It is officially football season in the Mississippi!  Today, we are thrilled to share Tailgates and Traditions from Inspiration Mississippi Magazine, highlighting  Jackson State University, Mississippi State University, the University of Mississippi and The University of Southern Mississippi!  
A special thank you to the talented photographers who captured all of these incredible photographs!  Check out their websites below!
Carlyn Photography
B. Flint Photography
Chao Photography 
At Inspiration Mississippi, we have the great pleasure of working with some of Mississippi’s kindest, warmest and smartest people.  Mangia Bene recently passed the keys from one extraordinary Marketing Manager to another.  We are thrilled to honor Liz Lancaster as she departs for her new life in Oxford; we are also excited to welcome the brilliant Susan Farris!  Today we are sharing a little more about each of these incredible women.


Tell me a little about you!  Your background, where you grew up and how you came to Mangia Bene!
“I was born in Jackson, MS, but grew up in Corinth, MS. I went to college at Millsaps College and it was 'home.' I knew that after I graduated with a B.A. in Communications that I wanted to stay in Jackson and really become a part of the community. March of my senior year, I met with Jeff Good and the rest is history! Jeff was doing all the marketing for Mangia Bene all by himself... you know, on top of owning 3 restaurants and a catering business and being one of the most involved people in the Jackson community. I began my job as Marketing Manager immediately after graduation and was with the company for 5 years. It was such an amazing roller coaster! I learned so much... so much more than any master’s program could offer.” 

How long did you work for Mangia Bene and what was your role?  What was your favorite aspect of the job? 
“I worked for Mangia Bene for 5 years as Marketing Manager. Although the job is mostly marketing through print, digital, and social media, there is so much more to it. A large part of this position was event planning and community relations. Through this position, I helped our company collaborate with hundreds of non-profits in the Metro Jackson Area with community events and donations. Just one great example is the Ice Cream with Friends fundraiser we're doing right now with Inspiration Mississippi that is benefiting Friends of Children's Hospital. Although marketing is the main function of this position, working with people through community projects and events was definitely one of my favorite parts.” 

~ Tell us about your new adventures in Oxford and what is taking you there!

“Mangia Bene was not just a job for me... It became a part of who I was. I have learned so much about life and myself from working with Jeff Good and the amazing team that is Mangia Bene. I hated leaving my position, but for everything there is a season. After years of being single and working hard, I finally found the love of my life. Andrew, my fiance, is a ceramics professor and technicians manager for the ceramics department at Ole Miss. Once we were engaged, we wanted to start our lives together as soon as possible. That is how I found my new job as the new Marketing Manager for The Inn at Ole Miss. As sad as it was to leave my life, my home, in Jackson, I am so excited to see where this next road takes me. I could not be more excited to start my new job Monday, July 11th. Although I will always 'bleed purple' for 'Mother Millsaps,' I'm excited to break out the red and blue! Hotty Toddy!” 


Tell us a little about yourself!  Where did you grow up?
“I grew up in the suburbs of Brandon and enjoyed a classic Mississippi childhood. I spent the days playing outside with my brother, and when the heat finally drove us inside I’d devour books that were much too old for me. If I’m honest, there were a lot of video games involved too. Many weekends were spent in the Delta visiting my grandmother, exploring the fields and woods, and generally getting into trouble and a lot of poison ivy.

I graduated high school from East Rankin Academy out in Pelahatchie and earned my Bachelor’s in English from Mississippi College in Clinton, where I also met my husband. For the last three years, I’ve been working as a Creative Production Manager for EdgeTheory, a social media startup in Ridgeland specializing in growing their clients’ conversations and influence online. Outside of work, I love reading, gardening, watching Doctor Who, playing board games with friends, and being confused by sports- yes, I’m that kind of nerd.”

What attracted you to the job at Mangia Bene?  
“What initially attracted me to Mangia Bene?  The people!  Jeff has a wonderful reputation in the community and everyone I’ve talked to who’s known him has responded with ‘What a great guy. You’re going to love it!’ And they were right! I’m honored to be part of such a tight-knit team, and I can’t tell you how fabulous Liz has been during this transition. She’s been truly generous in helping me learn the ropes and making sure I have everything I need to be successful here. It’s easy to see why everyone she’s worked with loves her. Oxford won’t know what’s hit ‘em.”

