The one about casseroles.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Since Addison was born my family life has been pretty crazy. First there was the initial shock and adjustment that comes from welcoming a baby with special needs. Shortly after we began to adjust to our new normal we were inducted into the community of families of children with complex medical concerns. Nothing can prepare you for this life. It's chaotic and unpredictable. And without the support of the amazing people surrounding us there is no way we would have made it these past two years.

The second most common question we hear, right after "How is Addison?", is "What can I do to help?",  followed quickly by, "Can I bring a meal?"  The meal question is typically directed at one of my grown siblings or myself by dear friends who don't want to burden my mom. I always hesitate before replying, "A meal would be lovely. How about next Tuesday?" 

I hesitate because I don't want to accept. Nagging at the back of my mind is a feeling of guilt. We don't need a meal. Realistically, my father or pretty much any of my siblings could pull together a meal, from the grocery store shelves to the dinner table, in less time than you would take you to calculate just how many times to multiply that recipe to feed a family of eleven. It doesn't make sense for someone else to invest their time and resources into something that I don't perceive as a help to us or Addison (the child doesn't even eat, for crying out loud!).

And then I'm reminded of this simple truth: it isn't all about us. Serving is every bit as much about the server as the served. Our friends love us. They love Addison. And sometimes prayer isn't enough. I speak as someone who has been on both sides. When people you love are hurting you need a means much more tangible than prayer to help. I'm not knocking prayer. There is nothing as helpful or effective as prayer. But I also know the joy from pouring yourself into creating something and the satisfaction of using your hands to serve a hurting friend and maybe, just maybe, make their troubles a little more bearable. Who am I to take that away from someone?

So I nod my head. "A casserole would be lovely. How about next Tuesday?"

Keep the prayers (and casseroles) coming.

Hello, my name is Brianna.

Thursday, February 5, 2015
Hello, my name is Brianna.

If you are an old friend, thank you for reading. If you are a new here, welcome.

Hello, my name is Brianna. And sometimes I loose my way.

A fourteen year old enters the world of blogging without any expectations. You write a few words and rejoice when your first post is published. It's new and exciting. And then you meet other bloggers, read other blogs and your expectations are raised.

I hate mediocre as much as I hate indecision.

Seriously. It drives me crazy and I would much rather not do anything at all than do it substandard.

This past year has been one hell of a year. Sorry, but there really is no other way to describe it. I have experienced greater levels or emotional and physical exhaustion and strain than I thought possible. And, honestly? When your life is just surviving day to day blogging is something you scoff at as a waste of time and the little bit of energy you have left.

Hello, my name is Brianna. And I expect perfection in my life.

But the crazy thing about blogging is this: it's not even real. Think about it for a while and you'll get what I mean. It's not concrete. It cannot be handled. It's words and pictures thrown into a vast void that none of us understand. I don't suggest arguing philosophy with me...my mother taught me everything I know about debating and I will talk you in circles until your head spins. :)

Hello, my name is Brianna. Welcome to my mediocre blog.

Because when you've been where I've been the past year...you realize somethings...especially arbitrary, not even real things...like blogging...don't have to be perfect. It's nice to have a place to be mediocre.

Hello, my name is Brianna.

Take heart.

Hope in the Lord.

And carry on.

Simple Steps for Elegant Table Design

Saturday, January 10, 2015
Let's flash back about fifteen years. It was Thanksgiving and my sister and I were feeling very grown up because, for the very first time, Mom said we could decorate the table all by ourselves. As best as I can recall, the centerpiece consisted of dead leaves sprinkled on a white cloth. Okay, so maybe not much to write home about but we were proud of our creation and it was the beginning of my obsession with a perfectly set table.

A friend was visiting once and very graciously agreed to help set the table. He asked if we really had to put out all the silverware or just what we would be using. I asked him what he thought. He put out all the silverware. Another friend joined my family for our annual vacation several years ago. I went to set the table one night and she gasped and declared it must be vacation because the Wachters were using paper napkins. (Please note we were still using real plates. The previous breech of posh protocol was due to the lack of cloth napkins at the rental house.)

