Wednesday, February 20, 2013


At the beginning of January we invested in a wood stove for our living room.  Best investment ever.

I can't just leave it there.  You see, I have a rocky relationship with wood stoves that goes several years back to Kentucky... I have to include the back story on this one.

We moved to LaGrange, KY (20 miles north of Louisville) in 2004, because Scott was asked to help start a church.  Housing was not quite as affordable there as it is in Mississippi, and so we went with the  Fixer upper route rather than a TINY newer home.

The home we chose had great bones.  It was 100 years old, in the historic district, had a great yard, etc. However, it needed some major work inside.  Scott lived there for three months working to remodel the home while I stayed in New Albany with the children.  He knocked out a wall, painted everything, and removed a furnace and drop ceiling in the kitchen.  We southeners ignorantly reasoned, an efficient pellet stove would do the same thing as a furnace... and it would eliminate the need for the ugly drop ceiling and giant furnace taking up half the kitchen!


That pellet stove only kept us warm when we were hugging it.

We put another wood stove in the front fireplace, but it was a small antique model.  When it was going strong and hot, the room was tolerable.  However, every morning, no matter how full we would pack the thing at night, it was empty and cold.

And we could see our breath inside our downstairs.  And our toilet froze all the time.  And I had to wear gloves inside the house.  And we would often go do school at the library or community center to stay warm.  And I learned how to split wood.

We even made silly pictures around our woodpile, because it was such a big part of our life...

All this for the lady who often calls herself an albino Mexican, wishing she could live in a more tropical climate than Mississippi!

**Now, I am just setting the scene so that you can understand the depths of my desire to have a warm house and give you a little background on my pent up dislike for wood stoves...  That Kentucky house was great from April- October, and I OFTEN miss my very dear friends from there.

When we moved back to Mississippi and decided to build a house, there were a few "must-haves."  Lots of natural light, WARMTH, and closet space topped the list.

Well, 2 outa 3 ain't bad... unless it's January!

Our home here in Mississippi has sprayed insulation, great windows, and a completely brick exterior.  All of the makings for warmth.  However, it has an open floor plan with concrete floors... and a heat pump instead of gas heat.  When we built our house, gas was higher than it had ever been, and we were trying to do the "green thing."  Unfortunately, our home topped out at about 59 degrees.  Anything higher and the heat would just run and run... but not get above 60 degrees!

 For the next several years, Scott tried to convince me to put a wood stove in our living room.  I protested and argued and MIGHT have shown my hiney once or twice about it.  I did NOT want to ruin the pretty arched opening with some rigged up ugly wood stove patched in the hole with bubble gum and aluminum foil...   I preferred to be cold over having a junky looking, smoky smelling, freezing in the morning house.

I am a little bit opinionated.  And not always as submissive as I would like.

After a few years of busting knuckles and being unproductive, because 57 degrees is just a little too chilly for me indoors, I started researching wood stoves.  It turns out that all wood stoves are not created equal.  A $100 wood stove bought from a junk shop and a new wood stove with modern technology are far from equal... in looks and performance.

We purchased a wood stove which vents out the back and up our chimney, eliminating the need to "patch up" the opening in order to seal it off.  Because it is new and was installed in a newer chimney, it draws very well.  Our house is not smoky or sooty, and it is WARM!!!!  Like 68-70 degrees warm!

When will I learn to listen to my husband!?  I am thankful every day for warmth, and it is a good reminder that when I listen to Scott, I am usually happier in the end!

Monday, February 18, 2013


Soon after announcing my resignation from coaching at BMC, a friend approached me about a way to earn some extra money and support a pro-life cause.  The idea was for me to make aprons at home, sell them to AFA, and the profit would go to Save-A-Life.  Because I love aprons, it seemed like a good idea, and it would help a good cause, I decided to do it.

The initial order was for 50, and it was estimated that I would be making 1-2 per week.

50 aprons at one time!!! During cross country and football season!!! And I am responsible for educating our four children!!!  This was a major task, and I thought it was going to sink me.  We made it through that first fifty... We rearranged the downstairs into my "sweat shop," several friends brought food, others came to sew... And when we had XC practice from our house, a group of moms cleaned, cooked, and did laundry while I was out coaching!!

