It is official.  The busiest shopping weekend of the year is upon us!  This Saturday is Small Business Saturday, a chance to celebrate all of the extraordinary local businesses in our communities. Whether you are browsing or searching for something specific, we encourage you to get out and support local!   We guarantee you will be in awe of the talented and creative people behind the beautiful businesses nestled in your neighborhood.
We reached out to some of Mississippi’s finest local businesses, and asked them to share what inspired their business, and what makes shopping local so special. 
Lisa Palmer
President, Principal Designer of SUMMERHOUSE
“I own SummerHouse, a high-end 7000 sq. ft. furniture boutique located at The Township in Ridgeland, MS. With my talented staff of designers we work on design projects all across the country as well as sell furnishings, accessories, lighting, rugs and art directly off the floor.  I opened SummerHouse in its current location in April of 2006 after a fire destroyed my original store in Fondren. I was an independent designer and couldn't find what I was looking for in Jackson for my clients. I felt there was a strong need for soft modern, cleaned up traditional looks from companies not seen before in the Jackson area.
It brings me a great deal of pride to bring jobs to my community. I employ 20 fabulous hard working Mississippians. And I know my customers! I know this area and how my customers shop and their needs.  My kids go to school with their kids. I know most of them by name and that means so much! You don't get that when you shop at a big box store."
Steve Scott
President of Great Scott
“I started working in my uncle’s clothing store, which was located in Maywood Mart when I was 15.  I fell in love with retail, especially Men’s clothing. Because I grew up in Jackson, I have a passion for our city, and in order for Jackson to thrive everyone needs to support our local merchants.”
Laurel Donahoo
Owner of The Lovely Bee
“In the past couple of years, since I've become a small business owner, I've really come to realize the importance of shopping local! Local businesses give any city a unique flavor that can only be added by small, one of a kind shops and companies. Among other things, shopping local is more personal!
I love being the owner of my own business because I don't have any big corporate figurehead to report to. If I have a weird or different idea for product or marketing, I can just do it! That's very liberating and exciting!
Don't ever let anyone tell you that owning a small business is easy... Even though The Lovely Bee doesn't have a brick and mortar store (yet!), having a business is a LOT of work! But so very rewarding!”
Adam and Allie Hudson
Owners of Adam + Alli Photography
“I personally prefer to shop local as much as I can. Not only is it a practical benefit by keeping revenue within the area, but also a personal satisfaction from connecting with and fostering a local community. Locally there are so many great artisans, farmers, and craftsmen that put their heart and soul into what they do. I would much prefer to patronize a local craftsman than send money outside of the community via a big box store.”
Carrie Golden Lambert
Marketing & Sales Director, Monmouth Historic Inn
“I love working at Monmouth, because it embodies all that is so special about Natchez - history, beauty, and an interesting story.  Monmouth was restored in the late 1970's by people that fell in love with the property and its unique story; the current owners felt that same pull and work tirelessly to keep the legacy going.  We have an incredible gift shop on the property, which our guests and locals love.  It's imperative that people shop locally, because that which makes a town unique, like Natchez, can only be found in local shops. If those shops aren't supported financially, they cannot survive, and neither will that which makes the town unique. So please remember to shop local to save your town and all that you love about it!”
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
 
