Monday, March 29, 2010

Hooray for "The Help"

Congratulations, you have just been introduced to the best book ever. It's true! I just finished "The Help" and am very tempted to pick it up and start it all over again, just to see what little morsels I may have missed. I have no shame in admitting I stayed up until one in the morning almost every night last week, just because I was absolutely riveted reading it that I couldn't stop myself, even with my sweet husband soundly snoring beside me. You know you've got a good book on your hands when you you sit there and think about it for a long while after putting it down. I could totally relate to my friend who said she found herself sneaking out to her car on her lunch break just to read it. We're talking new favorite, to replace "To Kill A Mockingbird" in the old #1 position. It is, in a word, incredible, and if you're a southern gal like me, I guarantee it will definitely make you think about what it means to be southern, and how much times have changed since the Civil Rights Movemement of the 60's. And a big fat thank goodness for that. I truly can't say enough about how much I loved this book. And apparently, others did too. Such as these guys:

Associated Press
"At turns hilarious and heart-wrenching...[A] pitch-perfect rendering. Readers are hooked."

USA Today
"Thought-provoking...[Stockett's] pitch-perfect depiction of a country's gradual path toward integration will pull readers into a compelling story that doubles as a portrait of a country struggling with racial issues...This is already one of the best debut novels of the year."

The New York Times
"In 'The Help,' Kathryn Stockett's button-pushing, soon to be wildly popular novel...The two principal maid characters...leap off the page in all their warm, three dimensional glory. Book groups armed with hankies will talk and talk...[A] winning novel."

I felt such a kindred connection with Kathryn Stockett, the author of this wonderful novel. Like me, she's a southern girl, born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. Like me, she attended the University of Alabama (I went for my Master's) and was an English Major. And perhaps the neatest find of all? Like me, she had a close relationship with her nanny growing up, who affected her in a very meaningful way. Growing up, I was lucky enough to have the most wonderful, sweet-spirited woman that helped to raise me, and her name is Mattie Jackson.

Mattie was way more than a housekeeper for us - she actually helped to take care of my Dad, who is now 69 years old, when he was a little boy. (So yes, that puts Mattie in her 80's now). Our family cherishes her just like she is one of our own. Because in a way, she is. Ah, I could just cry thinking about her. She used to leave handwritten notes in my room telling me that I was beautiful, that I was smart, and that I had an amazing life ahead of me. And I promise you, I kept every single one of those notes I ever found. I actually found one in my bible the other day, and it had me smiling for a straight hour all the way through church. She means that much to me. I have distinct memories of her spending the day with me, and a special place in my heart for her famous chocolate milk (extra-chocalately, please). Whenever I call her, she always tells me she is remembering me in her prayers, and whenever I go by to visit her at Christmas, she beams at me and shows me how she still has my picture framed.

All this to say, the book absolutely touched me in a way that words can't really express. If you are lucky enough, as I was, to have someone like Mattie in your life, it has a profound affect on you that lasts well into your adult years. And to read a book that touches on that very feeling, and to relive what "The Help" used to go through to get to the point where we are today - it just changes you in a way that makes you so appreciative and so grateful to have had a far more positive experience than the book describes. They say in the book that good help is like true love - you only get one in your life. Mattie was so much more than "help" to us - she was an example of all that is good in this world, a prayer warrior, a smiling face, and more than anything, a friend. So here's to you, Miss Mattie Jackson - you'll never know how much I love you!

Mattie and Me, in Christmas 2004.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Goin' to the Chapel: A Recap (Finally!)

Since it's a yucky, dreary day outside, I needed a little something to brighten my spirits this morning. And what could be better for that than a few photos from January 2, 2010 - also known as The Wedding Day! Yes, I realize it's almost April and the wedding was about three months ago, but it's just so hard to narrow down my favorites, because they all bring back such distinct memories of that day. Nevertheless, I shall try. I tried to keep them chronological so you could see how the day unfolded. It's so weird, as I was posting these pictures, it took me right back to that day, and the nervousness/excitement/anxiety/happiness I felt. It was like the weirdest but best combination of feelings you could ever have. But anyway, you don't want to hear about that - you want to see pictures, right? Well then, away we go!

One of my favorite photos from the hotel while we were getting ready - two of my lovely bridesmaids reading the note from my groom...