What is your background?
“My background is in copywriting, editing, and social media. Through MC’s English program, I am firmly grounded in wordsmithing and how to appeal to others through stories. It was a very natural step from writing my own stories to telling stories on social media for my clients and from there to the broader world of marketing. However, I still love working with language; you hand me a piece with words on it and tell me to play with it and I’ll love you forever.”

What excites you most about your new opportunity?
“It’s not just one thing that gets me really excited about being here. There’s of course the possibilities for using a lot of neat platforms, both online and off, to spread the word about Bravo!, Broad Street, and Sal & Mookie’s. There’s coming up with some hare-brained scheme to create a fun event or cool ad campaign- and then being given a high five and told to run with it. There are the amazing people behind those restaurants and seeing them work so hard to bring good food and fun places to be to Jackson. In the three weeks I’ve been here, I’ve seen so much generosity and kindness and authenticity and a real love for Jackson and the people in it. And that is where all this leads to: getting back into Jackson, getting involved, getting to know the people, and giving back.”

What can people expect when working with you?
“Sass. Lol! I do say what I think but my rule is to be kind first. I am very direct because I believe my time and yours is too precious to be wasted in beating around the bush, but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten my manners! You’ll always get a heartfelt please and thank you from me and I’ll go out of my way to help you out too. That’s just what neighbors do.”

Is there anything else you want to add?
“I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me here. It’s going to be a wild ride!”

To learn more about Mangia Bene Catering, please click here!  For incredible dining in Jackson, visit BRAVO! Italian Restaurant & Bar, Sal & Mookie's New York Ice Cream & Pizza Joint (also open in Biloxi!), and Broad Street Baking Company & Cafe!  
For many of us, this is the New Year.  There were no fireworks, nor did any confetti get scattered in Times Square.  But school has just begun.  Routines are being attempted, established, re-established.  Bedtimes are coming faster.  Morning greetings are grumpier.  If you have children in school, you are likely excited for them, yet pensive over the way the years seem to be clipping away.

 What are our wishes for our children, their classmates, their teachers, and ourselves as the school year begins?  Maybe we hope that we’ve prepared them to be kind, thoughtful, and obedient.  None of us want to be “the parents” of that rude and disruptive child.  I’m learning that we, as parents, share many fears about what our little ones will be up to as the teachers carefully and tenderly ask for their attention.  I remember the first note we received pinned to our son’s book bag notifying us that our child had been rather disruptive in school that day.  My wife and I were mortified! Had we failed at parenting?  Was there a petition seeking the expulsion of our son circulating through the school?  How bad had he been?  The wave of irrational reaction was overwhelming, and it didn’t seem so irrational at the moment.  Somehow, we meted out the appropriate punishment and survived that event in time for the next one.  We actually had to come to terms with the fact that our child wasn’t perfect.  Can you imagine how dreadful it was to face that reality? 

What I have learned after parenting in community with other parents is that NOBODY wants to be “those parents” of that unruly child…while we are all, from time to time absolutely “those parents.” I’ve learned that we are all the same, for the most part.  And that we want to give our kids the best opportunities to grow and learn and develop into relational individuals.  Maybe we can realize, together as a parenting community, that when we became parents…we became “those parents.”  And that’s alright, because we can share our fears, our worries, and our failures and therefore become stronger and better at what we all pray so desperately for.


2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears,[a] we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Guest Blog written by Heath Ferguson.  Photos courtesy of the Inspiration Mississippi team! 
BRIDE: Molly Kathrine Foster
GROOM: Courtland Raye Murrell
Hometowns: Groom- Avon, MS      Bride- Pearl, MS
Wedding/ Reception Site: Cotton Market Venue, Pearl, MS
Bride’s Bouquet:  White hydrangeas with green and pinecones