 
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” — Albert Einstein
Thanksgiving is a wonderful day that joins friends, family and loved ones to celebrate our incredible gift of life over a hearty meal.  Thanksgiving is also a day of traditions.  Thanksgiving traditions are often handed down among generations, or perhaps you enjoy creating new memories each year.
We reached out to many of our close friends who run incredible businesses around the state.  Here, they share their unique holiday traditions with you!
“Like a lot of Southerners, Thanksgiving involves food and football at my house.  Dinner is always late in the afternoon with lots of football (and snacking) after…
My favorite thing?  The turkey!
I like to put our bird in the smoker first thing in the morning. I typically rub it down with my favorite rib rub and olive oil the night before.  Then I place herbs, lemon, and garlic cloves in the cavity before trussing.  Want to know a secret?  Pork butt!  I always place the fattest, rub covered pork butt I can on the top rack of the smoker.  Throughout the day it renders it’s goodness all over the turkey!  That’s a delicious tradition I learned from my Mother (Thanks Mom!).”
Aven Whittington III, Caterer for Mangia Bene Catering
Home of Broad Street Baking Company, BRAVO!, & Sal and Mookies NYC Pizza Joint
“We gather for thanksgiving as a family and football is playing the entire day as we visit!  We eat, then all the girls in the family jump in the car and head to Material Girls to shop and see what they can find while I prep for the BIG Black Friday that will take place in only a few hours! We are from the reservoir area and Dogwood is my oldest store, so we open at 4am! Material Girls has a huge sale and it's literally my single most favorite day of the year! On Thanksgiving night I always have a few Material Girls employees over to spend the night, because we are so excited about Black Friday!”
Whitney Giordano Foster, Owner and Buyer of Material Girls and The Landing
“Thanksgiving in my family is always tons of food, family, friends, and thanks.  Growing up my sister and I were always responsible for helping mom snap beans or peel potatoes and that way we were included in the cooking. Dinner was blessed by Grandpa, and we ate super early so we could have 3 or 4 meals throughout the day. Of course, it’s not Thanksgiving without football on the TV in the afternoon and the windows open so the fall can be felt in full force.” 
“You may already know this, but my father is the internationally known artist, Rolland Golden, and holiday traditions have always been VERY big in my family.  He mentions some of this in his recently published memoirs:  Life, Love and Art in the French Quarter.  Here's what the Golden clan does for Thanksgiving - and have done, in one form or another, for over 40 years!
The night before Thanksgiving we begin preparing food for the next day.  On Thanksgiving morning we get up early and eat special cinnamon and orange rolls for breakfast.  Then the cooking continues and whoever isn't cooking gathered around the television to watch the Thanksgiving Day Parades.  While watching various college football bowl games, everyone snacks until dinner on onion soufflé dip, salmon spread, nuts, cornichons, summer sausage, pate, brie, French bread, and more!  Lunch is served around 2 pm and the menu usually consists of:  turkey, oyster bread dressing, cornbread dressing, giblet gravy, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, artichoke casserole, string bean casserole, tossed green salad, and biscuits.  For dessert we have pecan pie, apple pie a la mode, sweet potato pie, coffee and hot tea.  Before eating, though, my Uncle, a Brother of the Sacred Heart, Neal Golden, leads us in prayer, and then we go around the table and state what we're thankful for the past year.  For supper - if we get hungry late that night, we have turkey sandwiches.  Before turning in for the night, I begin preparing turkey stock for the Turkey-Andouille Gumbo I'll cook the following day, which is always served with potato salad and hot French Bread”. 
Carrie Golden Lambert, Marketing and Sales Director, Monmouth Historic Inn, Natchez
“Now that I’ve moved to Jackson, our families rotate Thanksgiving every year.  My favorite is when it’s my in-laws turn and the egg bowl is in Starkville; that means HAIL STATE! It is also nice to be back in Colorado enjoying my family and the snow that usually falls while there. Thanksgiving also means Christmas tree shopping is soon to follow; a tradition my husband and I have started the day after.” 
“When I first started going to Alli's family meals I thought it was crazy that they alternate turkey for SEAFOOD every Thanksgiving and Christmas.  One year they have turkey, like normal Americas, for Thanksgiving and the next year they have seafood! They do the same with Christmas. Seafood instead of Turkey just blew my mind about everything I thought I knew about Thanksgiving!
I’m not sure if it is really a tradition or a personal challenge, but every since I was young I loved to shop for the turkey for the sole purpose of finding the largest one I could and it had to be larger than the previous years.  I mean who doesn’t take pleasure in watching their family try to figure out how to cook a massive bird that wont fit in the oven.”
Adam and Alli Hudson of Adam + Alli Photography
“Each year my family and I celebrate Thanksgiving with my family that live in Nashville TN. My husband and I stay at the Gaylord Resort where we go Married at July 4,2009. We always remind our son Alvin III this is where mom and daddy got married. But to make a long story short he love the ice and light show at the Gaylord resort.”
Tamisha Thomas of Epic Dance & Fitness
“My love of Thanksgiving goes hand in hand with my love of autumn. Thanksgiving is the most relaxing and comforting holiday of the whole year.  Mostly free from commercialization, and free of the stress of consumerism that has killed the spirit of Christmas, Thanksgiving is all about sitting down to a good meal with family and friends, catching up with the ones you love and counting your blessings.
One of those blessings for my family is a particular dish: we LOVE our chicken and dressing. It's been a tradition as long as my memory. When my paternal Mamaw was alive, she served hers up in a deep "Tom & Jerry" bowl, which I now have and use for the same thing. My Mom serves my Grandma's recipe, heavy on the sage and black pepper. Delicious!  Thanksgiving wouldn't be the same without it.”
“On Thanksgiving, we get together on my mom’s side of the family. She is the middle child of 5 so there are a lot of people at the holiday (around 40). While all the women get up early to cook, the men usually get up to squeeze a Turkey Day hunt in. Usually everyone brings one dish, but my mom’s macaroni and cheese is always the most popular. We also have some fantastic dressing that is not made by our family. We always get our dressing from Ms. Evelyn at Bovina Café—it’s the best! We eat A LOT then usually unwind by watching football and playing cards- usually Dirty Canasta. That means there are wild cards involved. These games usually get really heated. Sometimes we switch it up and play Progressive Rummy. In the afternoon, we usually take my other grandparents a plate of leftovers (because there is usually so much that everyone is able to eat it through the whole weekend) and go and visit with them into the evening. When we were younger, we usually went back to the other side of the family’s house and played Kick the Can or Hide and Go Seek. Since there are so many cousins, this was usually a good time! Now that we are all older and married, we have to go to our in-laws’ house and incorporate those holiday traditions into the mix.
Thanksgiving Menu:
Turkey
Ham
Macaroni and Cheese
Dressing with meat
Dressing without meat
Green Beans
Sweet Potato Casserole
Hashbrown Casserole
Potato Salad (because apparently we don’t have enough potatoes lol)
Cranberries
Deviled Eggs
Fruit Salad
Some Surprise Something brought by Aunt Christine (my PawPaw’s sister)
Dinner Rolls
Dessert is always a tossup- Texas Delight, Strawberry Congealed Salad, Pecan Pie, Chocolate Pie and something that our family friend Kimball Bufkin will bring as a surprise (usually this strawberry tiered something that is very tasty) but she always brings something to WOW us over”
Laura Beth Strickland, Communications Manager, Vicksburg CVB
If you are in the Natchez area, head over to Monmouth for an unforgettable Thanksgiving feast.  “Create memories to treasure for years to come with an authentic Antebellum dining experience.  Join us for Thanksgiving Dinner in Restaurant 1818 at Monmouth Historic Inn.  Seating is available at the Main Dining Table, as well as separate tables in the double parlor.  Dining at the Main Dining Table has become a tradition for some families throughout the year.  What a wonderful way for your loved ones to enjoy Thanksgiving! 
Call 601.442.5852 for reservations, seating times, and menu, or to view their menu online go to:  http://www.monmouthhistoricinn.com/holiday-menu.html
Please call 601.442.5852 to find out more about Monmouth's Thanksgiving Overnight Stay Specials for those staying with us anytime from Wed.- Fri. (Nov. 26-Nov. 28).”
We wish you all a very warm and happy Thanksgiving!
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}