(above:  Julie Johnson ironing for me- the Johnsons came and spent two full days working!)

While I was making the initial 50, AFA was getting their website ready.  Here is what it looked like:

Introducing the Evika accessory line.
Style and life are two ideas that have always gone together.  Now you can support life in your own day to day style.  Evika products feature a variety of patterns, styles and colors.  A portion of the profits for all Evika products goes toward pro-life causes.

1) Canning ApronThe Canning Apron weds a smock style, full coverage apron with fresh fabrics and a ruffled bottom.  It is great for messy cooks or for cleaning house in style!  This knee-length apron has two roomy pockets which are great for keeping recipe cards or a cell phone.  100% cotton and machine washable.
Fringe pattern varies by apron

2) Flounce Apron
The Flounce Apron is a sassy, modern pattern great for everyday cooking or entertaining.  This style ties around the neck and has extra long ties, giving the option of tying in the back or front.  One size fits most, 100% cotton and machine washable.
Fringe pattern varies by apron

3) Vintage ApronThe Vintage Apron is a retro pattern created with modern fabrics.  It has a gathered waistline and two roomy pockets.  The vintage Apron ties around the neck and waist.  One size fits most, 100% cotton and machine washable. 
Fringe pattern varies by apron

Each Evika apron is handmade by Heather Duley.  Mrs. Duley lives on a small family farm in Mississippi with her husband and four children.  In addition to homeschooling and farm chores, she spends time sewing, running, coaching a local cross country team, knitting, and reading.

Their website designer is a master, because that 1-2 aprons per week never happened.  Oh no.  From the end of September until December 17, I made a total of 238 aprons.  Believe me, the coffee was flowing.

238.  That is a big number.  A very very big number.  It about killed me... And our whole family!  And several sewing machines!  Two ended up in the shop, and one afternoon I sewed with my grandmother's Singer Featherweight!

Most of the aprons involved handmade contrasting bias tape.  In my opinion, it gives a wonderful finishing touch to a handmade item.  Hannah was my go-to person for bias tape.  She made hundreds of yards of homemade bias tape for those aprons, along with whatever I happened to need at the time.  Whether it was making dinner, keeping up with laundry, pinning ruffles... She was willing to help me in any way she could!

Sarah and Hannah modeling aprons! 

Sarah was the tie-turner. With each apron having two neck ties and two waist ties, that girl turned and pressed well over 500 ties!  She was also great about entertaining the children of whomever was at our home helping.  Will and Josh did school together, and everyone worked together to make it happen.

I can't list the names of all the people who came to my rescue during that next 188 aprons.  Over those few months, although I was constantly battling feeling overwhelmed, the help I received from my friends meant so much to me, and I will never be able to thank them enough.

There is one particular family that I MUST mention.  Dorothy Denton coaches the NAHS cross country team, and we have run in the NA running group together for years.  One day after XC season, she saw a Facebook post of mine and offered to come help during Thanksgiving break.  When she arrived, she immediately set to work.  I began calling her my super clone, because she was a better and faster seamstress than I!  She came back a few times and told me stories of helping her mother, who owned a seamstress shop.  One day Dorothy showed up with her mom in tow!  Dorothy and her mother worked and worked and worked and worked and worked to help me get the order complete... all the while knowing that I would never be able to repay them.   I would probably STILL be working on aprons if it weren't for Dorothy and her mom!

Below are Dorothy and I working in my "sweatshop," and I will explain the chair on top of the table in the next post... and about the day that aprons literally almost killed me...

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Rare moment of Clarity

While cleaning a house yesterday, I had a rare moment of clarity concerning family and contentment.  It is always difficult to later reconstruct and articulate a thought, but here goes... (Might take a minute, but I'll get there!)

When my grandparents retired, they purchased and moved to 12 acres of heaven near Batesville, AR.  Recently, my sister and I talked about their place, and we even tried to locate it on Google Earth.  We eventually found it on the map... right where we remembered.  This stirred up so many memories and feelings over the last week, and Arkansas has been on my mind quite a bit.

