"The sky had cleared, and now the sun was overhead, already baking the wet ground so that you could see the humidity drifting lazily about the cotton stalks."  John Grisham, A Painted House
Today, we are thrilled to unveil the beautiful Summer cover of Inspiration Mississippi Magazine!  We are also pleased to share our summer photo shoot with you, set along the scenic Mississippi coast. 

Our models donned gorgeous Vintage-inspired dresses, delicately draped in lace and intricate beading.  Any of these romantic gowns would command the spotlight on your wedding day.  We hope you adore these lovely images as much as we do!

A special thank you to the following vendors:
Photography by Adam + Alli Photography
Dresses by Mimi's Bridal   
Hair & Makeup by Mod by Kristina Myers
Rentals by Modern Revival Rentals 
Floral Design by Au Courant Floral
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
Hoping to freshen up your home this season?  Look no further than SummerHouse in Ridgeland.   The stunning showroom and interior design firm specializes in clean, fresh, light, classic and soft modern designs. 
TOMORROW kicks off SummerHouse’s annual BACKDOOR SALE, featuring an endless assortment of amazing pieces at extraordinary prices.  Owner and Principal Designer, Lisa Palmer, says, “We have sofas, chairs, coffee tables, rugs, accessories, lamps, beds, framed prints, bedding, throws, pillows and lighting.  These are great things that we are ready to sell at fantastic prices - to make room for new!” 
We hope to see all of you tomorrow and Saturday at the incredible Backdoor Sale!  This year’s sale will take place at 853 Wilson Drive in Ridgeland.  For more information on the sale, please visit the SummerHouse website here
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
{Bride}  Alexandria Lee Sumrall (Alex)
{Groom}  Allen Scott Massingill
{Hometowns} Bay Springs and Meridian
{Wedding Site} Bay Springs United Methodist Church. Bay Springs, MS
{Reception Site} Bride’s family home (Bill and Suzanne Sumrall), Bay Springs
{Bride’s Bouquet} Dusty miller, eucalyptus, calla lilies, billy buttons, variegated pittosporum, and hypericum berries
{Bridesmaid Bouquets} Dusty miller, eucalyptus, calla lilies, billy buttons, variegated pittosporum, hypericum berries, and protea 

{How did the two of you meet?} We were introduced by a mutual friend in the fall of our freshmen year at Mississippi State University.

{What is your proposal story?} Ever since we began dating, I always wanted Allen to ask me something in food: to a date party, dinner, etc., but he never did.  The night before my 22nd birthday, Allen took me to dinner at Restaurant Tyler, our favorite Starkville restaurant, where we had celebrated every birthday and anniversary for the past 3 years.  After dinner, Allen drove us back to his apartment for birthday cake.  Allen made me sit in the living room while he “got the cake ready.” I just assumed he was putting candles on the cake or something.  When I walked into the kitchen the cake read, “Will you marry me?”  When I turned around Allen was on one knee with the most beautiful ring I have ever seen. 

{What inspired your wedding and reception locations?} My childhood church has always been extremely special to me; it never occurred to us to get married anywhere else. It was important to me to begin my new life where I grew up, so my childhood home was always our only option.

{What inspired your color scheme/theme/flowers?} We wanted a seasonal color, and with both families being lifelong MSU fans, maroon seemed like the perfect choice. The reception was a reflection of how Allen and I live life: relaxed, with abundant elements of nature.  As far as flowers, my mom and florist Connie Ware made most of the decisions; they are both extremely talented.  The main goal was for everything to be seasonal, with the exception of sunflowers and mums.

{How did you pick “the dress?”} I knew I wanted a lace dress with straps. When my mom and I went dress shopping we both instantly knew it was “the one” the second we added a veil.  

{What’s your favorite unique accessory? Is there a story behind it?} My bouquet.  Both my mom and father-in-law are avid gardeners, and I wanted to make sure our wedding flowers incorporated their shared enthusiasm.  My mom grew the succulents and Allen’s dad grew the dusty miller in my bouquet. There were even cuttings from my parents’ yard in every boutonniere and bouquet.

{What was your favorite part of the wedding planning process?} I absolutely loved all of the time I was able to spend with my family. Almost every evening before the wedding when I was in Bay Springs, my parents and I would sit in the rocking chairs on the porch and look out at the area where the reception would be held.  The three of us would discuss all the details and get excited thinking about how much fun we were going to have.

{Besides the actual wedding, what was your favorite moment of the wedding day?} Allen and I choose to have a “first look” before the ceremony.  Initially we made this decision to help make the day more efficient. However, it wasn’t until the morning of the wedding that I realized how important it was that we see each other.  We were both a little nervous, but that seemed to go away as soon as we saw each other.