{Chao Photography Photos 1-4}
{Mary Moment Photography Photos 5-7}
{Stephanie Hea Photo 8}

 
 
With Thanksgiving just three days away, many of us are focused on creating a delicious meal for friends and family. While the food is important, so is your table!  Today, we are pleased to feature lovely tabletop ideas that will make a perfect setting for your holiday meal. We turned to Bliss Gift & Home, a beautiful new store at Banner Hall in Jackson, to create an elegant, yet simple table that is warm, inviting and easy to recreate.
Cathy Joyner of Bliss Gift & Home says, “The first Thanksgiving tablescape photographed was styled by designer Cindy Walsh and the second was styled by the talented staff at Inspiration MS.  The handmade farm table from Taylor, MS was the perfect backdrop for a fall setting.”
“We used a variety of dinnerware patterns rather than the predictable matching plates, bowls, etc. to add some interest and color to the browns and neutrals.  One of my favorite touches is the use of a line of women's scarves instead of a tablecloth.  The aqua and gold colors of the scarves helped separate the browns of the straw place mats from the rustic table.  Acorn Christmas ornaments were attached to the napkin rings and driftwood turkeys with a tin spray were scattered around the table to lend a unique touch of fall.”  
Cathy adds, “The multi-colored glass pumpkins are a wise purchase that can be used from year to year rather than the expected real pumpkins - save those for the front porch!”
All of these incredible items are available at Bliss Gift & Home, as well as Cathy’s favorite books: Giving Thanks and Gratitude.  “The former is a holiday guest book to fill with thoughts of gratitude and is made to be a tradition from year to year becoming a record of all that shapes you and all that brings your family together.   The latter is filled with quotes that remind us of the simple things in life for which to be thankful; for example, ‘Those who know and love you shall rise to your example and be inspired. (unknown)'”
Thank you, Cathy and Cindy, for putting together such a charming table.  We especially love that all of it can be stored and reused for many years to come.  After a wonderful Thanksgiving feast, wrap up in one of the gorgeous scarves and adorn your tree with the Christmas ornaments!
For more information on this exciting new store in Jackson, please visit www.blissgiftandhome.com or call 601.326.3337.
The stunning floral arrangements were created by the talented Wendy Putt at Fresh Cut Catering & Floral, and add life to the table with vivid fall colors.  Wendy filled a traditional cornucopia with sunflowers, richly hued roses, greenery and berries.  The result is a spectacular arrangement that is sure to impress your guests.  For more information on Fresh Cut Catering & Floral, visit freshcutcateringandfloral.com
Also, a very special thank you to Christina Cannon of Christina Foto for capturing these pretty images.  Visit christinafoto.com to view a gallery of Christina’s lovely work.
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
 