"Arkansas" was located just outside Batesville, several miles down "The Bumpy Road."  After passing the Boys' Ranch and going down the big hill, we were almost there!  If it was daytime, my dad would let me "drive" this last stretch on his lap.  If it was dark, you can bet he would turn off the headlights going down the big hill until our screams convinced him to re-illuminate the path!

As we turned the final corner singing about "havin' chicken 'n dumplin's when we come..." we arrived at the stone house and carport nestled in a pristinely landscaped clearing on our right.  The driveway wrapped around the house and entered the carport on the end.

Even the breezy carport is saturated with memories... and drips from popsicles and paintbrushes used to paint everything from rocks to live turtles.  It seems like yesterday that I would emerge from the house on one of my summer visits, freshly showered and no longer a "dirty bird."  I would sit on the carport swing with Tootie, looking out over the grapevines and grassy yard. She never minded me playing with the large veins running across her hands or asking about her age spots, and she always said yes to a second popsicle.  Funny, my hands now look strikingly similar to hers.

Inside the house was simple and cozy.  The kitchen was always abuzz with an ongoing scrabble game and the smell of snickerdoodles or sausage biscuits.  In the evenings, the living room might be filled with sounds from Tootie's organ, Pepa's harmonica and ukulele, or "scary stories" about navy ships!

I have many vivid memories from inside the house my grandfather built... the smell of Apple Pectin shampoo and getting a "waffle booty" burn from the bathroom wall heater... being tossed from bed to bed by sitting on my cousin's feet... the list goes on, but most of my Arkansas memories are set outdoors.

You see, this little piece of heaven called Arkansas was absolutely perfect.  In the backyard stood rows and rows of grapevines and Pepa's shop, where I loved to sweep the sawdust into piles and "help" him. The backyard was also the way to our clubhouse.  It actually belonged to my older cousin first, and it was originally named, "Joey's Place."  When he outgrew it, my grandfather took it completely apart, lowered it to a more acceptable height, and placed a new sign outside.  It read, "Under new management: H&H, Inc."

Running alongside the backyard was a dirt road which led through the woods, across the railroad tracks, and to the river.  The adults definitely enjoyed cane pole fishing in the White River.  I usually gave it a try and quicky lost interest in watching my bobber never move.  Later, I found out that it never moved, because my line had no hook!  When I finally got old enough for a hook, Pepa would put a fish on my line for me while I was distracted!

I would probably appreciate the river much more now, but at the time, Hillary and I loved checking the minnow traps at the creek.  While we were at the creek, we always made time for practicing stone skipping, looking for good rocks to paint, and best of all, seeing who could lay on the rocks in the rushing water the longest... it was COLD!

My outdoor memories of Arkansas are endless.  Going to the creek's headspring (The Blue Hole), exploring the exapnsive flat rocks along the bumpy road, checking out the White River Dam near the Boys' Ranch, and even just swinging in the hammock or inspecting the butterfly bush in the front yard...

All of these memories fill me with a strange combination of joy and sadness.  I have lately daydreamed often about one day buying "Arkansas," moving there, and raising my kids and grandkids at that special place.

Then it hit me.

"Arkansas" is a magical place in my memory, but the BEST part about Arkansas isn't the land; it is the family and memories which are so intertwined with the land.

I had two grandparents who LOVED their family and delighted in having us visit.  Our family, immediate and extended, spent time together when we were all there.  When we were there for summer kid visits, Tootie and Pepa took time to patiently teach their grandkids things and DO things with us. (Things WE wanted to do- I am sure playing imaginary rock town was not high on Pepa's priority list!)  They SPENT TIME WITH US, and that is what makes my Arkansas memories priceless.

After that realization, another one hit me.

We have our own Arkansas right here in Mississippi!  There is no need to daydream about moving somewhere else; our family is blessed to live on 125 acres of woods!  Our land will never have the excitement of a river or a wide, rocky creek (although Scott often dreams of building a big pond), but we DO have running trails which we have hacked out of wilderness, a campsite, deer stands, and several other things that we have worked on together as a family.  Over the years we will keep working and keep improving things... and MAYBE one day my yard will be more grass than red dirt...

In the meantime, we must remember not to neglect nor take for granted time well spent with family.  One day, I want my children, neices, nephews, and grandchildren to dream about coming back to their "Mississippi!"