Feeding Mississippi: Mississippi Food Network

eat.drink.Mississippi DecJan 2011eat. drink. Mississippi
December 2011/January 2012
Article and photos

There is no other time of year more closely associated with food than the holidays. Magazines dedicate entire issues to preparing the perfect holiday feast while fitness gurus preach about how to avoid the inevitable weight gain. However, for almost 600,000 Mississippians that live below the poverty level, a festive and food-filled holiday season seems more like an unattainable dream rather than a reality.

For over 27 years, the Mississippi Food Network (MFN) has been providing food and personal items to families in need all across the state. But what exactly does the face of hunger look like? Many may assume it only includes the homeless. However, hunger can affect working families that either don’t bring in enough income to meet their day-to-day needs or are hit with an unexpected expense that puts a strain on their finances. This means single parents or senior citizens who must choose between paying for a doctor’s visit or buying groceries. It also includes over 211,000 children that don’t receive enough food to meet their daily nutritional requirements.

“Ninety-seven percent of what we raise goes into funding programs to feed hungry people,” says Marilyn Blackledge, Director of External Affairs at MFN. “We try to utilize volunteers as much as we can to keep administrative costs down, in addition to holding food drives and purchasing items in bulk to receive discounts.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

From its humble beginnings in 1983 in a 4,000 square foot converted church and abandoned fire station, the organization has grown to include 80,000 square feet of storage and office space, including its main warehouse in Jackson and a distribution center in Brookhaven. Throughout the year, MFN raises funds and stocks their shelves in a variety of ways. At the community level, the organization works with local companies to sponsor food drives in addition to raising money through individual donors, grants, and corporate sponsors.

As an affiliate member of Feeding America, the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief charity and food bank network, MFN receives both food and monetary donations from several major corporations and retailers. In September, MFN was one of three food banks in the United States to win 30,000 pounds of chicken from Tyson Foods through a Facebook challenge in honor of Hunger Action Month.

“This will provide 120,000 servings of protein for us to distribute to our member agencies,” says Blackledge. “It is great to get a truckload of protein donated because we typically purchase staple food items with the funds we raise because they go further and are more affordable for us to purchase.”

Much of the food MFN takes in is distributed to over 320 outreach agencies across the state, including food pantries, shelters, soup kitchens, and Boys & Girls Clubs.

“There are a lot of children in Mississippi who the only meal they eat for the day is what they are served in school,” adds Blackledge. The organization feeds around 450 children through their Backpack Program, which provides backpacks full of non-perishable items for these children to take home to eat on the weekend. It also supplies healthy snacks such as fruit, milk, and peanut butter crackers to Boys & Girls Clubs throughout the Delta, in addition to breakfast and lunch via summer feeding sites and other afterschool programs around the state.

During the holidays, the organization does see an increase in need. All member agencies pack holiday packages for their clients and rely heavily on food drives to meet the demand.

“There are three ways people can help – donate money, donate food, or volunteer,” says Blackledge. “With the funds we raise, we purchase truckloads of food at wholesale cost, meaning every dollar we raise can provide seven meals. This is the best way for people to help us because we can stretch those dollars into more food. However, we always welcome groups or companies to conduct food drives for us. We get a lot of quality product that way.”

For individuals interested in donating their time, MFN hosts regular volunteer days on the second Saturday of every month from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. at their main warehouse in Jackson. Groups or individuals interested in helping during the week are encouraged to call and schedule a time.

“Donations during the holidays are important. However, the demand for our services is year round,” adds Blackledge. “Our member agencies are serving more than 120,000 people each month and this number continues to grow.”

The Mississippi Food Network
440 W. Beatty Street
Jackson, MS 39201


Burgers, Fries, and Times Gone By: Brent’s Drugs

eat.drink.Mississippi DecJan 2011eat. drink. Mississippi
December/January 2012
Article and photos

In a time when the past is often forgotten in favor of the latest and greatest, a drive through the Fondren District of Jackson provides a refreshing snapshot into the city of yesteryear. The neighborhood streets, dotted with retro art deco architecture, pays homage to what many refer to as a simpler time. Fondren is also home to one of the city’s most beloved landmarks – Brent’s Drugs.