 
This Friday, November 21st, Blues @ Home, an incredibly moving exhibition showcasing the sound and fury of the Mississippi blues, will open in Vicksburg.  Wildly talented artist, H.C. Porter, will proudly present her documentary collection of portraits and voices of Mississippi’s living blues at 16 different locations in Vicksburg, plus the H.C. Porter Gallery.  The exhibition will be open through Saturday, December 6th.
“From living rooms to home studios, juke joints and a chicken coup, this exhibition by H.C. Porter goes beyond the music to give the visitor a human experience, revealing the true grit and spirit of each blues legend,” boasts the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau
The artist behind the work is rather impressive.  As a child, Porter’s mother was a great painter and a wonderfully creative influence on her daughter.  As her mother often put brush to paper, Porter fondly remembers her home filled with the pungent smell of turpentine.  “She enrolled me in a local art class where I learned to draw Snoopy with perspective and make clay knick-knacks from molds…it was heaven for me,” says Porter.  By the time she reached the second grade, Porter knew she wanted to be an artist. 
Porter perfected her craft in high school, and recalls painting and drawing through lunch, then paying her younger sister an hourly wage to sit and model for drawings.  With her impressive portfolio, Porter received an art scholarship to the University of Alabama, where she studied painting, sculpture, clay and photography.  She apprenticed with a well-known artist in Tuscaloosa, Rick Rush, and was exposed to the silkscreen printmaking process.  Porter was hooked. 
After graduating from college, she returned to her roots in Jackson and created a studio in the basement of her grandmother’s home.  “I would paint or print anything to earn the 25 dollars a month rent my grandmother charged me to keep me honest!  I also could only print on days her ladies clubs weren’t meeting upstairs because my fumes would waft up through the floorboards and create nausea, dizzy spells and general malaise when they had major decisions to make, as my grandfather liked to tease, about pie,” Porter laughs. 
She soon moved to Millsaps Avenue and joined the growing art movement in Jackson in the late 1980’s.  Local children began wandering in and out of her studio desiring to paint, so she started Avenue for Art, offering kids basic art classes.  She also began photographing her neighbors and documenting their lives.  Suddenly, her signature style was born.  She recalls, “I soon had what I considered powerful portraits of a challenged, struggling community with a strong sense of spirituality, adaptability and strength.  But, with these photographs in hand I didn’t want to just be a photographer or just a painter, so I relied on silkscreen to allow me to combine the two.”
Porter became widely recognized as an extraordinary artist with her Backyards and Beyond: Mississippians and Their Stories exhibition in 2008.  The exhibit featured paintings and stories of Hurricane Katrina survivors.   Driving home from a walk through of the exhibit at Delta State University, she drove along Highway 61 in Cleveland and watched the sunset create a beautiful painting across the delta sky.  She realized she had never told the story of the Delta and the blues, and Blues @ Home was born. 
In her Blues @ Home exhibition, Mississippi’s finest blues legends leap to life in Porter’s striking works of art.  Porter created these masterpieces using her signature mixed media process, combining painting, printmaking and photography. “I make up the color in each piece, bringing a sense of hope through the use of vibrant color and joyful music,” says Porter.  The finished works are handsome, intimate portraits of talented musicians.
Porter says, “With my artwork, I have always had a deep desire to bring attention to the human spirit that thrives in Mississippi.  Created with fire in the midst of fundamentalism and impoverishment, we were the last mysterious state.  With the Blues @ Home exhibition, I am able to define moments of both our past and our present musical heritage helping us understand and celebrate the place we love to call home!” 
Thirty powerful portraits will be paired with oral histories, spoken in each legend’s soulful voice.  We invite you to take this incredible journey that “details the rich textured lives and musical knowledge born and lived out chopping cotton and plowing the fields, a strong and passionate, but oppressed people, living the four main themes of the blues:  orphaning, homelessness, injustice and sexual conflict,” says Porter. 
Porter hopes to turn the Blues @ Home exhibition into a book within the next year, and is already dreaming up future projects.  “There is a trailer park in Rolling Fork that whispers my name every time I drive past it.  It has Mississippi stories it wants to tell and I might be up for listening.  Anyone want to go with me?” says Porter.  We will certainly be along for the ride.
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
 
 
{Name} Mandy Mangrum
{Hometown} Flowood, MS
{Event Site} Summertree Clubhouse, 100 Woodgreen Drive, Madison, MS 39110
{Tell us about the occasion for the event?} Mandy’s “Saying good-bye to the 20’s” 30th birthday party.  I always have some sort of birthday celebration but I knew I wanted my 30th to be a blow out.
{What inspired your event location and theme?} Most people would assume the idea came from The Great Gatsby movie but actually I was inspired by the movie Fever Pitch.  In the movie, Drew Barrymore’s friend throws a 1920’s themed party and ever since seeing that scene I have been planning my own 1920’s themed party.  The location was great because it was easy for everyone to get to and the aesthetic of the building lent itself to the style of the 1920’s.
{What inspired your color scheme/flowers?}  My inspiration for the color scheme and décor details came from my dress, as well as, “The Flapper Murder Mystery” storyline from www.shotinthedarkmysteries.com.  I had my heart set on finding a mint colored dress, probably from seeing one on pinterest, another form of inspiration in the planning process.  For the record, a mint 1920’s style dress is not easy to come by.  Thanks to the “Gatsby Lady” on etsy.com I was able to get exactly what I was hoping for, and, as luck would have it, Alter’d State had a perfectly matching headband that I added feathers and a vintage pin to.   The murder mystery was set in the “Half Moon Club” so there were several crescent shaped moons added into the details of the room.
{What’s your favorite event detail? Is there a story behind it?}  My favorite detail was the gold and silver spray painted wine bottles with the white and peacock feathers sticking out.  They were so easy and inexpensive yet looked so classy.  The idea came from pinterest and I was so afraid it would turn into a “pinterest fail” but I was pleasantly surprised by how nice they looked! 
{What was your favorite part of the event planning process?} My favorite part of planning was the murder mystery.  I kept that part of the party a secret until the last minute.  Once guests RSVP’d that they would attend, I emailed them this second invitation along with details of the murder mystery.  The murder mystery was set up so that no one would know who the killer is, not the killer or me.  I love a surprise!  The only information I knew were the characters profiles, which were available for all party guests to read online.  I chose who would play certain characters based on their profile information.  Most of my guests felt that I assigned them the perfect character to play. 
{What was your favorite moment of the event day?} Seeing all my friends dressed in 1920’s attire.  I think my face lit up every time my eyes landed on a new arrival.  Everyone was dressed to the nines and looked amazing.  My décor was simply the backdrop to all the glitz and glam of my guests.
{Your favorite picture from the event day?} My favorite picture is probably the one of all the guys.  I fully expected the girls to get into dressing up but the guys really impressed me in their 1920’s attire.
{Photographer} Lindsay Vallas with Lindsay Vallas Photography
{Event Planner} Not a professional, just me with help from my mom
{Venue} Summertree Clubhouse
{Any Additional Vendors} Reservoir Wine and Spirits, Cakes n’ Candles, www.shotinthedarkmysteries.com, GatsbyLady on etsy.com  (https://www.etsy.com/shop/Gatsbylady)
 