...pictured here. It was accompanied by the Zac Brown Band cd, so we could listen to some of my kind of music while we prepped in the hotel room. He knows me so well. :)

Miss Amy Lynn Larwig doing some final touches

I know this is going to sound crazy, but I love how my eye makeup turned out here. I'm super picky about other people doing my makeup, but this was exactly what I wanted. Does that make me a narcissist?

Checking to be sure my "something borrowed" diamond earrings that were loaned by our friends at Lindell Jewelers were in fact still attached to my earlobes. I was a nervous wreck that I might lose them - or the diamond necklace they were kind enough to throw in!

This photo of the chapel is pure perfection to me. I am SO glad we picked Scarritt Bennett, even if it was freezing inside! (We had to keep the temp inside below 70 degrees so the organ would play properly - it is a dinosaur but so worth it when you hear how beautiful the sound carries.)

Right before our "first look." I was oddly calm in this moment. And so ready to see my groom.

Our first of many kisses that day. :)

Probably one of the best decisions I made was to let the chapel's beauty speak for itself - this candlescape at the altar table were the only decorations I had, and I loved the simplicity of it.

Have you ever seen a more handsome groom? I think he looks pretty happy to be getting married in a couple of hours, don't you?

One of my best memories. At the last minute (and as a surprise), I lined up this men's a capella group to sing "Oh Happy Day" for our recessional. I'll never forget hearing them rehearse in the back of the chapel in the minutes before we walked down the aisle.

All the ladies looking proper in the parlor

Can you say mischievous? Our twin ringbearers, Logan and Lucas. They were a hoot.

Almost too much cuteness for one picture!

Walking to the chapel, right after someone said "it's time!"

The first of one of my most favorite photos. I was so proud to be on the arm of my dad.

The first time I zeroed in on my groom at the end of the aisle.

This photo gives me goosebumps - I'm right back in that moment, seeing all those people I love smile at me and my dad.

Right before he "gives me away" - words can't say how that tears on your heartstrings!

Love this lighting...

"You may kiss the bride" - right before Mr. T's fistpump to the crowd!

Hearing "Oh Happy Day" up in the balcony!

And being blissfully happy to be Mrs. T!

Oh yes, I cried like a baby. Love my man's expression here. And really love that the lace handkerchief was my great-grandmother's - my something old.

Rocking a wedding band for first time and kissing my new husband! Yippee!!!
Next up - the Reception Recap. Oh, I'm on a roll now!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Oh Sunshiney Day

Now that spring is timidly beginning to tiptoe around Nashville, I've got one subject on the brain. Patio Furniture. When we moved in our house back in September, we (and by we I mean Mr. T) decided to hold off on purchasing any outdoor furniture, to give us plenty of time to do our research and not make an impulsive decision. Now I for one am just fine with impusliveness, be it the new sundress I must purchase on the spot at Blush because summer is on its way and they have my size and if I don't get it right now I may miss out on this wonderful opportunity to have all my girlfriends say "where did you GET that darling dress?", but out of respect for my then-fiance and now-husband, I decided it was one of those battles I would choose not to pick. So as soon as March got here, I had the eye of an eagle out at every store in a 60 mile radius that sells patio furniture. And P.S. if you're thinking Mr. T's Patio is the place to go, don't waste your time. We were lured there by the promise of a "clearance sale" banner and were quite disappointed to find upon arrival that there was nary a bench, chair, or table under a grand. Now I'm all for quality furniture, but the stuff will get rained, sleeted, snowed and hailed on, so let's not be silly.

So after I finished up a work event yesterday and walked in the door to kiss my husband on the cheek, I asked him to pretty please run a little errand called "let's see what Target has to offer" in the way of patio furniture. And I must say, they have a cute little conversation set that caught my eye. However, I did some online research and found trusty ole Wal-Mart has a VERY similar set for $100 less. And I'm pretty close to pulling the trigger. But first, cast your vote. Would you want to sit down with me and have a glass of sweet tea on my front porch in this cute little set? I mean, the ottomoans store themselves. That makes my foot-propping self very happy. :)
Happy Spring!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thoughtless Thursday...