{What was your favorite surprise detail/moment about your wedding day?} I will cherish the memories of our flower girls, ring bearers, and program attendants dancing to the band for the rest of my life.  We worked for months to make sure all our guests would enjoy themselves. To actually see people that you care for so deeply, genuinely thrilled is a wonderful feeling.  Luckily, Barrett Photography was able to capture the children’s fun beautifully.

{Your favorite picture from the big day?} This picture was taken in the doorway of the church, right after we saw each other for the first time. I feel like it perfectly captures our excitement and joy.   

{The picture that represents the two of you best?} 
The picture of us attempting to dance to one of our favorite songs from college.  We are both terrible dancers and every time we try to dance it always ends up with us historically laughing.

Photographer: Barrett Photography 
Event Planner: N/A Diana Montgomery directed the ceremony and my parents planned the wedding and reception.
Dress: The Bridal Path, Jackson, MS
Bride’s Jewelry: I borrowed my mom’s necklace and earrings.  The necklace was actually the same one she wore when she and my dad married.
Hair: Madison Burrell
Make-up: Madison Burrell
Bridesmaid Dresses: Bella Bridesmaids, Jackson, MS
Tuxes: Tuxes Too
Videographer: 4M productions
Venue: Bay Springs United Methodist Church and the home of the bride’s parents.
Lighting: Davaine Lighting
Rentals: Great Southern Events, Alexander’s Hardware, and McGraw Gotta Go
Florist: Taylorsville Florist and Gift
Catering: Fresh Cut Catering and Floral 
Bar: Local friends
Band: Chris Gill and the Sole Shakers
Bride’s Cake: Family friend
Groom’s Cake: family friend
Print Material: Forrest Paper Company  
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
Bliss Gift and Home is one of Jackson’s most impressive and gorgeous gift stores.  Nestled inside of Banner Hall, Bliss is filled with beautiful treasures, and customers are flocking to Bliss to fill their registries with unique gifts.  Bliss offers registry for weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, babies, graduation, and retirement.  Owner Cathy Joyner says, “Everyone LOVES reviewing their loved ones’ wish lists, so they know they are buying a gift the recipient will absolutely adore!”

We had a wonderful chat with Cathy about Bliss Baby and Bliss Bridal Registries.  Today, she fills us in on all of the lovely gifts in her store:

Tell us about your Bliss baby gifts!
“Bliss offers registry for expectant parents to ensure they receive just what baby wants and needs.   We are pleased to offer the very popular Chewbeads necklaces, bracelets, teething rings and infant toys.  We offer a nice selection of basic everyday needs such as blankets, bibs and burp pads, adorable onesies with precious sayings such as ‘Worth the Wait’ and ‘New to Town.’

We have a beautiful line of affordable, but exquisite linen rompers and day gowns, as well as Christening Gowns and sheets. The traditional silver piggy bank and rattle are always a treasure to receive.   We particularly love our mobiles and bedding from just across the border in Canada.  The swaddle blankets are the perfect weight for the Mississippi heat, but ensure baby feels cuddled and swaddled but with fabric that is cool and airy.  And, one of our most popular gifts is the pink, blue or ecru canvases complete with stamp pad and instructions for capturing baby’s footprint.” 

Can Brides and Grooms register with Bliss? 
Bliss is one of couples’ favorite places to register. The grooms particularly love our zapper guns so they can go through the store zapping away.  AND, so that zapper gun envy is not the cause of their first fight, we have TWO zapper guns ready to go at all times.  

With everything from Arte Italica tableware to baskets, mirrors, lamps and artwork, to serving pieces to cookware to linens (shall we keep going), brides frequently say that Bliss is their preferred shopping place for their very kind and generous wedding guests.   And the Groom LOVES the man cave at Bliss.  The copper moscow mule cups are a big hit with the guys along with many other ‘macho man’ offerings.”   

What is the easiest way for their friends and family to purchase items on their registry? 
“Coming into the store is certainly the most blissful experience. There’s nothing like seeing, touching and feeling the many gift options.  However, we are HAPPY to take your phone call, text or email pictures and pricing of products and work with you in any way to make your gift giving EASY.  Very soon we hope to have our e-commerce website up and going with each couple’s registry listed.   Stay tuned for that exciting development.  Regardless, our goal is to make it very easy on the shopper.”

What special items does Bliss carry that brides and grooms cannot find elsewhere?
“We are so pleased to offer beautiful glassware made in Italy called Egizia.  We are still receiving the pieces of this beautiful line and are so anxious to offer an assortment, but for now we offer highballs, double old-fashions, vodka glasses, various sizes of bowls and stunning decanters.  Coming soon are cake plates, platters and other gorgeous but very useful pieces.  The current stock is adorned with silver or white but gold is being handmade as we ‘speak.’     