As these stories illustrate, proper is very important to me, especially in regards to a table setting. I'm really not a total snob but there is a right way and a wrong way to set a table. Perfection in table decor only takes you so far. A proper place setting and minimal centerpiece will win every day over an shoddy setting, no matter how elaborate your centerpiece.

This is my basic formula for table design:

- Have a vision for the final product. Keep it flexible (because it will change) but you should have a general idea what you want to see. It helps to pick a few words you want to describe your table. For example, for the autumn table in the photo above, woodland and elegant were our key words. By the way, there is no shame is searching Pinterest for inspiration.

- There are three basic parts to a table design. The linens (tablecloth, runner, placemats, napkins, etc.), the centerpiece, and the place settings. Plan out each part and gather the supplies in advance.

- Choose a starting item. It could be a charger, a vase, a placemat... Pick one statement piece that you  want to build from. I love these interest pieces from Chairish and think they would make a great starting pieces.
I hope you all had a wonderful holiday! I would love if you shared some of your table design tips. Comment below!

Cheers!
Näna

CARMEL.com

Thursday, January 1, 2015
If I had to choose of one word to describe Carmel it would be artistic. Be it web design, writing, sketching or photography, Carmel is always exploring and sharing her artistic endeavors. I have loved seeing her develop her talents over the years and am excited to announce the launch of her new website, CARMEL.com.

CARMEL.com is a place where interests in writing, fashion, health and graphic design converge. It's a celebration of art and beauty and elegance. It's learning to be edifying and uplifting. It's life lived to it's fullest, bodies filled with the best, minds flowing with inspiration, mouths speaking words of wisdom and intelligence and truth. We're here to be the best versions of ourselves, and I welcome you to join. All the love.

ABOUT CARMEL: Hello! My name is Carmel, though you probably know me better as Bree, or Bree Holloway. That's alright, I'll still answer to it - I went by Bree on this little blog world for over 4 years, and in many ways it's become a part of who I am. But before Bree Holloway, or Blogger, or any of all this, it was just me. Carmel. I could tell you about how I'm different than most people you probably know, but I'm sure you've read that 100 times over. Instead, I'll tell you what I love. My first pursuit is Christ; in Lewis's words, "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." If I can lead one person to the saving grace of God, if this journey of self-discovery encourages others to join me, I've done something worthy, despite countless mistakes - and that's firstly what this place is about. As for the rest? I'm a prolific reader, writer of allegorical fantasy, ballet dancer, graphic designer, style-lover, bright-lipstick enthusiast and high-heel wearer. Chocolate is my love-language.

I encourage you to visit CARMEL.com and support this sweet girl's latest endeavor!
Wishing you all the best in 2015.

Thanksgiving Inspiration | The Kid's Table

Saturday, November 22, 2014
I am not a fan of the kids table. Thanksgiving dinner is a family event and it doesn't seem right to split the family on this all important day. But our guest list this year surpassed our twenty seat table capacity and Sam and Ellie were jumped at the idea of playing host to their friends at a kids table, providing they approved the table setting. Drawing inspiration for the kid's table from these sources:
(one) (two) (three) (four)
Super simple, kid friendly and festive. Plus this entire table is going to be under $10. Big time win. Can't wait to see it all come together!

5 Reasons Fall is the Best

Thursday, November 20, 2014
Can we all agree fall is the best? If not, let me try to convince you with my five reasons to love fall.

Scenery- How can you not love a landscape transformed into a brilliant glow of red, orange and yellow? The lighting is absolute perfection. The air is crisp and refreshing to breath. This time of year just looking out the window makes me happy and so very glad to be alive!

Pumpkins - On my porch and in my coffee. It's all good. By the time September rolls around I make very few recipes that *don't* have pumpkin as the main ingredient.

Sweaters, Scarves & More Sweater - I love my knits and woolens! (Except no actual wool because I'm allergic and it's makes me sneeze and itch :P) Confession: I'm something of a sweater junkie. Pretty much every morning finds me bundling up in a cardigan or pullover. I'm sorry, but getting dressed is so much more fun in the fall. Layers galore!