 
The holiday season kicks off with a festive start in the heart of Mississippi’s most colorful and creative district this Thursday, November 20th.  “As the arts district of Jackson, Fondren is the hub of artistic expression through music and visual arts and boasts unique owner-operated boutiques and over two-dozen locally owned restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and bakeries,” says Find It In Fondren
This charming neighborhood nestled in the middle of the capital city is hosting Fondren Unwrapped, presented by BankPlus and Fondren Renaissance.  Bring your children at 5:00pm, as the evening begins with a special visit from Santa Claus, along with his favorite reindeer, Rudolph!  Jim Wilkirson, Executive Director of Fondren Renaissance says, “There will be hot chocolate and cookies for all and families and children of all ages will be able to have their picture made with Santa before he returns back to the North Pole later that night - it's a perfect time to get that Christmas card shot, compliments of BankPlus!”
At 5:30pm, The Jim Hill Singers will spark the lighting of the gorgeous cedar Christmas tree on Duling Lawn, beautifully decorated by the Belhaven Theater Department.  After the excitement of seeing the glistening tree, treat your kids to crafts and activities along BankPlus Avenue, and delight your soul with Christmas music resounding from several choirs on an outdoor stage beside St. Luke’s Methodist Church.  Jim adds, “Special features at this year’s holiday concert series will be the talents of the St. James Children's Choir (5:00), the Jim Hill Choir (6:00), the Mustard Seed Bells of Faith (6:30) and the MS Boy Choir (7:00).  Mixed amid the lights, everyone will want to enjoy the hanging art show featuring the works of school age children throughout the metro area.”
We recommend grabbing a delicious bite to eat and a refreshing drink at Babalu Tacos and Tapas, before shopping all of the incredible stores in the Fondren neighborhood.  “All are encouraged to stroll the central business district of Fondren as merchants, restaurants and businesses will have extended hours with seasonal offerings, food presentations and holiday libations to get you in the gift-giving spirit," says Jim.  "This is one holiday event you do not want to miss – so join us on Thursday evening, November 20, for “Fondren’s Gift of the Season – Fondren Unwrapped!"
Thank you, Jim, for information on this exciting event in Fondren!  We hope everyone enjoys a delightful evening of shopping, dining and mingling while ringing in the holiday season!
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
 
 
Last year, four sweet, incredible friends in Ridgeland had a brilliant idea.  Barbara Mangrum, Lea Anne Stacy, Anne Butler and Mary Miller are all exceptionally creative with their own unique talents.  The four women decided to reach out to other artists of all genres, put together a home show, and sell some of their creations in a holiday market for Christmas shoppers.  And just like that, On A L.A.R.K. was born!
Mary Miller’s daughter, Laurel Donahoo, was hired to help with event branding and promotion.  Just like her mother, Laurel is quite talented, and her paper company, The Lovely Bee, will also have a booth at the market! Laurel fills us in on this delightful event and what shoppers can expect at On A L.A.R.K this Saturday, November 15th, from 10am until 5pm in Ridgeland!
Tell us a little about this holiday market and how it draws attention to local artisans and a non-profit!
On A L.A.R.K. is a chance to draw attention to artisans in the area!  This year, there will be a local non-profit called Mercy House with a booth to raise awareness selling some pretty nifty handmade goods like bracelets and crosses.  They have a neat faith-based program that helps equip homeless with that they need to get off of the streets.
Where is the holiday market located?
It is actually at the home of Lea Anne Stacy, one of the organizers!  Her home is INCREDIBLE!  Even if you are not in the market for any gifts, it is worth coming out just to get design ideas from her beautiful house.  Most of the event will be held indoors, but there are a few artisans who will have their booths located outside. 
Are all of the vendors from the Jackson/Ridgeland area?
Most are from right here in the metro area, but there are a few traveling in from out of town!  It should be a wonderful group with a huge variety of things from art to jewelry to t-shirts to handmade soaps to pre-prepared food! 
Why is this event so important?
This event is important because it increases awareness of the talent we have right here in our hometown.  Last year, I learned about so many little home-based businesses that have the neatest wares and ideas that I’d never ever heard of before!  Events like this really highlight what’s going on right under our noses that we might otherwise miss!  This year there are several new vendors whose things I’m DYING to see!  I personally hope to knock out a lot of my Christmas shopping all on Saturday!
Thank you, Laurel, for highlighting this fantastic event!  For more information on this delightful market, visit On A L.A.R.K.’s Facebook page here
All of the gorgeous items pictured will be for sale at On A L.A.R.K. this Saturday. Happy Holiday Shopping! 
{Blog by Mitchell Walters}
 