We also have access to designers in Atlanta and Dallas who will custom make jewelry for mother of the bride or groom and bridesmaid gifts.  We carry some of their original pieces in the store now, but can also work with the bride to have unique, one of a kind items made for her entourage.

Another original and exclusive to Bliss is a talented handbag designer from North Carolina. We just had one bride receive one as her ‘something blue’…the bag is named Camille.  It is another match meant to be, as the bride’s name is also Camille! We love our Mississippi artists who have original pieces in Bliss.  Prices on the art range from $28 - $2400.  Any would be a beautiful addition to the young couple’s new home.”

Anything else you want to add?
“While we have quickly become known for our beautiful gift wrap, one of the things brides appreciate most is certainly what is inside the gift!  In addition to a fabulous selection from their friends and family, we include an enclosure card that specifies the purchaser, the name of the item(s), any special care that is required for the gift, suggestions for various uses AND the address for easy thank you note writing. We want to do anything we can to offer a more blissful experience for our special couples.  

Registered couples have many other perks as well.   Bliss brides enjoy a ten percent discount on all hostess gifts along with our beautiful complimentary gift wrap and, if desired, a message of thanks from the bride and groom.  Couples also receive ten percent off of bridesmaids and groomsmen gifts AND one month after the wedding date, we tally a total of all purchases made on their behalf and give the couple a store credit of ten percent of total purchases.  That’s our blissful gift as thanks for letting us be a part of their engagement and wedding.  

We so look forward to our brides and their family dropping in the store to collect their gifts, but are happy to deliver gifts within a ten-mile radius.  We are happy to deliver hostess gifts to the home of the soiree on the day of the event as well.  Again, we want to help make this even more of a blissful time for the happy couple and their loved ones.    

One of our offerings that is the most fun for our team is working with young couples on merging households.  We have a blast taking the ‘his and hers’ and helping orchestrate what to keep, what to ‘reinvent’ and gently suggesting what to donate (it’s usually the guy stuff that needs to move on to another life)!!   We discuss their registry items and prioritize what to keep, exchange, and/or incorporate into the new household.  Then we help map out a plan of priorities (and budget) of what to add to the household over time.  This is a wonderful way to maintain a ‘blissful’ household with a third party helping to mesh the male and female perspective of what’s needed to make a happy home (warning guys:  serving pieces and trays usually beat out rifles and hunting knives; BUT, we do offer custom made knives at Bliss that are the envy of every hunter)”

Thank you, Cathy, for telling us more about Bliss’s incredible gifts and how to register!  You can visit the Bliss website here!

Also, a special thank you to Christina Foto for the perfectly precious photographs!
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
Runway Shows are intense, exciting and overflowing with creativity.  With lovely lighting, a carefully curated playlist, and stunning models floating down the runway in incredible designs, fashion shows can truly be a magical experience. 
If you have ever dreamed of attending a New York designer’s runway show, you are in luck!  Tomorrow at 5:00pm, the Old Carthage Elementary School will open its doors and unveil an extraordinary evening of style at The Local Fashion Advantage event. 
In 2013, fashion designer Hilton Hollis felt the urge to give back to his hometown.  “I wanted to save my old elementary school.  It was in complete disrepair, and was basically boarded up and empty.  This gorgeous, 1920’s red brick school building with beautiful architecture and amazing white columns was abandoned,” says Hilton.  “It was unbelievable to me that they would let this stunning building go to waste.”
A native Mississippian, Hilton Hollis developed a passion for sewing and design at a young age.  In 1997, Hilton moved to New York City, studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and trained under some of the world’s most renowned designers.  Hilton now designs under his own label, Hilton Hollis, and creates beautiful, wearable pieces for the modern woman.
Hilton partnered with several people from his Carthage class, and The Local Fashion Advantage was born.  This year, the evening will begin with a silent auction, and one lucky bidder will win a luxurious package filled with shopping in Atlanta, clothing from Hilton Hollis, and high-end jewelry.  Following the silent auction, Hilton will be showing his beautiful Fall 2015 collection, and many local designers and boutiques will be featured as well.  During the incredible Runway Show, guests will be dazzled by musical performances, dancing and singing.
Over a few short years, thousands of dollars have been raised, and the handsome building has come to life once again.  The old elementary school now serves as a Community Center for special events, and thanks to Hilton and The Local Fashion Advantage, the auditorium finally has an air conditioner.  Hilton laughs, “It took 80-plus years to get it air conditioned!  It is pretty remarkable.”  Little by little, the auditorium has been completely renovated, from the 600 seats to the magnificent velvet curtain.  It has rightfully returned to its original splendor.
Beyond the financial aspects of the event, The Local Fashion Advantage has given creative Mississippians an outlet to express themselves.  Local designers, hair and makeup stylists, and even aspiring models are welcome to participate.  “Last year we had people from Vicksburg all the way to Memphis.  We even had a few from Birmingham.  It is pretty awesome that a small town like Carthage can pull in that sort of crowd.” 
A few young women have even acquired major modeling contracts after walking in the event!  Hilton says, “Two years ago we were doing our first local model casting.  I was flipping through the head shots and noticed a girl named ‘Hollis.’ I immediately wondered if we were kin!  She came in to walk for me and was a complete natural.  She was unbelievable and looked like she had been walking in Paris shows for years.  Today she has signed with a major model management company in New York City and models full-time!”
The Local Fashion Advantage has encouraged the Carthage community and people throughout the state. “I guess what we have been able to do has inspired people.  It is huge that we can make that sort of impact.  It goes way beyond the financial impact; it is really about promoting self-worth and being able to do something above and beyond what you think you are capable of,” says Hilton.
We hope you all attend this incredible event, and feel inspired by the creations presented throughout the evening!  For more information on The Local Fashion Advantage, please click here.  You can also view Hilton’s beautiful collection on his website here
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
{Bride}  Christy McCool 
{Groom} Colby Roberts
{Hometowns} Brandon, MS
{Wedding Site} First Baptist Church (East Campus)-Brandon, MS
{Reception Site} McClain Lodge- Brandon, MS
{Bride’s Bouquet} White roses with pearl pins
{Bridesmaid Bouquets} White roses, baby’s breath, and greenery