Pull into the parking lot of the Woodland Hills shopping center and the bright neon-red cursive of the Brent’s Drugs sign is one of the first things to catch the eye. Even though the restaurant and popular community hang out looks like something straight out of American Graffiti or Happy Days, at the time it opened in 1946, it was ahead of its time.

In the early 1940’s, an innovative land developer named Ed Morgan purchased a parcel of land with the intent of building something that was all the rage in California but no one in Mississippi had ever heard of – a shopping center. Dr. Alvin Brent was among Morgan Center’s first tenants when his combination pharmacy and soda fountain opened its doors in 1946. The shopping center, later renamed Woodland Hills, remains the oldest shopping center in Mississippi.

Dr. Brent’s son, Dr. Alvin Brent, Jr., was in the second grade when his father opened the establishment. “I remember thinking it wasn’t a good idea,” he said. “I was worried it wasn’t going to work out.” Brent’s fears were put to ease, however, when the soda fountain quickly became a popular after school hangout.

“You had the Duling School, Bailey Junior High School, and Murrah High School all close by,” Brent explains. “School let out at 3:15 in the afternoon and by 3:30 this place was full. Everyone raced to get here.”

Jerry Q. Tanner, Sr., another long-time patron, remembers how Brent’s became a frequent stop for local politicians looking to get some face time. “During elections, every politician from the Governor to the Lt. Governor would be in here shaking everybody’s hand.”

Brent, Sr., owned and operated Brent’s Drugs for 31 years before selling it to two long-time employees – pharmacists Paul Heflin and Bob Grantham. Grantham would later become sole owner of the establishment, selling it to pharmacist Randy Calvert in 1995. In 2009, the pharmacy-side of the business was sold to national drug-store chain CVS. Suddenly, the long-time neighborhood hangout threatened to close its doors forever.

Fondren resident Brad Reeves remembers the day in 2009 when he got a call from a friend to meet up for dinner. “He asks me if I wanted to buy Brent’s Drugs. I was already practicing law at the time and my initial reaction was ‘No.’” Later, when Reeves found out that the Calvert’s would be shutting down unless they found a buyer, he changed his mind. Reeves purchased the restaurant sans pharmacy in July of 2009.

With the exception of the pharmacy, Brent’s has remained relatively unchanged over the years. In addition to classic decor, the “self-service” order process provides another unique dining experience. Patrons fill out their own menu card, either at their table or at the bar. Selections include hamburgers, sandwiches, French fries, and Southern favorites like pimento cheese. Don’t forget to try one their famous milk shakes. Customers then take their menu card up to the counter and hand it to one of the servers.

In 2011, the small hometown hangout gained national notoriety with its onscreen debut in the film adaption of Kathryn Stockett’s novel, The Help. Because Brent’s Drugs is mentioned in Stockett’s book, Reeves contacted Lex Williams of Inverness who was working with the location coordinator for the film, Steve Mapel.

“He [Steve Mapel] came and looked at the restaurant. He liked what he saw, the only problem was we were a functioning restaurant,” Reeves explains. “We would have to shut down for a few days, but we would be compensated for any lost revenue.”

Reeves agreed and filming took place over one week in September 2010. “The night before they were supposed to start, I walked into the restaurant and it looked like I had just stepped into a time warp,” he recalls. “They did an amazing job with the research and the details. It really looked like you had just stepped back into 1963.”

Ed Swinney, who worked the soda fountain from 1953 – 1968 before leaving to become the first African American police officer for the Jackson Police Department, approved of the authenticity of the movie. “I was really impressed by the individual they chose to play the young man behind the counter in the movie,” Swinney commented. “I don’t know where they found him, but as I watched the film, I thought, ‘That could have been me back then.’”

The Help opened in August 2011 and quickly skyrocketed to the #1 movie in the country. Since then, Brent’s Drugs has gotten visitors from all over the country and even as far away as England and Africa.

“The movie is about to open in Europe, so we recently had a group of European journalists come in who were touring some of the movie locations,” Reeves reveals.

Six decades after opening its doors, Brent’s Drugs celebrated its 65th birthday. The celebration, which took place in October, brought together previous owners, employees and long-time patrons who recalled fond memories and shared their stories with a new generation of enthusiasts over burgers and milkshakes. The world has changed, but Brent’s Drugs continues to stand as a tribute to times gone by.