 
Today, we are overjoyed to celebrate Inspiration Mississippi’s first anniversary!  A year ago, our blog and social media sites were launched, with the goal of highlighting our state’s incredible weddings, events and vendors, along with the talented and loving people who call Mississippi home. 
We are thrilled to launch our first print issue of Inspiration Mississippi on December 13th, 2014!  As a special anniversary surprise, we are delighted to treat you with a taste of the extraordinary people and stunning photographs featured in the magazine.  We hope you enjoy!
Gorgeous wedding photos and inspiring ideas
An intimate portrait of the life and faith of one of Time Magazine’s Most Influential People
Whimsical weddings gowns
A fascinating man teaching much more than music to students in the Delta
Creative ideas for spectacular events
A look at our Most Inspiring Person of the Year through the eyes of his mother, dearest friends and football coach
We cannot wait to share the entire magazine with you!  Look for the first issue throughout the state of Mississippi, available on 12.13.14!  We sincerely thank all of our loyal readers and incredible advertisers.  You truly inspire us each and every day.  It has been a remarkable year and we look forward to many more celebrating all aspects of Mississippi.  We are so blessed to have the hospitality state and a household of faith at the root of our inspiration!
 
 
“My dream was always to open a clothing store.  I have literally known for as long as I can remember.  I kept a binder of all my ideas and included brands, layouts, drawings, quotes, names, styles and more.  When it was announced that Dogwood Promenade in Flowood was being built, I knew it was my chance to sign a lease and begin!”
Whitney Giordano Foster has always had an innate sense of style, and yearned to pour her talents and passion into a beautiful clothing store.  Ten years ago, Whitney was busy majoring in Fashion and Merchandising and minoring in Marketing at the University of Southern Mississippi.  As a senior in college, Whitney fulfilled her dream and opened a lovely boutique, Material Girls.  The gorgeous, driven student studied during the week and spent her weekends traveling back and forth between Hattiesburg and Flowood.  Whitney reflects, [the store] “was in my home town and a big deal for us at the time!”  She worked hard to ensure Material Girls would be a great success.
As Material Girls celebrates its anniversary this month, Whitney says with awe, “Now ten years later and still growing, I have opened in Ridgeland at Renaissance Mall in 2006, Oxford on the square in 2008, and Hattiesburg in Turtle Creek Crossing in 2010.”  Their online store, shopmaterialgirls.com, is also thriving and ships daily throughout the country. 
Naturally, Whitney is not only business savvy, but also enviably fashionable.  She adores Kendra Scott, Victoria Lynn, 7 for All Mankind Jeans, Casual Friday graphic tees and her go-to Kimonos!  With our crisp fall weather and the anticipation of the holiday season, we asked Whitney to share her five tips for dressing sharply this fall:
1)   Layering – “This is the biggest thing I can say is important for fall.  We live in the south and it is hot the majority of the time!  So, it is key to layer your looks.  Start with a fun tank that can be worn year-round and pair it with a long kimono or sweater cardigan.  A few of the hottest things for the season incorporate the layered look!  Such as…”
2)   Vests – “Another great example of layering!  Vests are huge this season. Wear them with everything.  Styles are varying from puffy vests to stripes, fur and more.”
3)   Fur – “Fur is also huge…Girls are wearing it over everything!  We are getting so many fur vests in all shades.  The more over sized, the better!
4)   Plaid – “This is a popular trend for fall, whether you are wearing a boyfriend-style plaid shirt or mixing plaids.”
5)   Leather – “Skirts, shorts, pants!  Leather accents on top are fabulous as well!”
Thank you, Whitney, for these fantastic trends we can all incorporate into our wardrobes! 
Material Girls' 10th Anniversary Party!
Material Girls will be celebrating their tenth anniversary with an incredible soiree on Thursday, November 13th, from 4:00-7:00pm at their Renaissance location!  And you are invited!  Whitney says, “There will be discounts, swag bags full of free goodies and local coupons, a dessert bar and a band featuring Holley Peel!”  Beautiful clothing will be discounted throughout the store all evening, not only at Material Girls in Renaissance, but at the other three locations as well.  One lucky shopper will also win a store discount for an entire year!
As fashion designer Jason Wu says, “I think clothing is transformative. When you put something really beautiful on, you feel something.”  Happy Birthday, Material Girls!  And thank you, Whitney, for dressing Mississippians so beautifully for the past ten years. 
 