{How did the two of you meet?}
Our families have been friends for as long as the two of us can remember.  My mom and Colby’s dad actually went to high school together, and my mom taught Colby when he was in 3rd grade.  Colby is two years older than I am, so I always had what I called a “little girl crush” on him.  A friend told Colby about this crush, and the rest is history.  We started dating August of 2007 and finally got engaged December 31, 2013. 

{What is your proposal story?}
We are both huge Mississippi State fans, so we attend most MSU sporting events (home or away) together.  At the conclusion of the 2007 MSU football season, we went with our families to the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, TN.  After the game, our families went to eat together at our favorite restaurant, Texas de Brazil.  Following dinner, Colby and I rode around the river and through downtown Memphis on a horse and buggy.  I absolutely loved it!  Colby knew how much I loved this, so when the Bulldogs returned to the Liberty Bowl at the conclusion of the 2013 football season, our families planned to have dinner once again at Texas de Brazil on New Year’s Eve.  Before dinner, Colby took me on the horse and buggy ride.  When the ride was coming to an end, Colby helped me down and got down on one knee to ask me to marry him.  Our families were nearby to celebrate.  It was perfect!

{What inspired your wedding and reception locations?}
Colby and I knew we wanted to get married in our home church, First Baptist Church of Brandon.  We both have so many memories there, and we never considered any other location for the ceremony.  McClain Lodge seemed like the perfect location for the reception.  We both love the beautiful lodge surrounded by the woods.  The large fireplace, cedar, and beautiful wood detail added a special touch to our Christmas/winter wedding, so we knew it was the perfect place. 

{What inspired your color scheme/theme/flowers?}
Colby and I both love Christmas, but we did not want our decorations to be over the top red and green.  Therefore, I decided to go more with a “winter wonderland” look.  White roses, baby’s breath, and greenery were our main décor. 

{How did you pick “the dress?”}
My matron of honor/sister, my mom, my Aunt Laura, and cousin Katie went to The Bride & Groom in Columbus, MS.  I pulled some beautiful dresses from the wall to try on, and my sister pulled a dress and said, “Christy, this is the cutest/prettiest dress in here.”  I completely disagreed with her but agreed to put it in my dressing room.  I tried it on just to make her happy, but to my surprise it was “the dress.” 

{What’s your favorite unique accessory? Is there a story behind it?}
Attached to my bouquet was a blue brooch that belonged to Colby’s great-great-grandmother.  On Colby’s side of the family, he was the first grandchild to get married, so we decided to start a tradition of each grandchild using the broach in some form during his or her wedding.  It meant a lot to Colby’s grandmother, and it added a beautiful, unique touch to my bouquet.

{What was your favorite part of the wedding planning process?}
I loved the entire wedding planning process.  It was not nearly as stressful as everyone had said.  If I had to pick my favorite part, I would have to say picking out the wedding cakes.  Hailey at Cups-N-Cakes is so talented, and she made wonderful suggestions to make both Colby’s and my cake look fabulous.  I was SO happy with the final products. 