How did the two of you meet? In Nashville, TN in P.T. school

What is your proposal story?  I woke up one morning with a note beside my bed stating “Hello Gorgeous! Meet me for a brunch in our favorite spot.” Which is the Junction on MS STATE campus.  Upon arriving to the junction, I find a blanket laid out, my favorite coffee (Albino Squirrel from Strange brew) and to my surprise, no boyfriend, just another note.  The note states “You are about to play a game, follow the clues and you only get one lifeline. Good LUCK.”  Each clue leads to a new spot on campus where we share individual and shared memories, leading from the building all of our classes were in, to the Sanderson (workout center), to the baseball field (Dud Noble) and lastly to Davis Wade Stadium.  Each clue led to a new gift at the site for our 2 year anniversary.  We had just purchased season football tickets a couple of months before.  The last clue read “The game ends in a spot where we will spend many of nights, ringing our cowbells for the Maroon and White, now can you remember the seats?” Luckily I had a saved email with our actual seat assignments; otherwise it would have been a long day looking for the last gift! Oops! Arriving to our seats in the last gift bag is a brass cowbell, that states “Will you Marry Me??” and up from the bottom of the stands he walks up and gets on one knee.  Of course I said YES! I don’t know which was prettier, the brass cowbell or the ring!! Ha!

What inspired your wedding and reception locations? I wanted a simple, rustic look with the feeling of being outside. So the barn was perfect.

What inspired your color scheme/theme/flowers? WINTER!! I love neutrals, winter, and WHITE!

How did you pick the dress? It was actually in the window on display, and I knew coming in I wanted lace and a timeless dress.  Well walking in I stated to my friend (pointing at the dress in the window) “That’s TOO MUCH lace”.  Dress after dress none seemed to be “the one.”  Finally, my friend told to lady, “Get the one out of the window… Molly you can never have too much lace. Just try it!” Well, it fit perfectly and I knew before she even finished buttoning it up that THIS WAS THE DRESS!!

What’s your favorite unique accessory? Is there a story behind it? I would have to say the item my sister gave me to carry around my bouquet which was my “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue”.  She gave me a blue ribbon with my mother’s wedding ring on it and a picture locket of my mother stating “You are always in my heart.” My mother passed away when I was younger so this was really special to me that I could have her be a part of my day.

What was your favorite part of the wedding planning process? Probably picking out the food and theme.  The rest was easily due to my fabulous wedding planner, Kendall Poole Ellis, with Kendall Poole Event Planning.  She and her team made everything much more simple and less stressful.

Besides the actual wedding, what was your favorite moment of the wedding day? I would have to say the first time I saw my son and daughter (1 year old twins) all dressed up in her mini flower girl dress and his sweet tux.  My husband and me both discussed how “real” the moment felt seeing them for the first time, that we were finally going to be a family. 

What was your favorite surprise detail/moment about your wedding day?  I guess I would say seeing all my friends and family from over the years in one place.  People I haven’t seen since college or in a long time being under one roof and celebrating.

Your favorite picture from the big day? ALL of THEM!! I would say my favorite is the one of Courtland leaning me back to kiss me in front of the barn after the ceremony.

The picture that represents us best? Our first look photos.  We are always laughing and joking.  Not two people that get really emotional.  So the photo shows us laughing as soon as he turns around. 


Photographer: Mary Moment Photography
Event Planner: Kendall Poole Event Planning
Dress: The Bridal Path
Bride’s Jewelry: Stella and Dot
Hair: Amanda Powell of Plush Salon
Make-up: Brittany Upton of Drench
Bridesmaid Dresses: The Bridal Path
Tuxes: George Sherman Clothiers 
Venue: The Cotton Market
Lighting: Davaine Lighting
Florist: Fresh Cut Catering and Floral
Catering: Fresh Cut Catering and Floral
Band: Union Road
Bride’s Cake: Denalda Parker
Groom’s Cake: For Heaven’s Cakes
Print Material:

With Summer quickly coming to an end, it's time to get outside and enjoy all that Mississippi has to offer!  Our state has incredible pick-your-own farms where you can enjoy the freshest of fruits, vegetables and honey.  We also encourage you to have fun in the kitchen!  Celebrate the flavors of the season and whip up dessert with fresh Mississippi ingredients!
A special thank you to La Brioche for the delicious dessert!  Also, thank you to Mary Moment Photography for capturing the sweets so beautifully! 
July is National Ice Cream Month, and this summer we were proud to partner with Sal & Mookie’s New York Pizza and Ice Cream Joint to benefit Batson Children’s Hospital!  