“There are not many businesses still around after 65 years,” Reeves adds. “This place represents the people that have lived and grown up in Jackson.”

Brent’s Drugs
655 Duling Avenue
Jackson, MS 39216
Monday – Saturday 10am – 5pm
Sunday – 11am – 2pm

How to Make Your Brand More “Pinteresting”

GG logoGodwinGroup Blog
November 23, 2011

A few months ago, I was introduced to the latest social media craze—Pinterest. If you are familiar with the site, then you know it has the capacity to cause huge chunks of your day to disappear. Described as a virtual pinboard, it gives users the ability to visually bookmark interesting content from the Web onto one of their boards. You can have one board or many, and most boards follow some sort of theme. The best part is that you can share your boards with others. Much like Facebook and Twitter, other users can choose to follow all of your boards or just the ones that interest them.

At first glance, Pinterest may seem like an endless sea of DIY home projects, craft ideas, and recipes. However, delve a little deeper and you will discover that Pinterest can be utilized as an effective marketing tool, especially within industries that have a visual aspect.

Read the entire article here.

A Marriage of Old and New

Mississippi Magazine
July/August 2011

An antebellum home just a stone’s throw away from the historic downtown square of Oxford is what attracted a semi-retired Minnesota couple to this Italianate-style home located in one of Oxford’s historic districts. While the location and charm of the home were perfect, several additions built throughout the last century created a few hazards.

“It was all rather willie-nillie,” says designer and architect Julie Spears. “Because the house had many additions over the years, the shape of the roof had become complicated. Parts of the addition in the back of the house had water damage from leaks around the fireplace, termite damage, a low ceiling, and a flat roof that helped contribute to leaks. ”

Despite the sporadic layout, the house still held exciting possibilities. The design of the original structure – which included the master bedroom, foyer, parlor, guest room, and long center hall – provided the perfect foundation for a home remodel that combined the homeowner’s love for antiques with mid-century modern America. As the design process began, the couple expressed their desire to preserve the old character of the original design while still reflecting modern living.

As guests enter through the front door into the foyer, their gaze follows the lines of the long center hall and gallery that pull them through to the back of the house. The floor transitions from original pine floors to modern maple hardwood used throughout the new addition. The hall not only provides an area for the homeowners to display their art and antique collections, but also serves as a visual timeline, allowing visitors to become a part of the progression and evolution of the home.

The flat ceiling from the center hall extends into the dining area at the back of the house. Guests can share a meal or engage in friendly conversation while enjoying views of the landscaped backyard through a large picture window. On the exterior of the house, just above the picture window, a custom copper gutter transforms into a water feature during a heavy Mississippi rainstorm. Runoff from the roof is directed through downward spouts, creating visual interest as water cascades into a small coy pond below.

The dining area is flanked on either side by the kitchen and living areas, which were constructed to match the moderate proportions of the home. However, vaulted ceilings, coupled with a large wall of windows, give the space an open and airy feeling. Custom walnut cabinetry and stainless gas appliances accent the kitchen. A small breakfast nook is outfitted with a built-in leather banquette. A modern custom walnut screen separates the breakfast nook from another alcove utilized as a home office.

A vestibule just off the kitchen transitions into the master suite, which includes the bedroom, sitting area, and master bathroom. The bedroom is original to the house while the sitting area was added to the space in the 1960’s. Unique connecting double doors – constructed from both Golden Oak and Fir – and the antique fireplace mantle were both items the homeowners salvaged from an 1800’s Iowa farmhouse. Combined with red brick floors and muted moss green walls, the sitting area provides a cozy spot to curl up and read a book on a cold winter’s night. The master bathroom includes open, handicap-accessible roll-in showers and modern fixtures. Finally, a small, private screened-in porch provides respite for the couple during warmer months.

On the other end of the house, another larger screened-in porch connects the main home to the guest house nestled just behind the garage. The porch provides the perfect place to relax or get in a morning swim in the small indoor pool. The guest house was designed as a secondary space, complete with kitchen, living area, and private porch. The design is open and airy with several visual elements such as exposed beams and stained concrete floors. Formica countertops and a funky, bright backsplash in the kitchen tie in with with the geometric design of the windows, giving the space a metropolitan vibe.

“The design of this house is meant to celebrate history and beauty,” adds Spears. “It was transformed into a clean, interesting space with good light and also a comfortable back drop for the collections of the owner’s life that animate the house.”