{Besides the actual wedding, what was your favorite moment of the wedding day?}
I absolutely loved our “first look.”  It had been 7 ½ years since Colby and I started dating, so our wedding had been anticipated for a long time.  Our first look was so fun and sweet.  It is a moment that we will both cherish forever. 

{What was your favorite surprise detail/moment about your wedding day?}
My sister surprised me with a book filled with letters from all my bridesmaids, mom, and close family.  The book brought back so many memories of the strong friendships built between each one of my bridesmaids and me.  It was also so meaningful to have a letter from my mom.  I will forever cherish those letters, and I still enjoy re-reading them. 

{Your favorite picture from the big day?}
Colby and I both love the picture of us standing under the big Magnolia Tree beside our church.  We both have memories of climbing that tree when we were children, and it served as a beautiful background for numerous pictures on the wedding day. 

{The picture that represents the two of you best?}
There is a particular picture during our “first look” that describes Colby and me best.  Colby is looking at me smiling, and I am wiping away tears with a tissue that Colby brought to give to me.  He came prepared because he knew I would cry.  I can cry over anything, but he always has my back.

Photographer: Sharon Coker Photography - Jackson, MS
Dress: The Bride & Groom- Columbus, MS
Bride’s Jewelry: Wedding Band- Jackson Jewelers       
Earrings: The Bride & Groom
Hair: Karen Williams
Make-up: Karen Williams
Bridesmaid Dresses: Alfred Angelo-Ridgeland, MS
Tuxes: Tuxedo Junction-Flowood, MS
Videographer: Video Images-Brandon, MS
Venue: Ceremony: First Baptist Church Brandon
Reception: McClain Lodge
Rentals: Sound system: Tech-Plus of Jackson (Larry Scott 601-961-9700)
Florist: Camilla Pegues and June Poole
Catering: McClain Catering
Reception Musician: Luke West
Bride’s Cake: Cups-N-Cakes Bakery
Groom’s Cake: Cups-N-Cakes Bakery
Print Material: ASAP Printing http://www.asapprinting.com and Boyanton Printing
Car Service: Bridal Rides
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
Dads are a tremendous source of strength, laughter and encouragement.  This Sunday, we hope you celebrate all of the extraordinary men in your life on Father’s Day.  We reached out to some of our favorite fathers for a personal photo, and asked them to share their thoughts on what it truly means to be a dad. 
“I'm not sure there is anything that has widened my perspective more than being a Dad. I feel softer and stronger, my days feel longer yet more complete, and I feel younger and heck of a lot older. All in all, the biggest mark I hope I leave on this world is a legacy to my kids that Jesus is everything and we are to spend every day loving others well.” Robby Followell of Followell Fotography
"To whom much is given, much is required..." Derrick Hicks of Carlyn Photography
Looking back at the past 4 years I really can’t imagine not being a dad.  The joy and happiness that Jase and John Stephen bring to my life is such a blessing.  God has really gifted me with two wonderful boys.  My prayer every day is to raise them to have a foundation of God’s love and to smile for Jesus!” Jeff Chao of Chao Photography
My favorite memories of our kids come from the summers we spent at the beach. It was all very low-tech and simple, some visits we never turned on the TV and rarely even moved the car, once we parked it.  Our vacations were all about our just being together and having fun with each other. This image that Dianne took of the kids and me is probably my favorite “Dad” image of our bunch (Thanks, Dianne!).  I’ve always wanted to be a good father, like mine was, and do my share to maintain and improve the next generation. I hope I’ve contributed. If I’ve only taught them to work hard and have fun doing it, then I’m happy, but if I’ve instilled in them a little of the joy of knowing God then I’m thoroughly satisfied.  And I’m pretty satisfied.
And I have to say, we have a couple of really great kids!”  Michael Barrett of Barrett Photography
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
Shockingly, Madison County is home to a large number of impoverished students.  Upon hearing this surprising news, two extraordinary women joined forces to provide for children in need.  As Kris Beatty and Gretchen Gentry began touching the lives of several students, they realized the number of children living in economic strife was staggering.  Hoping to better serve the children of this community, a non-profit was born.  Gretchen says, “We put our heads together, formed Madison County H.O.P.E. for Kids and ever since, we have been helping meet the needs of impoverished students.”   

We had the great pleasure of speaking with Gretchen, and today she shares more about the non-profit and how they are helping the youth of Madison County:

How did H.O.P.E. for Kids start? 
“Kris Beatty found out about some specific needs of students in Madison County. She reached out to me because at the time, I was involved with a few non-profits serving the Greater Jackson Metro area. We soon realized that those organizations focused mainly on specific school feeder patterns and while they could help some, we would need to do something ourselves. We pulled together some friends that lived in Madison to meet those immediate few needs of which we had learned. In meeting those needs we also realized that there were many more impoverished students in Madison County.