 
{Bride} - Alison Rebecca Moak   now Alison Moak Leach  
{Groom} – Brian Mayers Leach 
{Hometowns} - Alison- Madison, MS / Brian- Brandon, MS
{Wedding Site} (name and location) – Providence Hill Farm – Jackson, MS
{Reception Site} (name and location) – Providence Hill Farm – Jackson, MS

{Bride’s Bouquet}
I carried a romantic, lush hand-tied bouquet of garden roses, ranunculus, spray roses, peonies, lisianthus and with a touch of seeded eucalyptus and dusty miller to complete the full textured look in shades of ivory and white with a touch of blush and silvery grey.  Affixed to the bouquet featured a custom monogram ribbon.

{Bridesmaid Bouquets}
They carried a bouquet of dusty miller, blush and ivory blooms of garden roses, ranunculus, spray roses, dahlias and silver brunia for added texture in shades of ivory, white, various shades of pink and grey.  Each of the girl’s bouquets also featured a custom monogram ribbon.

{How did the two of you meet?}
We met the weekend of the Arkansas vs. Mississippi State football game on November 20, 2010 in Starkville.  I was a sophomore at MSU and Brian had just returned home from playing in the Arizona Fall League.  Brian and his best friend, Trey Sutton from Hattiesburg, drove to Starkville to spend the weekend and catch up.  Trey was also there visiting my roommate, Kelli Blackburn, which is how Brian and I first met. 

Following that weekend for the next three months we constantly stayed in contact and saw one another any time we were free.  During this time, I do have to say Brian was so charming, such a gentleman, very persistent and smitten with me.  However, at the time a guy was the last thing I was looking for so to me he was just a friend with an incredible personality.  All Brian wanted was a chance and I never realized that, but boy my heart and feelings for him eventually came and smacked me in the face.

At the end of February we said our goodbyes as he was leaving for another season of baseball with the Pittsburgh Pirates starting with Spring Training in Sarasota, FL.  It only took two weeks of Brian being gone when I realized I had been blinded or trying to keep away all of my feelings for him.  He was truly everything I had ever looked for in a guy and on June 4, 2011 he officially became apart of my life, forever.  

{What is your proposal story?}
It was incredible!!!  Brian had taken me out to dinner for a "work promotion".  After finishing our meal we were walking to his truck when I realized the limo outside the restaurant was there waiting for us.  He had a huge congratulations sign and roses inside the limo and said it was taking us to go look at Christmas Lights, but we had to make a quick stop first so Brian could help his brother with something at their Crossfit/Baseball Facility.  Once we arrived he told me to stay in the car because it would just take a minute.  Literally right when he walked through the front door a video on the limo's TV screen started playing.  Brian had made a slide show video of pictures from all of his favorite memories of us together over the past few years with a beautiful song playing and a caption on each slide that quickly brought me to tears.  As soon as the video had finished the limo driver opened my door and led me to the door going into their facility.  Inside all the lights were off and there were 6 beautiful Christmas Trees, three on each side, filled with lights and a card on each tree.  I had a sign with directions explaining to start on the right with the first tree and zigzag back and forth reading each card.  Once I got to the end, the last card had an additional special message saying to turn the corner and to go find him.  I turned the corner to find Brian standing in between two tables filled with candles.  He gave a beautiful speech and then said he had three questions to ask me.  First, if I would accept his rose (yes, he loves the Bachelor/Bachelorette).  Second, he dropped down on one knee and asked me to marry him.  After lots of hugs, kisses and tears he asked his third question which was if I would dance with him.  When the song was coming to an end Brian whispered in my ear saying he had one last surprise for me.  The song ended, he turned me around and there stood both of our families.  They had just witnessed every second of Brian's breathtaking proposal.  Having our families there meant the world to me and will forever hold a special place in my heart.   

{What inspired your wedding and reception locations?}
I wanted my wedding to be different and unique.  There are quite a few options to choose from in Jackson, MS and I felt like everyone always did the same ole thing.  Providence Hill Farm was my first and only choice to view. 

I grew up in the country and love and have always been surrounded by horses.  This venue just made everything feel at home and very comfortable for me and is absolutely breathtaking.  It also fit the exact style that I was visioning for our wedding.  Most importantly I wanted to make sure everyone wasn't stuck on top of one another and could truly enjoy being there with us.  This was the easiest decision out of all of them for us.    

{What inspired your color scheme/theme/flowers?}
The color scheme was quite easy.  Of course, like most girls my favorite color has always been pink.  However, I have been obsessed with grey lately but still knew I wanted pops of pink, so our colors were ivory + grey + blush.  Our wedding and reception were both at a beautiful equestrian center in the heart of the South and what better way to bring that feel out for such a place than a romantic + chic + rustic style.  Our wedding flowers were so perfect!  They were soft and romantic, and they had a garden feel to them.  Our reception florals were arranged in beautiful stone and wood vessels that fit the feel of the wedding perfectly.

