UP, UP AND AWAY… Made it to Brazil!

Finally . . . Familiar sights (Some nicer than others.)     After a smooth (though delayed) overnight flight, we arrived in São Paulo, Brazil and rode almost two hours to the city of Campinas—and straight to the City of Youth where we were welcomed by children, staff, and board members of Hope Unlimited for Children. It's been two years since I was last here, and it's been a nice day of seeing campus improvements, familiar faces, and new faces of children who now have life-transforming hope.   The U.S. board and the Brazilian board met together this evening; joint efforts on behalf of children once abused, abandoned and neglected, often by the very ones who should have cared for them: their ... Keep Reading...

UP, UP AND (no)WAY

My, my, my... What a day.   Yesterday, after a busy morning of work and errands, we packed Renaissance Man's truck with suitcases and tubs of goodies (your Valentines, soccer uniforms, and things for Hope Unlimited's thrift stores in Brazil) and headed to the airport. Too many miles down the road—but not close enough to our destination—we stopped.   Involuntarily.   Fortunately we'd left home much earlier than necessary because the truck decided to go on strike. Seriously? It's not like we were asking it to take us all the way to Brazil!   And fortunately... We were in the right lane, so when it went KAPUT and died, we were able to coast to the shoulder. And there we sat in the heat until our new best ... Keep Reading...

Building on the Past — Envisioning the Future

It's finally happening. The too-long-neglected downtown in our community is coming back to life! Over a year ago, I told you it was a new day in the Mossy Creek Historic District, and I'm happy to report that we've stayed on track!  Today we're crossing Ts and dotting Is—and getting ready to break ground very soon.   Empty lots where classy old buildings once stood are going to become a Festival Park for community gatherings and family picnics. The park will include a grassy hillside amphitheater, event pavilion, restroom facilities, playground, and. . .   insert drum roll   . . . one of my favorite features:  an oft-requested by our community Veterans Memorial       The Battle ... Keep Reading...

TABLE FOR TWO: Happy Anniversary, Renaissance Man

Twenty-six years ago we said, "I do." Today we celebrate the ups and downs, highs and lows, surprises and longtime dreams that comprise a marriage.   We celebrate the commitment and the faith that are our foundation. We celebrate each other.   No big plans this year. Our June calendar is packed full of travel and responsibilities, so today we'll take it easy. Steaks on the grill, baked potatoes, fresh asparagus, and apple pie.   But I've set a Table for Two in preparation for our quiet evening at home. The inspiration was this gorgeous china Renaissance Man gave me for our 20th anniversary.   And then I added the salt and pepper shakers his grandparents received on their 50th wedding anniversary ... Keep Reading...

CONVERSATION OVERHEARD: Teaching the next generation

Dear young dad, I wasn't eavesdropping. It was just hard NOT to hear you and your daughter sitting at the table right behind me last night at dinner. Even as my husband and I conversed, I heard you order. Mini nachos and a taco, please. And a chicken chimichanga.   I smiled when, mere minutes later, your daughter asked, "when is our food coming?" Hungry, was she? You and I both know how efficiently-run the restaurant is—and that food comes quickly—so it didn't surprise me to hear you chuckle in response.   But I love that you chuckled! It seems many parents of young children are just angry and self-absorbed these days and don't speak to their children with kindness. Their children deserve better. Fortunately, your ... Keep Reading...

RUSTIC WITH A PUNCH OF COLOR: Sunflowers on the porch

Happy Tuesday, all!   It's a little early for sunflowers here in East Tennessee, but I'm working on plans for a Summer BBQ in Carmel Valley, CA . . . and sunflowers are on my mind. If you want to see my inspiration board on Pinterest, HERE 'tis.   I remembered a shower Renaissance Man and I hosted last Summer that I never shared here, so it seems like a good time to do that now.   The couple's wedding colors were turquoise and coral, and they wanted a rustic vibe. We've known the young man for years, and he's very easy going and "outdoorsy", so plans were made for a fun evening out at the farm. I wanted to "give a nod" to the upcoming wedding, but I didn't want the shower to be too wedding-y. Does that ... Keep Reading...

A morning surprise in the mailbox

There it was when I opened my email this morning...   Thank you for your site. Very sweet, encouraging, & interesting!   Words of encouragement from someone I don't even know.   Welcome words of encouragement.   She didn't know I'd gone to bed last night feeling discouraged because I haven't been here with you since March! She didn't know how much I've missed my time to write and tablescape and take photos. She had no idea.   But for some reason, she took the time to click on my contact button and write a few words of appreciation and encouragement.   I've already hit "reply" and thanked her... but I'll thank her here, too.   Thank you, Pamela—wherever you ... Keep Reading...

