We've been dreaming BIG and praying HARD for a while now, dream chasing if you will and we feel that Alabama may be a part of that dream!!!  This is a great time for us to come down, explore the area(s), meet some of you and have some fun!!!!!

We'll be having a fun give away or two, so stay tuned for details on that!  If you've ordered from me in the past, I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to meet ya!!!!!  Also looking for the best places to visit, things to do, places to see, etc.  So any favorites you have, I'd love for you to share them with me!!!

On another note, we are looking to make things a bit easier for you to find us, figure things out and so on, so Sweets for your Sweet will be merging with my blog and IG, A Place to Gather!!  Facebook, IG and my blog will be one cohesive place.......to gather!!!!  We'll talk life, family, God, Cookies (of course) and plenty of other things!!!!

Would you keep this dream of ours in your prayers?  I don't know how or when it will all play out, but God has been orchestrating this for quite some time now and I'm super excited about this next phase and the opportunity to meet some of you!!!! 

Please feel free to message me here, on facebook or IG to let me know if you'll be around that week and when and if we can meet up!!!!  I'll be bringing some sweets with me and plus don't forget about the give away!!  More details on that to come in the next few days!!!!

God bless,
Lorraine

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

What's Love got to do with it?

I've been thinking a lot about love lately.  Not the mushy romantic kind though.  I've been thinking about the selfless, sacrificial kind.  The kind that Jesus gives and asks us to give to others. Agape Love.  Sure it sounds easy enough until you come across someone who seems unworthy of such love.  Suddenly we're very willing to walk away and forget love altogether.  I've recently been watching my children interact with one another and I've come to notice how little of that kind of love is present in my home.  Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of love here, just not the selfless, sacrificial love that Jesus demonstrates.  I find that to be a real problem.  Not only because we are a family who carries the name Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, but also because God Himself has asked us (you too) to show that kind of love to the world.  If it's not in our homes, how is it going to be in our world?  Turn on any news channel and you'll see that the exact opposite is happening today, all around our world and our country.  We are all so consumed with our rights and with "justice", with someone "getting what's coming to them".  All of that is the exact opposite of how God asks us to live.



Let's bring it in a little closer shall we, let's get back into our homes and our families, because that is where it has to begin.  We all know families who are hurting and broken. (maybe that's you) Parents and children who are holding onto past wrongs with both hands proclaiming that they get their way or else.  Families who want one thing but do the very thing that drives loved ones away.  Days, months even years of separation and no contact.  You see, if we keep holding on to the worlds ideas on love we will end up empty and alone.  BUT, if we ever could be so bold and so brave to throw that false love out the window and grab on to God's love with both hands, I believe that a radical change would take place inside of our homes, our churches, our communities and even the world!!!



I've had the chance to practice this kind of love with one of my own (note that I said practice - it's hard and I don't always get it right, but I'm trying) and I truly believe that when the time is right and the field has been properly tended to, a new crop will burst forth!  God promises it and I'm holding onto it with both hands.  I can't continue to hold every wrong thing done against me out in front of me like a banner or like its some right I have so that others know I've been wronged.  I don't want to hold things over someone elses head!  There's no reward in that, anywhere!  I have tasted God's grace and forgiveness and I want to give it to others!!  It is way more satisfying.....even when it isn't given in return.

This kind of love requires a complete trust and faith in Jesus.  Without that, this kind of love cannot be attained.  So, you may need to start there! How?  Well, first you admit that you are a sinner, that you need a Savior!  You acknowledge that Jesus Christ came to earth, died a gruesome death for you and for I.  He rose from the grave three days later and now sits at the right hand of His Father; God. His death on the cross represents the payment for our sins, payment that we could never pay!  Now because of the cross we have a chance at eternal life with Jesus Christ!!! At that point, search out other Christians, a church that teaches the TRUTH!  Dive in and get to know Him.  He's worth it!!



 If you've got that or are working toward that - great!  Let's continue!  I want to look at two verses that come to mind when thinking about Jesus' love.  The first is:

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

I've grown up hearing that verse.  I don't know that I knew it was scripture for a long time but it still made sense to me.  I always thought of it in that mushy, romantic love that I mentioned earlier.  But now that I'm older I realize that that's not the kind of love that it's referring to at all!!  The love that I am capable of clearly demonstrates it's lack of sin covering all of the time!  I'm prone to hold accounts of wrongs, to stand my ground and demand my rights, remain unmovable until I get my way.  But this love, this Agape love, Jesus' love.....is an entirely different story!  Let's look at another verse that breaks it down a bit more!


1 Corinthians 13 * Otherwise known as the Love Chapter starting at verse number four:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (bold added)

I think that about covers it!  Patient......willing to wait.  No room for pride.  No dishonoring others, no self-seeking, not easily angered (yikes), it keeps no records of wrongs!  None?  How about a few, the most recent ones?  No?  Okay.  I think we have some work to do friends.



If we want to see a revolution here on earth, in our hearts and in our homes, we must be sooooooo crazy that we are willing to lay everything that we think we know aside and jump on board with this kind of Love!

I want to leave you with a portion of my devotional this morning.  It comes from the book My Utmost for His Highest from Oswald Chambers.  September 2 the last paragraph says this, "He who believes in Me....out of his heart will flow rivers of living water" -and hundreds of other lives will be continually refreshed.  Now is the time for us to break "the flask" of our lives, to stop seeking our own satisfaction, and to pour out our lives before Him.  Our Lord is asking who of us will do it for Him?"

Another book that highly recommend on the subject of crazy love is by Francis Chan and its called "Crazy Love".




Who will be so bold, so brave and so crazy with me?  Who is willing to lay themselves down and pour all that God has given them out to those around them?  I do hope and pray that you will join me!  I promise the journey, the struggle, and even the pain will be worth it!!

God bless!  Lorraine