Oh happy sunshiney day! And be proud of me, Miss Katie, I'm playing along in my first installment of Thoughtless Thursday! So a little background before we begin. Speaking of happy days, Mr. T and I went to our first wedding as a married couple this past Saturday for our dear friends Tera and Teddy. They did a private ceremony with family and close friends at a sweet little chapel in Brentwood and then came to town to rock it out at their reception with over 200 guests, a DJ, and an open bar! I definitely remember requesting "Imma Be" by the Black Eyed Peas and "Gold Digger" by Jamie Fox. And Lawd, did we ever cut a rug! Congrats, Tera and Teddy, and please know how insanely jealous I am of you two sunning your cute selves in Hawaii right now!

Props to my sweet friend Melissa (who you can see I adore) who was the Wedding Planner Extraordinare that day - she turned the Cannery Ballroom into the prettiest place you ever saw!

My favorite dancing HUSBAND! (I still love saying that).
With the lovely bride, Tera.

I was feeling very affectionate, I suppose. It happens at the end of a night with an open bar. :)
In other news, I have officially filled out my first NCAA Men's Basketball Bracket. I know. I'm shocked myself. I still think you can only REALLY love one sport, and we all know that mine is definitely football. But I wish you could see how excited the Hubs got when I filled one out. He says he knew a girl who picked her teams based on the color of their uniforms...and WON, people. Baby needs a new pair of shoes, so I figure it's worth a shot. Pun intended.
I'm predicting a Duke/Syracuse matchup. How about you?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patty's Past

This is for you. :)

Your favorite leprechaun

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Letter To My 29 Year Old Self

Dear 29 Year Old Self,

Yes, you're turning 30 in seven hours. Quit freaking out about how old you're getting and that your roaring twenties are behind you and that 30 seemed so ancient just a few short years ago and instead, let's try and focus on the positive. And wow, there is so much to be positive about. In fact, I've made you a little list:

  • Your laugh lines that are starting to appear mean you have found much happiness in these first thirty years. Always surround yourself with the people, places and things that bring laughter, and let it keep you feeling forever young.

  • Your metabolism that is beginning to slow down just means you have to work that much harder to fight for that fitness you once took for granted. But your health has never been more important to you, and that is a very good thing.

  • You can still rock a pair of skinny jeans and stilettos. Yes, your feet ache a little more than they used to but that is the price we pay to be fashionable. For now, at least.

  • You still get carded, and it still feels good. Thank you, random waiter/stranger/bouncer/whoever for making my day when you do that.

  • You moved to a new city two years ago not knowing a soul. That was gutsy. And the best decision you have ever made.

  • You went on a blind date that ended up being your last first date.

  • You just landed yourself a handsome, thoughtful, considerate, kind, hilarious husband, who wakes you up each morning and contributes to the aforementioned laugh lines every day.

  • You just bought your first home. And picked the paint colors for every room. And persuaded the hubs that a tile backsplash and a wine cooler were in fact wise investments. And you were RIGHT.

  • You still look forward to football season, and feel it is rather unlucky to not wear crimson on game day. Some habits die hard.

  • On that note, your favorite football team won the national championship this year. Who says college football is only for those in college?

  • You have a family that loves you, and a place to always call home.

  • You've just added a new family that you truly love to be around, and you've realized that stereotypical theory of not liking your in-laws is just silliness.

  • You have met wonderful new friends while not forgetting how dear the old ones are to you.

  • You've let go of the people that don't add to your life, and clung to the ones worth keeping.

  • Your faith has been tested. Your moments of questioning, searching and being held to the fire has shaped the person you have become.

  • You've started investing in things that are outside yourself, and trying to really spend time on things that matter. And it feels amazing to not be so selfish for a change.

  • You've realized that all those worried prayers that kept you up at night in your twenties have finally been answered, and that even better things are to come. How cool is that?

Happy 30th birthday,

Your 29 Year Old Self

Monday, March 8, 2010

Surprise! (aka 2nd Best Birthday Ever)

What a weekend! And I'm not just talking about that glorious return of the big bright shiny thing called the sun. No, I just pretty much had the most fantastic surprise pre-30th birthday party EVER. Which would go down as the best birthday ever, but that position is currently held by last year's 29th b'day, when Mr. T got right down on his handsome knee and proposed to me. So even though this year's birthday hasn't arrived yet, it has already shaped up to be right up there in second place.