Rustic Easter Tablescape: Humbled by the old, rugged cross

It was a table for 10. Shoulder to shoulder in our dining room, we ate and laughed and shared our hearts. Men and women, all fairly new friends of ours, but we hold one important thing in common:   We celebrate Easter.     Mikasa Italian Countryside dinner plates, Tiffin King's Crown glassware, and vintage damask napkins brought a simple elegance to balance the "rustic" feel of seagrass placemats and bird's nests.     Three rock-filled vases of yellow tulips and carnations paired with blossom-filled pear branches to continue the rustic elegance vibe. At the base of each stood a cross.   Easter is nothing without the cross.     If Easter is all about the ... Keep Reading...

The night Richard Simmons ate cake—and read my aura

A few days ago, Renaissance Man received a call from someone at the New York Daily News asking him to confirm that Richard Simmons (yes, THAT Richard Simmons) had indeed purchased a well for our Hope Unlimited for Children campus in Campinas, Brazil.   Confirmed.   Obviously they were working on a piece, and so we started watching for it to come out. Over the weekend, it did.     The story raises so many unanswered questions—and brings back some really intense memories for me. I really don't know how to respond other than to sit here and write, putting those memories on virtual paper. Be forewarned:  There are a lot of memories...   I met Richard Simmons in August 2013—and shared the ... Keep Reading...

The Back Side of Yesterday: Unmerited Favor

Yesterday was surreal.   She got into my car in tears; said I had to help her. A story about a neighborhood dog running loose—and her dog getting loose... and someone complained... and a citation to appear in court.   A citation she signed agreeing to be there—and the court date she wrote on the calendar.   Feb. 26   But it was "dog court", and she didn't want to miss the class she'd just started to keep improving things for her and her family, so she'd called to see if she could reschedule.   Reschedule? She'd already missed the court date; put the wrong date on her calendar. The paper said to appear   Feb. 23   It was no longer just "dog court". It was ... Keep Reading...

Sometimes it’s little things that make a big difference…

It's almost enough to make me want to learn to knit. Almost.   Each Sunday when I walk into church, I glance at the front row to see if there are any prayer shawls.   Yesterday there were three.   Our church has a Sit 'N' Knit group of ladies who meet to sit and knit—and pray over the beautiful shawls (and scarves and blankets) they create. Rarely do they know in advance who will receive their creations, but you can be sure...   When one is needed, it will be ready. There's an entire closet dedicated to their handiwork, and the ladies work hard to keep it stocked. ... Keep Reading...

Plan ahead for ENVY OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD hanging ferns!

It was May 2013 when I asked you this question...     I asked the same question over at Hometalk where the post (so far) has   252,000 views + 71,000 Facebook shares + 204,000 pins on Pinterest   It's popular.   Seems like a good time to reprise it here...     My favorite homes here in the South have big front porches with huge hanging baskets of lush green Boston ferns. Apparently I'm not alone. At this time of year, the garden centers sell out quickly. Renaissance Man and I recently bought our usual six for the front porch ... plus the "necessaries" for planting them.   You'll have better luck if you don't leave the plants in their original plastic pots. Instead, replant them using ... Keep Reading...

Valentine Tablescape Inspiration: Some of the colors may surprise you!

On this Valentine's eve, you probably already have your tablescape in mind. If not, here are a few inspiration boards to help you get motivated. Of course, if you're one who likes to let ideas "simmer" for awhile, just pin these to your Pinterest board, and you'll be ahead of the game for next year!   Perhaps the most popular color for Valentine's Day is red.   Table linens, ruby-red dishes, a little button-embellished, heart-shaped pillow to hang on your door. And in my neck of the woods, a beautiful snow-covered red barn.     I suspect the second most popular Valentine color is pink. It's certainly a favorite of mine!     But sometimes I like to stretch myself and use non-traditional ... Keep Reading...

“SOON”, said the groundhog…

  It really hasn't been a long Winter (yet!) here in East Tennessee, but I'd like to make a motion that we skip whatever's left of it and move on to Spring.   Can I get a second?   All in favor say "aye"!     ... Keep Reading...

Valentine’s Day 2016: Share Faith, Hope, and Love

  If you come here often, you know my heart beats strong for children. I especially believe it's important to speak up for children who have no one else to do it for them. Some of those children live in Brazil and reside in homes provided by Hope Unlimited for Children.  I'll be going back to see them in June, and you can come along via My Place to Yours!   Girls from the streets and slums of Brazil are especially vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Once rescued to Hope, though, the girls begin to look forward to bright futures filled with love. This Valentine's Day, I encourage you to gather your family, friends, or small group to make Valentine's Day cards for them.   Each card means something special to ... Keep Reading...

How reliable are you?

The topic has been an ongoing conversation at our house for the past couple of weeks:   GIFTS   Not tied-up-in-a-bow gifts, but rather the talents and abilities kind. It started with a sermon at church and the idea that we each have something to contribute that will benefit the whole.   And then, a few days later, I was reminded that the 30th anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger was approaching... and it took me back to that day so many years ago when I watched that tragedy unfold in real-time—and tried to explain to a three-year-old what happened when I didn't understand it myself. Within a short time, we knew the end result—but for several months, we didn't really know what happened. ... Keep Reading...