{How did you pick “the dress?”}
It was one long day and looking back quite hilarious.  My mom, Maid of Honor and Proxy Bride all started the journey to Low's Bridal in Brinkley, Arkansas.  We left after work on a Friday and decided to cut the trip in half by stopping in Tunica, Mississippi.  That Saturday morning we woke up bright and early, as my appointment was at 10:00 am, to a heart dropping moment.  Light snow that was predicted had turned into inches of thick snow.  My mom being amazing acted like it was no big deal and told us we better hurry up and get going before we were late for my appointment.  After what was suppose to be a short two hour drive then turned into hours on the road sitting in traffic from one wreck after another.  We arrived at Low's Bridal at 1:00 pm.  The workers were so nice, extremely understanding and told us to take our time browsing, as there were only two other brides in the store.  Everyone else had cancelled their appointments due to snow and Highway Patrol telling everyone to stay off the roads (Which we found out once there).  During the whole wedding process I was always one easy person when it came to decisions because I knew what I wanted and just like everything else I knew exactly what type of dress that I wanted.  

Around 5:30 I was completely worn out and all but in tears as my decision came down to two polar opposite dresses.  The exact dress that I knew from the beginning I always wanted or the dress I was wearing at the time that was a beautiful princess dress that every little girl dreams of being in.  This should not have even been a hard decision and yet I could not think straight nor make a decision.  Finally, I just said all right this is it let's go with the one I'm wearing (the long train princess dress) and just go home. 

Well needless to say, I said yes to the wrong dress.  That was easily realized Sunday morning when I woke up and my mom asked, "So do you just love your dress"?  We were frantically waiting and praying until Tuesday morning when Low's Bridal opened back up to find out if they would let us switch dresses even though they had a strict no return policy.  Thankfully, the company it was ordered from had not started making the dress and I was able to switch them.  That moment I was completely overjoyed and happy and realized that's the feeling I should have felt when saying yes to the dress.

{What was your favorite part of the wedding planning process?}
That Brian truly let me turn my fairytale vision and pinterest boards into a reality and that my mom was there with me every meeting, phone call, skype chat and step of the way.

{Besides the actual wedding, what was your favorite moment of the wedding day?}
Our first look was hands down a moment I will forever cherish.  The nerves and giddiness that came over me right when they said “it’s time” was like experiencing our first date all over again.  I’ll never forget being taken to the spot where Brian was waiting and just started crying seeing him with his back turned towards me.  It was all very bittersweet and so nice having that time with him before everything began. 

{What was your favorite surprise detail/moment about your wedding day?}
I loved the custom monogram ribbons flowing down from our bouquets and I also loved the custom chalkboard with information on each side about Brian and I that we stood in front of during our recession line as a photo backdrop.

{Your favorite picture from the big day?}
Oh goodness, now that is a very difficult one.  Two that really stand out to me are one of my dad and I during our dance to “Butterfly Kisses.”  I surprised him with this song and it was such a perfect fit for us as I grew up with my dad giving me butterfly kisses each and every night before bed.  I have and will always be daddy’s little girl and the pictures during our dance together truly portray the love we have for one another.  My second favorite picture would be the one of my mom and now my mother in law with their heads leaned in together crying with huge smiles on their faces during Brian and my first dance.  It might not mean much to most people but Brian and I are both extremely close to our families and it is such a beautiful and heartwarming picture. 

{The picture that represents the two of you best?}
I could name quite a few but one that really stands out is – a picture from our first look.  We were exchanging gifts and Brian had just opened his gift from me.  The picture is of Brian cheesing like crazy while holding up his present and me hysterically laughing.  I don’t remember if he said or did something to make me laugh but this picture really describes the two of us.  Brian’s personality is beyond amazing and there isn’t a day that goes by where he doesn’t have me constantly smiling and laughing.

Photographer: Adam + Alli Photography – (www.adamplusalli.com)
Event Planner: Lesley Frascogna – TULIP – (www.ilovetulip.com)
Dress: Low’s Bridal in Brinkley, AR – Allure Bridals
Bride’s Jewelry: Earrings & Bracelet from Lee Michaels in Ridgeland, MS
Hair: William Wallace Salon
Make-up: Louis Peterman – William Wallace Salon
Bridesmaid Dresses: Bella Bridesmaids in Ridgeland, MS – Dessy Collection
Tuxes: Tuxes Too (www.tuxestoo.com)
Videographer: Brock Gomez – Brock Gomez Productions –   (www.brockgomez.com)
Venue: Providence Hill Farm – (www.providencehillfarm.com)
Lighting: Stephen Barnette – (www.davainelighting.com)
Rentals: Mississippi Tent – (www.mississippitent.com), Pretty Presentations Catering (www.prettypresentationscatering.com)
Florist: Lesley Frascogna – TULIP – (www.ilovetulip.com)
Catering: Pretty Presentations Catering – (www.prettypresentationscatering.com)
Bar: Scott Jackson – Colony Wine Market in Madison, MS (we purchased everything from them and Pretty Presentation’s staff served it).
Band: Al Paris & the Heartbreakers (www.ramentertainment.com)
Bride’s Cake: The Cake Diva – (www.thecakediva.net)
Groom’s Cake: The Cake Diva – (www.thecakediva.net)
Print Material: Kristen Ley – Thimblepress Studio + Shop - (www.thimblepress.com)
Car Service: Cline Tours and Global Limos