Easy Breezy Party Decorations

Parents and Kids Magazine
June 2011

View PDF of original article here.

Your child’s birthday is fast approaching – so much to do; so little time. In addition to mailing out invitations and planning a menu, you also have to consider party decorations. A parent can spend a small fortune purchasing banners, streamers, table decorations, and matching plates and napkins. However, with a little pre-party planning and creativity, you can create most of your party decorations yourself for a fraction of the cost.

Kids love any excuse to play with construction paper and glue. So why not enlist their help along with their friends? Spread out some old newspapers and have an impromptu arts and crafts session right in the middle of your kitchen. Consider buying a roll of butcher or craft paper at your local office supply store and have the kids create their own “Happy Birthday!” banner. You can also cut out letters from magazines or newspapers, enlarge them using a scanner or color copier, and have the kids glue the letters to colored paper. You can then help them string the letters using kitchen twine or yarn to create a unique whimsical banner. Not only will the kids have a blast making the decorations, but they will be thrilled when they see all their hard work on display during the party.

Balloons are a cheap way to decorate a room with a lot of impact. Rather than tying a few balloons here-and-there around a room, buy them in bulk and tie them together in groups. A balloon border around the perimeter of the room will certainly make an impression. Again, enlist the help of a few volunteers or dig out your old basketball pump so you aren’t stuck blowing all those balloons up yourself.

Table decorations could not be easier to make. Buy a few plain white paper tablecloths and have the kids decorate it with crayons, magic markers, or scraps of paper. Another idea is to save the comic section from your newspaper and tape the pieces end to end to fit the table. If you have any old flower pots collecting dust in your garage, consider using them to create a candy topiary for a centerpiece.

Candy Topiary:

  • 7-inch flower pot
  • 6-inch Styrofoam ball
  • Styrofoam cone (18 inches tall by 6 inches wide)
  • 18-inch-long, 3/4-inch-diameter dowel
  • 4 to 5 bags of assorted fun-size candy bars
  • Hot-glue gun and glue sticks
  • Artificial moss or plastic Easter grass

Place the Styrofoam ball into the flower pot. Push the wooden dowel into the center of the Styrofoam ball and then affix the cone over the top of the dowel. You may need to use a little glue to secure the cone in place. Starting at the bottom, decorate your topiary by gluing the candy in rows along the outside of the cone. As you start the next row, overlap the candy slightly over the first row. Continue until the entire cone is covered with candy. Cover the Styrofoam ball with artificial moss or Easter grass.

Finally, don’t throw away those old newspapers. Recycle them into your very own homemade piñata.

Basic Piñata:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 large balloon
  • Several sheets of old newspaper
  • Paint, crayons, or markers
  • Colored crepe paper
  • String
  • Old paper towel or toilet paper inserts

In a large bowl, mix together the flour and water until it makes a smooth paste. Blow up the balloon and tie off the end. Cut or tear newspaper into 1-inch long strips. Dip the newspaper strips into the flour paste. Overlap the strips all over the balloon, being sure to leave a hole around the balloon knot. Apply two to three layers of paper maché. For a stronger piñata, allow 2-3 hours drying time in between layers.

Give the piñata 2-3 days to dry. Once the paper maché has set, pop the balloon and pull through the opening. Punch two small holes on either side of the opening. Loop a length of string through the holes, leaving enough length to allow you to hang the piñata. Decorate the outside of the piñata with poster paint, construction paper, crepe paper, etc. Once the decorations have dried, fill the piñata with candy and trinkets. Stuff the opening with tissue paper or crepe paper. You piñata is now ready to be hung!

A Home for Everyone


Mississippi Magazine
Homes and Gardens Edition
May/June 2011

The tree-lined path of Lake Castle Road in Madison offers the perfect backdrop for a relaxing Sunday afternoon drive. The meandering tree line suddenly breaks away to reveal a French antique entry gate and beyond it, the curving driveway and sprawling estate of David and Tracy Ford. Situated on ten acres, the 11,000 square foot home is reminiscent of a French countryside manor.

When the Ford’s first approached husband and wife team Jodie and De’Dee Morgan of Jodie Morgan Construction, Inc., they were looking for something that would fit the active lifestyle of the couple and their two sons – fifteen-year-old David, Jr., and thirteen-year-old Will. “We really wanted something that we could all enjoy as a family, but allow everyone to have their own space,” Tracy says. “Every single room was a specific request.”