We decided to do some Christmas care packages for students and the schools serving those students. Then we made the decision that we should keep it going after Christmas.  By this time, it was evident that we needed a full fledged non-profit that focused on helping counselors within Madison County, since many of the counselors and teachers were trying to meet the needs for many of their students.” 

Who runs the non-profit?
“As for the day-to-day operations, Kris Beatty, who serves as the President, does most of the heavy lifting. I am her back up.  We also have several volunteers who help out such as Ashley Chambliss, Lauren Fairburn, Heather Grovich, Shea Whittington, and Monique LeFleur, to name a few. Dr. Brenda Jones has also been a supporter and was helpful to us in making sure we navigated correctly through student privacy issues.”  

How does H.O.P.E. enrich the lives of Madison County children?  Tell me about everything you do!
“We provide clothing and hygiene products to students facing economic challenges via the student's school counselors. We also do Christmas care packages for students, as needed. We have helped families who are victims of house fires in the tri-county area and have also helped impoverished families in the tri-county area as well. However, our main focus is making sure children in Madison County have access to hygiene products and thanks to Levis Strauss, clothing. We love to connect families in need with other resources as well.”
How do you choose the children you reach out to?
“Most of the time, school guidance counselors reach out to us. In those cases, we never meet or know what students we are helping. We know whether they are male or female and sometimes the grade or size clothing they wear. We are completely dependent upon the counselor to let us know what is needed. We are also very careful not to infringe on student privacy.  However, on several occasions we have helped families whose homes have burned or families who are in need, simply through word of mouth. When the parents of the students reach out to us we normally get to meet the faces of the people we are helping.”

Where are you located?
“I almost laughed out loud, as we really are in a couple of closets and garages!! We do not have a physical location and there is really not a need for one at this time. We run the non-profit out of our homes. Every closet Kris and I have is stuffed with containers filled with HOPE donations. We have been lucky to be able to use local churches and businesses to help out with out events and collections projects. We have collected hygiene products at Beagle Bagel Madison, First Methodist Church of Madison, and St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church. We also had a fundraiser at Burgers & Blues in Ridgeland. In addition, Levi Strauss stores most of the clothes except for a few of each size that Kris and I keep on hand for emergencies.”
How can people volunteer with H.O.P.E.?
“We have had several organizations, such as Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, schools such as Highland Elementary, day cares such as First United Methodist of Madison, and some high school prayer groups do product drives to collect shampoo, conditioner, liquid soap, hand sanitizer, body wash, tooth paste, tooth brushes, dental floss, wet wipes, socks and underwear. We depend on organizations to help us with the collections and this is the heart of our non-profit. Kris and I go pick up the products, sort and distribute them. We need volunteers in early December to help us put the Christmas packages together, and also throughout the year to sort clothes and products as they are donated.”

With their Mission Statement, “H.O.P.E.: Helping others by providing essentials. MADISON COUNTY H.O.P.E. FOR KIDS is organized for the purpose of providing healthy essentials to enrich and empower the lives of Madison County children experiencing economic challenges,” Kris, Gretchen and their incredible volunteers are positively impacting the community of Madison.  Thank you, Gretchen, for sharing your story of H.O.P.E.!  For more information, please visit their Facebook page here, or reach them at mchopeforkids@att.net.
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
{Bride}  Aleshia Lynn Cox
{Groom} Landon Harris Magee
{Hometowns} Bride: Booneville, MS
Groom: Brookhaven, MS
{Wedding Site} Paris-Yates Chapel, Oxford, MS
{Reception Site} The Inn at Ole Miss, Oxford, MS

{How did the two of you meet?} 
Landon and I met playing intramural basketball at Baptist College of Health Sciences in Memphis, TN. After talking, we realized that we had lived in the freshman dorms at Ole Miss at the same time! I had moved to Memphis to Baptist College of Health Sciences, and a couple of years later Landon moved to the same college, into the dorms as well. Who knows how many times we passed each at Ole Miss and never knew!

{What is your proposal story?}
Landon surprised me with the idea of a mini-weekend vacation to Asheville, NC, during the first weekend in November 2013 to see all the fall foliage and relax for a weekend. Landon planned an entire Saturday of activities from breakfast to a picnic, while exploring DuPont State Forest. After a long day climbing trails to three different waterfalls and a failed picnic attempt (we forgot a wine bottle opener and the crackers to go with our hummus!), Landon got down on one knee and proposed. Landon was shaking and I was crying. His proposal was so personal and thoughtful. My response was, "Of course I will!"

{What inspired your wedding and reception locations?}
We both love Oxford, MS. Landon graduated from Ole Miss in 2011. Since our families live on opposite sides of the state, Oxford was a perfect location for our friends and families.