We worked closely with the extraordinary team at Friends of Children’s Hospital, a nonprofit organization created to benefit Batson Children’s Hospital at The University of Mississippi Medical Center.  Batson is the only hospital in the state devoted exclusively to the care and treatment of sick and injured children.  The spectrum of care ranges from well-child care for healthy newborns to comprehensive care for cancer, epilepsy, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, allergies, diabetes and numerous other childhood illnesses.  

With your incredible help (and many helpings of delicious ice cream!), 15% of all "Batson Sundae" sales at Sal & Mookie’s was donated to Children’s Hospital!  We had an overwhelming response to Ice Cream with Friends, and our favorite Mississippi sports teams even got involved!  Mississippi State football Coach Dan Mullen and Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze both stopped by for a Batson Sundae, and we had a Millsaps College day to support Batson Children's Hospital!  Thank you all for your kindness and great support of Ice Cream with Friends.  

Jeff Good, Owner and Operator of Sal & Mookie's says, "At Sal & Mookie’s our mantra is 'Do the Right Thing.'  What is more right than helping raise money and awareness for Mississippi’s premier children’s hospital, Blair E. Batson.  What a joy it has been over the last month to serve miles of smiles by offering our very special ice cream sundae in the month of July.  We cannot wait for the opportunity to do it again!"

To wrap up National Ice Cream Month and Ice Cream with Friends, Inspiration Mississippi, along with Sal & Mookie’s, hosted an Ice Cream Party at Batson Children’s Hospital. The celebration took place in Wiser Cafeteria on Thursday, July 28, and precious patients and their families enjoyed yummy ice cream sundaes from Sal & Mookie's, face painting by the spectacular Fancy Faces by Sherry, took silly photos in Mississippi Photo Booths and even danced to music provided by DJ 51-50 .  Katelyn Anne Photography was on hand to capture every precious moment.  She smiles, "It was really amazing to see the heart behind Inspiration Mississippi, Sal & Mookie's and Friends of Children's Hospital.  All of these different avenues pulled together for a common goal.  I was honored to spend time with the kids and meet their families.  Being a part of something that brings joy to these children was incredible." 

A special thank you to the following Vendors:

Katelyn Anne Photography 
Brown Bottling Group
Sherry Burdsal of Fancy Faces by Sherry
Phillip Cothern of DJ 51-50
Scott Jones with Mississippi Photo Booths
Sal & Mookie's 
Friends of Children's Hospital
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
Embrace the nostalgia. Make new memories

The Mississippi Museum of Art will be hosting its Third Thursday Museum After Hours TOMORROW NIGHT, August 18th!  Julian Rankin, Marketing Director, says, "It's themed 'Back to School' and celebrates the nostalgia of the school experience, showcases art made on chalkboard by local artists, and much more!" 

Every third Thursday, the Museum opens its doors to celebrate Mississippi's creative community.  Each month features a fun new theme and story, and this month's "Back to School" should not be missed!  The museum says, "The night includes a pop up exhibition showcasing original contemporary Mississippi artwork made with chalk on blackboard; pop up dining with Executive Chef Nick Wallace presenting elevated modern cuisine in a playfully recreated school cafeteria; a 'Picture Day' selfie booth to capture the awkward poses and backdrops of back-in-the-day school portraits; head-to-head paper football tournament; live music; and more!"

It sounds like the perfect evening to celebrate school!  Whether you have children in elementary school or graduated decades ago, we hope to see all of you at the museum tomorrow evening!  For more information on the event, please visit the Museum After Hours - Back to School Facebook page here
A special thank you to the Mississippi Museum of Art for hosting such wonderful events for the community!  All photographs courtesy of the Mississippi Museum of Art. 
Jeff Chao of Chao Photography is one of our favorite Mississippi photographers.  Not only is he incredibly talented, but he is also a kind, loving and devoted husband and father.  Today, we are thrilled to introduce you to the Chao family, through the eyes of Jeff and his wife, Jana!