One of Tracy’s first requests was a large kitchen and keeping area where guests could make themselves at home when the couple entertains. Cream custom wood cabinetry, copper backsplash, and heart of pine floors complement the granite countertops and stainless Viking appliances. A large central island with a high bar provides the perfect spot for a family meal or for doing homework. Custom built-in shelving crafted from refurbished wood provides storage as well as a place to display family photos and mementos. In the keeping area, the family can watch television or sit by a warm, roaring fire and enjoy their views of the property through large expansive windows. The spacious pantry also doubles as a shelter during inclement weather.

Just off the keeping area lies the piano room. Designed with crisp clean lines, the room provides sweeping views of the rear loggia, landscaped pool area, and fishing pond. After a quick dip in the pool, guests can shower off in the 900 square-foot cabana. The outdoor kitchen and stone fireplace with seating area allows the family to enjoy the outdoors no matter the season. In the distance, the custom designed horse barn with fenced corral can also accommodate extra guests in the building’s furnished loft apartment.

One of the main house’s most unique features is the barrel ceiling of the cross hall, designed specifically as a gallery for displaying the Ford’s art collection. The hallway opens to reveal David’s study and trophy room as well as the Master suite. An avid hunter, the trophy room provides the perfect place for David to showcase some of the prized bounty from his hunting trips. Vaulted ceilings, custom cabinets, and refurbished wood walls round out this sophisticated spin on a modern day “man cave.”

Floor-to-ceiling windows in the Master bedroom let in light as well as scenic views. The his-and-her master bath features a large soaking tub, steam shower with dual shower heads, separate vanities, and mirrored dressing area. Both closets have custom-made adjustable shelving to accommodate the couple’s different needs.

On the opposite end of the house lies the hunting room. A sportsman’s dream, the room provides storage for the family’s hunting equipment, including built-in lockers for apparel. A hollowed out cedar stump serves as the base for a rustic table where the hunters can clean their weapons before storing them in the lighted glass gun case. Next door, the wine room brings new life to old materials. Refurbished brick walls and refurbished wood ceilings give the room a metropolitan look. Climate controls ensure the Ford’s impressive wine collection will stay at the optimum temperature during storage.

Upstairs, the game and media rooms are a prime place for two teenage boys to entertain school friends. Comfortable leather sofas and a ping pong table provide the ultimate space for relaxation. A backlit, custom designed outdoor scene crafted from refurbished wood decorates the bar area. Just off the game room lies the media room. As movie goers relax in the plush leather seats, the lights dim and a curtain opens to reveal a large movie screen perfect for family movie night or cheering on a favorite sports team.

The three upstairs bedrooms were built to suit the needs of the Ford boys as well as overnight guests. Window seats provide a quiet place for listening to music or reading a magazine. The shower walls of the ensuite bathrooms have a touch of flair with inlaid stone. Down the hall is the sleeping nook, where three built-in bunk beds provide overflow sleeping space for the boys’ school friends.

“We don’t just build homes, we build dreams,” says De’Dee. “We thought about the plans for this home for a long time and considered everything the family wanted. We built a specific place for everything from the peg boards in the barn for David’s tools to the lockers in the mudroom for the boys’ sports equipment.”

The entire property is outfitted with the latest in smart home technology. Kiosks throughout the home allow the family to play surround sound audio and video, access the security system, adjust the thermostat, and control the lighting. The system also gives the couple the option of accessing many of these features through their cell phone.

Morgan, who has over thirty years of experience in the homebuilding industry, admits that while the eighteen month construction project was his most challenging project to date, it was also the most rewarding. “The Ford’s residence was one of the most unique and satisfying projects I have ever done,” he says. “This was the fourth home we’ve designed and built for this family. It was fun taking what De’Dee designed, having the Fords willingness and trust to let us be creative, and making this home a reality.”

“Everything was well thought out before it was put to paper,” Tracy adds. “The result was a quality home that can withstand kids coming through in cleats and knocking on the walls, while evolving into when they are in college and we are empty-nesters. We have everything we could have ever wanted in a home, for our needs as a family, and for young and old.”