{What inspired your color scheme/theme/flowers?}
Since we were having a December wedding, I wanted all white flowers. There is something so beautiful and simple about classic white flowers. We chose navy bridesmaid dresses for the same reason. Navy is such a formal, classic color that we both love. The groomsmen wore black tuxedos with suspenders and bowties. Landon chose to wear a navy tuxedo, which turned out wonderfully. I really wanted a formal, timeless look for our entire wedding.

{How did you pick “the dress?”}
I went dress shopping not long after our engagement. However, I did not find exactly what I was looking for initially. I went again with my mom and sister a few weeks later and found a simple ivory satin gown. I walked out and my mom and sister knew it was “the dress” before I did! After comparing several different styles and dresses, we always loved the satin one best. We bought it that day!

{What’s your favorite unique accessory? Is there a story behind it?}
Without a doubt, my favorite accessory was Landon’s grandmother’s vintage fur stole. Her initials were monogrammed inside, making it even more special. I knew that I wanted to wear a fur since a December wedding would be cold. Landon’s mom offered to let me wear her mother’s fur and upon trying it on, we both cried. It fit perfectly! I am so honored that I got to wear “Meme’s” fur on my wedding day!  

{What was your favorite part of the wedding planning process?}
There was a day in October when I met my mom and Landon’s mom in Oxford, and we met with several different vendors. We toured the Inn at Ole Miss and Paris-Yates Chapel, met with our florist and chose wedding flowers, picked out the tuxedos, and tasted wedding cake. So many items were checked off my to-do list that day. So maybe my favorite part was completing tasks!

{Besides the actual wedding, what was your favorite moment of the wedding day?}
After the ceremony, my dad escorted Landon, our photographer and me to the Oxford Square to capture some pictures with the Christmas lights, and give our guests time to arrive at the reception. Riding in the car, we got to talk about the ceremony and everything that had happened that day. It was a wonderful fifteen minutes to be together right after saying “I do.”

{What was your favorite surprise detail/moment about your wedding day?}
Landon and I chose to do a first look before the wedding. Of course, seeing each other for the first time on our wedding day was magical! After talking for several minutes, Landon surprised me with a wedding day gift. He pulled a double-strand pearl bracelet out of his tuxedo jacket pocket and draped it around my wrist! It was such a beautiful, sweet gesture and a gorgeous bracelet!

{Your favorite picture from the big day?}
Our favorite picture is a black and white picture taken during our wedding ceremony. It was taken during the final prayer, before we were pronounced man and wife. The picture includes our entire wedding party and many of our family and friends. To me, it is a perfect picture from our wedding day; two people in love being prayed for by people who love us.

{The picture that represents the two of you best?}
Perhaps the picture that represents us best would be another black and white photo where we are walking towards the camera with the Lyceum behind us. Our smiles are so natural as we are holding hands and walking. As much as we loved the ceremony, the picture of us casually walking hand-in-hand really represents our lives.

Photographer: B. Flint Photography (http://bflint.com/)
Dress: Kay’s Kreations (http://www.kays-kreations.net/)
Bride’s Jewelry: Kay’s Kreations (http://www.kays-kreations.net/)
Hair: Carey-Ann Pearce from Salon Nfuse (https://www.facebook.com/carey.a.pearce?fref=ts)
Make-up: Carey-Ann Pearce from Salon Nfuse (https://www.facebook.com/carey.a.pearce?fref=ts)
Bridesmaid Dresses: David’s Bridal
Tuxes: Thomas Brother’s Formal Wear (https://www.facebook.com/ThomasBrosFormalWear)
Venue: Paris-Yates Chapel (http://www.olemiss.edu/chapel/)
Rentals: Details Rentals (http://www.detailsrentals.com/)
Florist: Oxford Floral (http://www.oxfordfloral.com/)
Catering: The Inn at Ole Miss (http://www.theinnatolemiss.com/)
Bar: The Inn at Ole Miss
Band: The Sensation Band (https://www.gigmasters.com/top-40-band/the-sensations)
Bride’s Cake: Kelli’s Cakes and Confections (https://www.facebook.com/kelliscakery)
Groom’s Cake: The Inn at Ole Miss (cobbler and ice cream in lieu of cake)
Print Material: Brown-Line Printing (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Brown-Line-Printing/123203794404222)
"Knowing that I can get an intense, full body workout in just 55 minutes never ceases to amaze me. Pure Barre has completely changed my mindset on exercising. The music, the moves, and the motivating community make my Pure Barre workout one of the best parts of my day! I love getting to meet and develop friendships with women of all ages and backgrounds who are all trying to live healthy, positive lives!" - Avery Shannon, Pure Barre Instructor

In the fall of 2011, Heidi Hogrefe introduced Pure Barre to the Jackson area.  Pure Barre is a total body workout that promises to lift your seat, tone your thighs, abs and arms, and burn an impressive amount of calories, all within a 55 minute class. 