From Jeff:  "I’ve spent time in lots of different places, but feel like God has blessed me with a spot right here in Mississippi. From the people and places to the friendly feel, this is just home.

My favorite shoots are weddings, families, and seniors–but that’s definitely not all that I do. Meeting new people truly makes my day. I love to hear people’s stories–who they are, where they come from, and what they are doing in life. I love getting to spend time with my clients and becoming a part of their lives. What’s even better is getting to know them and then getting to pull together some memories for them.

When I’m not behind the camera (and sometimes when I am), I enjoy spending time with my wife Jana and kiddos–Jase (5) and John Stephen (2). We love inviting clients into our home, and have a new home office/studio just for you! I also have a mild obsession with all things Mississippi State."

From Jana:  "I have been so blessed over that past almost 10 years to be married to this guy and see all that God is doing through him with photography. He truly impresses me every time I see his work. Jeff has had the opportunity to touch so many people’s lives, and truly LOVES what he does. I really think he loves the people more than actually taking the pictures!

When we first began our business, I played second-shooter with Jeff for most of his weddings–until the big kid came along. I usually play “mama” on the weekends, and would have it no other way. We have been very blessed with several amazing assistants that travel and work with Jeff–and they sure do keep things running smoothly! I’m still very involved in day-to-day, behind the scenes happenings of things, and I’m itching to get back behind the camera and tag along with Jeff on the weekends!"

Thank you, Jeff and Jana, for telling us more about your beautiful family!  For more information on Chao Photography, please visit his website here
Imagine a southern girl, enjoying life in New York City.  She has a fabulous career, collects antique silver, and has an eye for vibrant works of art.  After a romantic engagement, she dreams of a wedding back home in Mississippi.  The result is stunning.  A custom, high-end soiree filled with exquisite details charms friends and family from around the world.  With the finest caviar hors d'oeuvres, spirits served in chilled mint julep cups, and custom paintings given to each guest, every detail is perfectly dazzling.

Venue:  Ardor Rental Boutique in Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Photography:  Adam + Alli Photography
Lighting:  Davaine Lighting
Florals & Styling:  Ginger Cook Event & Floral Design
Pastries:  La Brioche
Linen Rentals:  Eventful
Props:  Ardor Rental Boutique 
Hair & Make-up:  Molly Gee Designs
Print Material, Dresses & Tuxes:  Forrest Paper & Bridal Company 
Thank you to all of our incredible vendors!  You can find more gorgeous photo shoots, inspiring people and events in Inspiration Mississippi Magazine! 

{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
{Name} Maurie Hartel 

{Hometown} Hattiesburg, MS

{Event Site} Ardor Rental Boutique, Hattiesburg 

{Tell us about the occasion for the event?} We wanted to celebrate sweet Charly Kate's 3rd birthday with a whimsical, woodland fairy world with everything magical and girly!

{What inspired your event location and theme?} Charly Kate's mom Katie loved the idea of a fairy party for her almost three year old!  When that was decided, I immediately thought of Ardor. I had been there once for an engagement party and fell in love with the space. It's so bright and airy. The white walls were the perfect blank canvas for us!

{What inspired your color scheme/flowers?}  We wanted to keep the colors very light and feminine. Adrienne Garanich of Bloom's A Garden Shop found the prettiest peachy pink carnations for the garland backdrop, so that set the tone.  I added some ferns and moss to help give it that woodland fairy atmosphere.  

{What’s your favorite event detail? Is there a story behind it?}  My favorite detail is the hanging carnation garland. It gave such a sweet, feminine feel to the whole room! It looked magical. 

{What was your favorite part of the event planning process?}  Seeing it all come together is so much fun and so rewarding. And of course seeing the birthday girl light up is special!

{What was your favorite moment of the event day?} I loved watching the girls turn their bird houses into magical fairy houses. They were so creative with it and I could tell they really loved it. 

{Your favorite picture from the event day?} I love the picture of the birthday girl admiring her party table.  


Photographer: Maurie Hartel 
Event Planner: Maurie Hartel 
Venue: Ardor Rental Boutique 
Florist: Flowers provided by Bloom's a Garden Shop
Cake and Cookies: Beth Robinson of Monkey Kisses