Academic Achievement: How to Ensure Your Child’s Success

Parents & Kids Magazine
May 2011

View original article here.

My husband and I became first time parents last summer. Watching our son grow from a tiny, helpless newborn to an active infant has been an amazing experience. As first time parents, every milestone is a big deal. The first time our son slept through the night, rolled over, sat up, made a noise, we called the entire family to share our delight. According to all the parenting magazines and books I’ve read, he is progressing as a normal infant should. But because he’s our child, we like to end every conversation with, “He’s advanced.”

Every proud parent believes their child is the smartest, the cutest, most well behaved, and the best at everything their child does. However, most children inevitably are going to have areas of weakness where they struggle or have to work harder – particularly in the academic arena. Academic success is important in a child’s life as it plays a major role in shaping their future. As your child progresses through elementary school, middle school, and finally high school, certain academic benchmarks will help determine if your child is making the grade or falling behind.

Is Your Child Kindergarten Ready?

Most school districts require a child be at least five-years old by a certain date before admitting them into kindergarten. If your child has a summer birthday, you may want to evaluate whether he or she is ready for kindergarten or would benefit from waiting another year. A child entering kindergarten should be able to communicate orally, be able to take care of their personal belongings, and use the restroom by themselves. Other key areas to evaluate are whether your child can listen to and follow directions, whether they have a rudimentary familiarity with the alphabet and numbers, and if they possess the motor skills required to hold a pencil and cut with scissors. Since your child is going to be in a classroom all day, they should also be able to get along with others, know how to take turns, and work with a group.

Early Elementary School (Grades K-3)

Early in their academic career, your child’s teacher will focus on learning to recognize, name, and print the alphabet. As they progress, they will begin to shift to phonics – connecting letters to sounds – and comprehension. They will also be introduced to counting, patterns, shapes, and sizes and be able to recognize and understand that numbers signify quantity, order and measurement. By the end of first grade, your child should have an understanding of basic addition, subtraction and place values. Second grade focuses on increasing writing skills with an emphasis on spelling and punctuation as well as an understanding of what they are reading. By the time your child completes third grade, they should have moved from learning to read and write to reading to learn and writing to communicate. They should also have an understanding of early multiplication, fractions, and decimals and be able to work independently. Socially, this is when friendships begin to bud. Children should be able to successfully play with other others and be aware of how their actions affect their playmates.

Upper Elementary (Grades 4-5)

Now that your child has mastered basic reading skills, he or she will be encouraged to read with more speed and efficiency. You may notice an increase in their vocabulary as well as improvements in their reading comprehension. Expect book reports complete with an emphasis on the writing process –outlines, rough drafts, etc. By now they will be expected to add and subtract larger numbers as well as multiplication, long division, and basic geometry.

Middle School (Grades 6-8)

In middle school, teachers view their students as young adults. Responsibilities will increase in addition to the workload. By the time your child completes the eighth grade, they should have a solid foundation in reading and math that they can build on when faced with more challenging high school courses. At a minimum, they should be able to do basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, as well as have the ability to use a protractor, ruler and calculator. They should also be able to read at grade level, write legibly, and construct a simple paragraph that includes a topic sentence, supporting sentences and correct punctuation. If your child excels in situations that challenge him or her academically, they should be able to transition to high school with little problem.

Obviously, your level of involvement with your child’s education will change as they get older and learn to become more independent. As your child enters their high school years, it is important that you continue to stay informed about his or her performance in school. Stay connected with them and keep in contact with teachers and school counselors to ensure they stay on track.

What Should I do If My Child Is Falling Behind?

A child struggling in school will often give off social cues long before you receive a phone call from their teacher. Have you noticed a negative change in behavior? Are they suddenly uninterested in activities they used to enjoy? Other warning signs include hesitancy to talk about school or homework assignments.

If you think your child is falling behind, first gage what you are basing your opinion on. Is your child falling behind based on the school’s curriculum or are they just learning at a slower rate than someone else’s child? Every child learns at a different rate and will have their own individual set of strengths where they excel and weaknesses where they will have to put forth more effort.

“People learn in different ways,” says David Elkin, Ph.D., ABPP; Associate Professor of the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at University of Mississippi Medical Center. “The vast majority of school and teachers want to help kids learn, and most schools find it very helpful to have a detailed report on a child’s learning style so they can do all they can for that child. Some kids learn better visually, while others learn better auditorially or verbally.”