Pure Barre is positively changing the bodies and attitudes of women across our state.  With its non-impact exercises, clients are discovering long, lean and beautiful muscles.  Both clients and instructors are amazed at the quick results, and the refreshing sense of community in each studio.  Emiko Faust, a Pure Barre client, says, "Pure Barre has not only toned my body, but changed me from a person who despised working out to a person who is upset if they have to go a day without a class. But the people at Pure Barre are the real treat.  The instructors are all amazing and inspire you to push yourself past what you did in class the day before.”  

We had the pleasure of speaking with Heidi about what makes Pure Barre such an addictive, unique and effective form of exercise:
Why did you decide to open Pure Barre in Jackson?
“I have been teaching the technique since 2009.  Teaching Pure Barre quickly became a passion and was very rewarding for me!  This passion and love made me take the jump from teaching to owning a Pure Barre studio. I brought Pure Barre to Jackson since Mississippi did not have any Pure Barre studios to call their own. I wanted to share this amazing technique with the Jackson community. Also, Jackson is where I met my husband, so we have strong ties to the city. He went to Millsaps College and is now one of the owners of Char, Amerigo, Sombra and Anjou Restaurants. Jackson is our second home!”

How is Pure Barre different than other exercise classes?
“Pure Barre will motivate you to push yourself. You will see results in as little as 10 classes. When taking a class, the client is able to ‘block out’ the world and she is forced to focus on herself.  A Pure Barre class will not stop from start to finish. This is key in order to see quick results. Finally, there is a sense of community in the studios. I think the clients like the idea of belonging to this community of strong women; they truly motivate and encourage each other!”

Explain the technique that is used in class and what type of results participants can expect!
“It is non-impact exercise and focuses on many areas that women struggle with the most: seat, thighs, hips, arms and abs. Pure Barre utilizes the ballet barre, but is not dance. During your 55-minute class, you will strengthen each part of the body, followed by stretching. This creates long, lean muscles. Pure Barre technique involves small isometric movements, which work your muscles to fatigue. When the muscles are worked to fatigue, this is when you gain strength and burn fat. This is a good thing!

Also, a certified instructor teaches every class. You will receive personal attention, motivation and guidance with every class. The instructors are there to answer any questions after class as well. Finally, Pure Barre is an athletic technique, which is challenging and fun!”
What advice can you share for someone wanting to try Pure Barre for the first time?
“All classes are the same level, as the technique was designed to work people at all different fitness levels. Seasoned clients can always work deeper or at a new level. The veteran clients usually encourage the new clients, as they had their first class at one point as well. New clients take alongside our seasoned women everyday. The class moves at such a fast pace that everyone is in their own ‘zone.’

Our staff is extremely welcoming and helpful to new clients. As a Pure Barre teacher of 6 years, I realize how hard it is for someone to take that first step. I believe in encouraging this person and motivating them through their first steps. I always tell a new client that she is not going to do everything correctly and this is OK! With every class you can work deeper and gain more knowledge of the technique. If you can hold onto the barre, you can do a Pure Barre class!”

We also asked Heidi to share her tips for staying healthy, happy and hydrated during the warm summer months:
Drink smoothies! You can get so many nutrients in one smoothie.  Play around with what you like. I always include lots of baby kale/spinach, one lemon/lime, one green apple, and your favorite berries. Mix with water and/or sugar free juice.”

“Don’t be sedentary. Try to keep up with some sort of workout regimen. It may not be your usual 4-5 classes a week. However, even if you cut your workouts in half, you won’t lose the stamina/strength when returning to your usual schedule. If you’re on vacation, try to at least squeeze in a walk or visit a local Pure Barre studio. There are over 300 locations across the U.S. Also, we do rent Pure Barre DVDs at our locations!”

“Try to keep food portions under control. If you’re on vacation and exercising less, eat what you like. However, cut your portions accordingly.”

“Have snacks! Eat when you’re hungry. When you workout regularly your metabolism goes up, you burn more calories and in turn, are hungry more often. Nuts/dried fruit, celery/apples with almond butter, baby carrots with light cream cheese and Greek yogurt are quick go-to’s.”

“Drink water! Staying hydrated replenishes the body and rids the toxins.”

“Eat within 45 minutes of a hard workout. You will burn these calories immediately and the body needs immediate replenishment.”
Thank you so much, Heidi, for bringing this powerfully effective workout to the Jackson area.  For more information on Pure Barre, please visit their website here or their Facebook page here
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}