Thanksgiving Magazines - While you're agreeing with me, can we all admit Thanksgiving in the very best holiday? I couldn't even explain why. It just is. And the Thanksgiving issues of favorite magazines (I'm looking at you Bon Appetite and MS Living!) and always, always the best. My mom has a copy of Bon Appetite from 1994. Every year when we sit down to assemble our Thanksgiving menu we pull out the much loved issues that has come to be a family heirloom and reverently brush off the dust.

A Clean Slate - Most of all, I love the fall because with the new academic year, comes a reboot to all our lives, thinking and schedules. The world is once again busy and productive. (I'm happiest when busy...it's a flaw, I'll be the first to admit, but that's the way I'm wired.) We're full of purpose and work is confronted with a new vigor. In the immortal words of the brilliant F. Scott Fitzgerald...

"Life starts all over again when it get's crisp in the fall."

And that's pretty much the sum of it.

Happy fall.

-näna

P.S. Comment and tell me why YOU love fall!

Christian Royal Pottery - beautiful pottery making dreams reality

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"Christian Royal has a vocation and a business. While that is not unusual for many people, it is unusual for an individual who was born with Down syndrome (DS*). For the past seven years, Christian has been making pottery. For the past four years, his pottery has been sold in upscale stores and art galleries in Charleston, South Carolina. To grow his e-commerce sales, consideration was given to search engine optimization using Google ad words. But, what would that be compared to a Kickstarter campaign? It was a no brainer! This is a project to promote elegant ceramic art From Sea To Shining Sea. This could be a big deal for Christian to be discovered by Kickstarters.

In 2009, John and Jan Myers, professional potters of thirty years, taught Christian their unique style of making slab pottery. They trained Christian in a method that enabled him to produce graceful and stylish stoneware and, in so doing, they changed his life. In 2012, Joni And Friends, a ministry to people affected by disability, did a thirty-minute television documentary on him that received a Silver Telly Award. He may be the first Down syndrome individual to become a professional potter. Christian still struggles with single words and has yet to grasp basic addition, the seasons, or time. He does not get abstracts. And, fortunately, pottery is not abstract. Making a piece of pottery is very tangible and "down to earth." You start with a block of wet, gray clay and take it through a series of sequential steps that eventually results in high-fired stoneware – Graceful in Form, Capturing Beauty Through Leaf and Lace Impressions. Christian sees the results of his labors with each completed kiln firing. It is delightful to him.

The guiding motif for Christian Royal Pottery is: Stoneware With The Charm of Things Imperfect and Simple.

Christian’s studio and handcrafting skills have equipped him with a vocation that animates his life with purpose, camaraderie, and identity in society. And, many individuals have been part of the story that is Christian Royal Pottery. Without the help, guidance, and opportunities provided by many kind-hearted folks, Christian and his pottery could never have achieved his modest successes thus far.

For a potter to sell pottery across America would be impressive. For a potter with DS to sell across America would be remarkable. The goal of this project is for Christian and his pottery to be discovered beyond Charleston. This is an ambitious goal but highly achievable among interested Kickstarters. And, such an achievement might signal other families about new possibilities for their loved ones with special needs."

This is awesome stuff, guys! What a major step forward not only for Christian but for every individual affected by Down Syndrome. And, as if the idea of helping this great project wasn't enough, the rewards (with and $18+ pledge) are amazing. Truly, this pottery is the most beautiful I have seen and I'm excited to see what this enterprise will accomplish. Get involved by visiting Christan Royal Pottery on Kickstart.

Autumn Babies

Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Fall provides such a lovely backdrop. And the lighting! Don't even get me started.


 
 
Love these kiddos. It is ridiculous how much they have grown since summer and how much they are *not* babies anymore.  But gosh, do they wear fall well.