So it all started with my husband, bless his sweet heart, and my friends Tera and Melissa, who used to be his neighbors. I pretty much knew the night I met them that we would be fast friends. Well not only do I love the girls, but it turns out Tera and I got engaged within two months of each other, and Melissa and I have birthdays that are exactly a week apart (hers on the 4th, mine the 11th) so we're also birthday buddies! Here we are celebrating her birthday at Germantown Cafe...

Before heading out in this way too much fun limosine! And yes, I am in fact wearing a faux fur coat. I figured it was my last chance before spring AND it makes me feel a tad rich and famous.

Yes, the newlyweds WILL gladly pose for a quick photo...

Until lo and behold, the limo pulls up to one of my favorite local watering holes and I saw THIS!

Along with about 20 of my favorite peeps who yelled "Surprise" at the top of their lungs when I walked in! I like to have fallen in the floor, yall! I had absolutely NO idea but was beyond stoked to have a surprise party - on my 30th birthday, nonetheless! They had the whole thing planned out to a tee, and going out for her Melissa's birthday was all part of their master plan to set up the surprise. I mean, are they the best or what? More pictures are forthcoming, but I'll leave you with one of the favorites from the night...which was blown up POSTER SIZE and definitely got a lot of conversation -and laughs -throughout the evening. (Which, in a nutshell, is that this was taken just before my friend Marcie's wedding in Birmingham last July, when her mom decided she should tease my hair to high heaven before putting it in an up-do for me. I hadn't seen the tangled mess she created until the photographer died out laughing and snapped this lovely picture.) So thank you, Marcie, for sharing this little beauty with the free world. I seriously look like a TROLL!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Friday Favorites: The Details

Goodbye, longest week EVER and hello WEEKEND! So I've chosen this fabulous Friday to post a few of my favorite "detail shots" from the wedding. We just got our proof album back from the photographer with over 500 photos, and while some are a bit repetitive (there are about 25 of me in the chapel just after our first look where I am posed in almost exactly the same way) there are some jewels in the mix too. Here are a few of my uber-favorites:

OK, I must admit - I seriously loved my shoes. They were the perfect shade of ivory but a little plain, so I jazzed them up with feathers centered around a beautiful pearl broach - which were actually a pair of earrings I found at Francescas! I got the gel insoles (a wise investment) and danced the night away!

I thought the perfect compliment to the girls' dresses would be a fun clutch they could use that night and everafter. So I commissioned a lovely lady out of London (shoutout to my girl Emma Gordon - check out her Etsy site to see all her creations) to design these satin handbags, and personalized them by having her stitch my maids' initials into the lining - a sweet touch! My bridesmaids wore midnight blue, so their bags were silver with a blue flower, and my junior maids wore platinum, so their bags were reversed!

Here are Stacy and Candice showing off their clutches in the Bride's Room at the chapel, just before showtime. Thanks to my other photographer, Marcie, who was on camera duty!

My beautiful bouquet, compliments of Caprice at The Enchanted Florist. Peonies make my happy, so naturally, that is what I chose for my happy day. They had an ostrich feather cuff to make it a bit more "wintry," and a glam-tastic vintage broach that I found at a shop in DC.

A close up of the aformentioned broach (again taken by Marcie). Isn't it fun?

Simple white feather wreaths on the chapel doors. Do you see a theme developing here? I just LOVED the idea of using them - they go along with the winter decor so well!

For the decor in the chapel, I envisioned lots of candlelight and a clean, simple arrangement of flowers . Nothing fancy, because the chapel itself is so gorgeous, I wanted it to take center stage. I loved this candlescape at the altar table. We garnished with magnolia leaves as a nod to my southern roots!

Love this shot! My maids carried lanterns in lieu of bouquets, which were lit up with lamp oil to give a soft glow. Total cost for all six? $70! That is the cost of one single bouquet, people!

Loved my bistro table arrangements! They really glammed up the reception in an unexpected way. Caprice added the crystals for a gorgeous last-minute touch - she is genius, I tell you.

Pinecones, silver manzanita branches, and more candlelight on a January night = perfect!

The coffee bar - complete with coffee stirrers that say "To Keep You Warm and Toasty" and a fun end of the night treat - donut holes!
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