Second, determine where the problem is. More times than not, a problem can be pinpointed to a particular class or subject. Arrange a meeting with your child’s teacher and together you may be able to come up with a plan of action to help them get back on track. Your child may also need additional help outside of school hours, such as hiring a tutor. Finally, make sure to keep tabs on homework assignments. Find out if your child’s school has a homework hotline or website to help you monitor assignments and due dates.

“The best thing a parent can do to improve the chances for academic success in their child is to provide an environment where consistency and predictability are standard and reading is encouraged,” Elkin adds. “Turn off the TV. Encourage children to read every day. Don’t forget social, creative, and unstructured play – one of the best things a parent can say to their child is ‘Go outside!’ They may end up staring at the clouds, they may climb a tree, or playing with the neighborhood kids. But parents don’t need to feel that their main job is to provide a guaranteed and structured learning environment for their kids at all times. Kids need a chance to be kids.”

Sidebar: Helpful Websites

Public Relations and Barbecue Sauce

GG logoGodwinGroup Blog 
March 17, 2011

Imagine you just developed a top-secret recipe for The World’s Best Barbeque Sauce. The sauce is so good that you want to quit your day job to devote yourself full time to selling jars of it to the masses. You take your product to Major Grocery Store Chain and try to convince them to start stocking The World’s Best Barbeque Sauce on their shelves, essentially “pushing” your product to the consumer. However, if you set up a barbeque stand on a busy street corner, start giving out free samples, and consumers start asking Major Grocery Store Chain to carry your product, you are instead “pulling” your product into the market.

Public relations follows the same two strategies of pushing and pulling. The terms refer to how your message is disseminated to the public. Push PR describes the traditional methods—press releases, media alerts, event invitations, press kits, and pitching story ideas. The downside is that you are completely at the mercy of another party—a news editor decides to run your story, your invitation gets into the right person’s hands, etc.

Read the entire article here.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Parents & Kids Magazine
March 2011

View PDF of magazine here.

After being cooped up inside during the long, dreary days of winter, your family may be getting a little antsy for longer days, warmer nights, and spending time outdoors in the sunshine as a family. Most children will jump at any excuse to play in the dirt, so take advantage of your child’s curiosity by introducing them to gardening. Beginning a garden with your child is a great outdoor activity that will encourage quality time as well as providing a hands-on, educational experience.

Planting a family garden is an activity that every member of the household can participate in. Smaller children can assist with small tasks like dropping seeds into the ground or patting down loose soil while older children can play an active role in planning and maintaining the garden. By watching a tiny seed grow and bloom, your child will appreciate all that went in to creating life – water, sunlight, soil, etc. They will also learn patience as they wait and watch their seeds begin to sprout. Including vegetables in the mix will encourage children to make good food choices as well as boost their self-esteem as they harvest and prepare the vegetables they grew for a family meal.

Before dusting off the shovels and gardening gloves, think about what you would like your children to take away from this experience. Sit down with them and read a few books together on gardening to spark their interest. Even if the weather is still a little too chilly to get out in the yard, you can still get a head start indoors by spreading newspapers out on the kitchen table and rounding up a few foam cups or pots, potting soil, and a couple packets of seeds. Place the seed cups in a sunny window and watch your seedlings grow!

If your family doesn’t already have a garden established, choosing the right location is very important. Consider what type of garden your family intends to plant. For example, vegetable gardens will need access to at least eight hours or sunlight while some flower varieties prefer partial sun or shade. Soil content, access to a water source, and garden size are other factors to consider as well as visibility. Children are more likely to stay interested in their garden if it is in a location where they play or pass by often. The more they see their garden, the more they will notice changes.

Adult gardening tools may be too large and clumsy for little hands to wield, so consider purchasing a few smaller, kid friendly tools. These items may include a child-sized hoe, rake, spade, gardening gloves, and watering can. Designate a special place for your child to keep their tools and instruct them to clean them and put them away after each use to establish good habits.

Once your bed is prepared, you are now ready for the fun part – planting! Sit down as a family and discuss what types of plants will be included in your family garden. Children will love being a part of the decision making process, but keep in mind that not all plants are kid friendly. Sunflowers, lettuces, radishes, cherry tomatoes, and snow peas are all excellent additions to a family garden because they are easy to grow, sprout within a short period of time, and are fun to harvest. Bright colorful flowers such as zinnias and cosmos are ideal for cutting and bringing indoors.