Cheers,
nana

10 Christmas Gifts for Down Syndrome Advocacy

Monday, November 17, 2014
I love this place! Coffee doing amazing things? Yes, please! Not only is their vision "...to employ developmentally disabled people in jobs while competitive jobs while providing high quality product that keeps customers coming back." [from their website] they also feature special blends of coffee for The Buddy Walk and The Arc, proceeds from which go to support those organizations. Learn more about their mission and the work they are doing on their website: furnacehillscoffee.com

2. Christian Royal Pottery
Christian Royal is such a talented young man! Based in Charleston, Christian designs and sells the most beautiful pottery. The details are just amazing. Christian also has Down Syndrome.  From their website: "The stoneware incorporates the natural splendor of leaves or the artistry of beautiful laces, which are shaped into flowing designs and functional forms. The making of stoneware involves numerous steps over several days. Each piece involves Christian and his assistants in a collaborative effort, following many sequential steps. While some of the pieces may be similar, none are identical due to the process. Handcrafting produces variations in size, shape, color saturation, depth of impression, and minor imperfections that give each piece part of its appeal. Thus, the studio adage: Stoneware With The Charm of Things Imperfect and Simple." Visit ChristianRoyalPottery.com to learn more.

3. Sweet Sycamore
Jill Taylor is the mother of a sweet girl with Down Syndrome. Based in Richmond, Jill designs beautiful prints she sells on Etsy, such as this print inspired by her daughter. Visit Jill's Etsy shop, Sweet Sycamore.

4. Mt. Lebanon Soap Company
These soaps and so beautiful and even more beautiful is the story behind the creation of Mt. Lebanon Soap Company.  In 2010 Erin and Chris Csernica combined their professions of chemical engineer and message therapist to create soaps to sell as wedding favors. In 2011 their first daughter was born with Down Syndrome. They decided to put all the profits they make into a special trust fund for her future and hope one day she will share this budding business with them. Find Mt. Lebanon Soap Company on Etsy.

5. KK Glass Art
From their website: "Kelderman Klassy Glass is a new microenterprise of Kailin Kelderman's family in Reno, NV. KK is 15 years old and has Down syndrome. All of her life she has been fully included in her community, attending school with her sister, Eilish, who is 13. We have always had high expectations for both of our daughters. Both KK and Eilish are enrolled in the Nevada Pre-Paid College Tuition program, so their college educations were paid for when they were young and we expect them both to go to college. This microenterprise began when Mary, Kailin's mom, took a class in glass fusion...She enjoyed it, took a few more classes, and started to see some potential for a future business. Kailin has always been very creative with color, but not so great at precision, and with glass fusion, there is the opportunity to create beautiful pieces of jewelry without the need to be extremely precise. Kailin has already created many beautiful glass pendants. We are hoping her interest will continue to grow and that this will eventually become an income-producing business for her. Currently, all family members are working on the new business and enjoying creating art together. Kailin continues to create, while Mary and Bill handle the glass cutting, drilling and wire wrapping. Our first showing of jewelry was at the 2009 - 2010 National Down Syndrome Congress' national conference in Sacramento. We sold a lot of jewelry and had a great time! Since then, we've done a few craft shows and are starting to market the jewelry in local Reno stores. Money from the microenterprise goes into savings accounts for the girls and reinvestment in the business."
Visit KKGlassArt.com to learn more.

6. Stampin' Off the Path 
I love this "Keep Calm It's Only and Extra Chromosome" key chain from Stampin' Off the Path. Carissa, the mastermind behind this Etsy shop, is aunt to a sweet girl with Down Syndrome and made a bunch of these last year for her Buddy Walk. Find at Stampin' Off the Path's Etsy store.

7. The Henry Owl Initiative
From their website: "In 2012, [my big sis!] Kaitlin Wachter designed a plush owl for her yet-to-be-born baby brother, nicknamed “Henry”. A friend saw the owl and loved it so much she asked Kaitlin to create another owl for a friend adopting a son from China. Shortly after, the owls were added to A Stitch In Lives' inventory and from there the Henry Owl Initiative was born. Henry was born on April 28, 2013. Within hours of his birth he was diagnosed with Down Syndrome. Shortly after receiving his diagnosis Kaitlin decided to donate over 50% of the proceeds from Henry Owl sales to support Down Syndrome Awareness. During a promotion from September 1 to December 3, 2013 over 140 Henry Owls were sold. A Stitch In Lives donated more than $1,000 to F.R.I.E.N.D.S., a Down Syndrome Advocacy group based in Frederick, Maryland. The Henry Owl continues to be A Stitch In Lives’ best selling product. We are proud of our owls and what they are doing to educate and inspire the Down Syndrome community and the world."
Visit HenryOwls.weebly.com for more info or find your owl at A Stitch In Lives

8.  Beauty In The 21st
Christina is a dear friend of my family and mommy to Madison, a brave little girl with Down Syndrome. At her Etsy store, Beauty In The 21st, she sells the cutest headbands and necklaces, including this headband and this necklace in the blue and yellow Down Syndrome awareness colors.
Visit Beauty In The 21st on Etsy!

9. Inspires 2 Aspire
Todd says on his website: "Inspires2Aspire, wants to inspire others, including individuals with disabilities and their families by seeing that they can do great things. This site exists because people like you helped me to achieve my goals even though the odds were against me. Many people inspired me to work hard at whatever I did and to never give up. I learned to believe in myself and others. Living my life has its challenges, but it's also a lot of fun! That's why my company Inspires2aspire. You can make a difference in someone's life by offering encouraging words, but sometimes the words don't come easily. Let us help. My cards are about my life and experiences. I hope they inspire others to take a chance and try new adventures."
Visit Inspires 2 Aspire's Store to check out their posters and notecards.

10. Miss Katie's Kreations
From their website: "Miss Katie Henderson is an internationally recognized artist who happens to have Down Syndrome. She grew up in Lake Ridge, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, DC and moved to Florida with her family in 2004. She used fashion design books to teach herself how to draw posing models...She practiced for several years before discovering her own technique. While sitting at the kitchen table, Miss Katie said to her dad – “Hey, Pops - Why don’t you be an entrepreneur and give me some money so I can start my own business.” Miss Katie’s Kreations was established in August 2011...Miss Katie has exhibited her work in both public and private galleries, juried fine art shows and events in Florida, Indiana, Texas, Washington, DC and Colorado. Miss Katie's original drawings and/or giclees have been purchased throughout the United States including 33 states and the District of Columbia. Miss Katie gained an international following with her works being sold in four countries - Mexico, Great Britain, Canada, and South Africa. In December 2012, "Marie Claire - South Africa" featured Miss Katie in their article - "Eye on the World - Florida Boundless Ambition - The Success of a 30-year Old Artist and Designer is Changing The Way We Look at Fashion." Her story has been featured on blogs, and in on-line fashion magazines around the world including Australia, Poland, Japan, Greece, Mexico, and Russia. In March 2013, Miss Katie exhibited her art in the Rotunda of the Florida Capitol." And if that wasn't  impressive enough, Miss Katie has done amazing work for Down Syndrome advocacy, including raising $2,200 for ARC and $1,500 for The Special Olympics. You go, girl!
 To view and purchase Miss Katie's artwork visit MissKatiesKreations.com

And as a bonus... 

If none of these gifts catch your fancy, no problems! You can still support Down Syndrome advocacy this Christmas by going to Smile.Amazon.com and choosing F.R.I.E.N.D.S. of Frederick as your charity. Amazon has pretty much any gift you could want and they will donate a portion of every purchase through Smile.Amazon.com to F.R.I.E.N.D.S.!

Buddy Walk 2014

Friday, November 14, 2014
This is Addison. You already know a good bit about the all together lovable person he is. Next to him is my friend Madison. She is one of the strongest, bravest girls I know. They are both going to do great things (hopefully together! :D) and I can't wait to watch their lives unfold.
photo credit
It was an honor to participate in my first Buddy Walk on September 20th, walking for and with these two amazing people!
The Buddy Walk is a nationwide event founded by the National Down Syndrome Society. True, one mile long is not a challenging distance. This walk was designed so everyone can participate, regardless of physical ability. The walk has come to be just a (mostly figurative) part of a celebration of the wonderful gift of Down Syndrome. To learn more, visit the National Down Syndrome Society.