Waiting for your garden to bloom may be an exercise in patience. Have your children start a gardening journal where they can draw pictures of the garden, what they think the plants will look like once they’ve bloomed, and any bugs they see. Encourage them to write about what they like about gardening and about the changes they’ve seen as the garden begins to progress. As an added activity, consider building a scarecrow to keep out any unwanted “pests.”

Ensure your family’s gardening experience remains an enjoyable activity by implementing a few rules of safety. Ask your garden supply center about the ingredients in your potting soil and whether it is safe for children. Read the labels of your seed packages – some seeds are coated with chemicals that may be harmful. Always be sure to supervise children when using tools or during watering and watch for stinging insects. Since you’ll be outdoors, be sure to take provisions to prevent sunburn.

Gardening can be an exciting adventure that will not only appeal to your child’s natural sense of curiosity, but open the door for a variety of valuable life lessons. Children enjoy trying new activities, especially when they are having fun. More important, they will love spending quality time with you.

One of a Kind Design: Material Possessions

Stages Magazine
March/April 2011

Click here to view PDF.

Paint colors, sumptuous fabrics, unique furniture – these are literally the “materials” that make up interior designer Angela Doolittle’s day-to-day life. The minute she meets with a new client, she’s working to get a feel for the unique set of personality characteristics that make that person individual. She then takes that kernel of knowledge and expands on it to create a beautiful room that reflects their identity.

“My approach is to always keep my client’s wishes to the forefront,” says Doolittle. “I inquire about my customers and clients likes and dislikes and I always try to please them. I like to connect with each one so I can ensure their home reflects their life and style, not mine.”

A twelve-year veteran of the business, Doolittle worked as a freelance designer for several years before testing her entrepreneurial skills. In 2005, she opened Material Possessions, a full service interior design showroom. Clients range from residential to commercial and also include new construction and remodels. The organization’s staff includes experienced interior and floral designers.

“Our clients and customers often tell us we offer one-stop shopping,” Doolittle adds. “They love to come into the store because we always have new and unusual things. We offer anything you need for a home or commercial design including custom window treatments, bedding, and furniture. We also have numerous upholstery options, case good lines, art, mirrors, lighting, rugs, accessories, candles and gift items.”

Part of Doolittle’s success is her knack for seeking out new and unusual pieces that you won’t find anywhere else. She also enjoys designing her own pieces, including custom made tables, beds, ottomans, window treatments, and bedding. Through her experience, she has noticed that current fashion trends eventually translate into home furnishings. Just as fashion trends change with the seasons, Doolittle shares a few of the trends she predicts will be popular for spring:

  • Color – Currently retro looks are very hot in fashion and are providing inspiration for home trends, particularly items from the 1970’s era. Blue continues to be popular in addition to turquoise, melon, olive green, and bright colors paired with greys and neutrals like purple or mustard with grey.
  • Pattern – Pattern can be found in everything from fabrics, accessories, case goods, and rugs.
  • Blown Glass – Vases, lamps, and wall art, including glass balls to be hung on the wall.
  • Butterflies – Butterflies can be found in everything from fabrics, rugs, and art.
  • Elegant snake motif’s – Having long been popular in fashion, this print is now being incorporated on lamps, mirrors, and fabrics.
  • French inspired – Fleur de lis, Eiffel tower accessories, decorative hardware, and French antiques of the 30’s & 40’s.
  • Ethnic pieces – things with a Moorish influence are particularly popular, which is a favorite of Doolittle’s.
  • Animal prints – Peacock feathers and safari patterns.
  • Natural fabrics – Linens, burlap, and natural leathers.

When guiding a client through the process of decorating their home, Doolittle ensures that choices they make will endure the test of time. “A house has to flow together and be cohesive,” she says. “It’s all about comfort! Your home can be comfortable and elegant, but it also has to be livable and use what you love to achieve this. I love my job. I love being creative and really enjoy the relationship I have with my clients. That makes my job all very rewarding for me.”

Material Possessions
733 Lake Harbour Dr Suite J
Ridgeland, MS, 39157
(601) 919-2828