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Entries in Gift Registry (7)

Thursday
Feb232012

Registry Regret and How to Avoid It

OK, so we’ve been married now for what? Two years and change? Yeah. And I look at some of the gifts we received, gifts that I picked out to receive and think to myself, “What the fuck was I thinking?”

Let’s back up a little. When I was wedding planning, it was tough to get The Candyman involved. To be fair, there were things he was interested in like the dinner menu and the cake.

Yeah. That was about it.

And during all this planning, all these veteran brides kept telling me, “Oh, just wait until it’s time to register! The guys love that gun thing. They love picking stuff out! You’ll have SO MUCH FUN!”

Yeah, right.  I went to Bed, Bath and Beyond with my mother. We stood for probably twenty minutes trying to decide whether I needed a spring form pan or not. I mean, I’d always wanted a spring form pan. I’m not sure what for, but it seemed to be something every kitchen should have, right? But what do you use a spring form pan for other than cheesecake? And not being the biggest cheesecake person, did I really need one? Well, I registered for it and received it. I haven’t used the damn thing once. But I might. Someday.

Anyway, I could NOT get The Candyman into the registry thing. I literally forced him to sit at the computer and register for guy-shit at Target. You should have seen the stupid stuff he registered for. Oh. My. God. I think he registered for these sponges he likes to wash dishes with. SPONGES? Are you kidding me? Anyway, he also registered for a tool filled tool box thing, which we also got. And while the tools are great, the soft-sided tool box part of it SUCKED. It had a zippered top and zippered bottom and if you forgot to zip the bottom part and picked it up, all the tools came spilling out. It was the most horrid design.

I’m going to interrupt myself for a second because I’m starting to sound like a big, whiny, unappreciative bitch. And that’s not the case. I appreciate every gift we got, the time folks spent to choose it and send it and to come to our wedding. I really do.

What I want to talk about is being thoughtful in what you chose to register for.

But back to the bitching. I also registered for the coveted Kitchen Aid Mixer. Is there anyone who doesn’t register for this bad boy?

image 

We didn’t get this for our wedding, but my parents were kind enough to give it to us for a Christmas present just two short months after our wedding. Now, having only owned a hand mixer for my whole life, I felt like I’d hit the mixer jackpot with my fancy-ass mixer.

I’m starting to resent this mixer. Want to know why? Because the son-a-bitch thing is built for right-handed people. And it took me this long to figure it out. You right-handed people are going to think I’ve gone banana-cakes, but it’s true. You left-handed people? You know what I’m talking about, living in this decidedly right-handed bigoted world.1

See the handy spout there on the RIGHT to pour stuff in? Not so great if you’re left handed. You can turn the spout to the other side, but then you need to turn the whole mixer to pour it correctly, which puts all the controls on the backside of the  mixer, out of sight. I tell you, every time I try to add shit in while it’s mixing, half of whatever I’m adding ends up on the counter. So then I tried stopping the mixer, lifting it up and then adding. Nope. That stupid beater is so freakin’ big, it’s in the way. So then I have to unlock the bowl (which locks in a direction that feels wrong and opposite to me), add the shit and then lock everything up and start mixing again. 

I went to my parents house a few months back and decided to bake something. I asked my mom if she had a stand mixer and I went digging around in her cupboards and found the same mixer from when I was like 11 years old. That woman can hold on to appliances like nobody’s business. I don’t think it’s avocado green. It might be that baby-puke yellow. Anyway, the thing was like a mixing dream. I’d trade her my Kitchen Aid mixer in a heart beat if I had the cupboard space  because I certainly wouldn’t leave that thing out on my counter; ugly isn’t even close to describing it. But man, that thing can beat some cake batter something wicked.

And why did we register for a mini-fryer again? I’m putting that one on The Candyman. I knew it would make him happy if we got it and it DID. But I am terrified of deep frying. I mean, anything more than a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan scares me. Hot splattering oil just isn’t my kind of gig. I think we’ve used it twice, once was successful.

I registered for the wrong size tablecloth.

I love my pizza stone, but it’s made out of raw clay and every time I touch it with my bare hands, it’s like chewing tinfoil. It totally creeps me out, so I have to use potholders to move it.

And I feel bad about these things that I PICKED OUT and don’t work like we want them to. I feel like it’s MY FAULT. That zippered tool bag monstrosity? The Candyman cleaned out the garage last weekend and finally chucked it. We put our tools in the giant plastic thing I got a Home Depot instead. The normal kind of tool box that doesn’t spill open when you pick it up.

So be thoughtful when you choose your stuff. Don’t registered for crap because you think it’s fantastic (see Kitchen Aid mixer above) or because you think you need it or because someone somewhere said you should (like The Knot or some equally lame shit). I do think registering is a good thing to do. Lots of people expect you to do it, so it’s not rude. It doesn’t make you greedy. It’s helpful for busy folks: go on-line, clicky clicky clicky, add the gift wrap and the note and VOILA! Present shopping is DONE!

But do be thoughtful. I wasn’t so much. I wish The Candyman had been there with me to talk through the choices. In hindsight, I think I should have forced his hand on the whole registry thing. It should have been more of a team effort. I was glad that we included The American Cancer Society as one of our registry options. I do believe that was thoughtful. My aunt, who missed my wedding because she started chemotherapy the very next day, was in our thoughts on that decision (P.S. She’s now in remission!). The Candyman’s mother died of cancer when he was 11, so that charity was meaningful to him too. So think about those things too, not just the stuff.

Try to interact with the items beforehand, if you can, particularly on the big ticket items. We didn’t have a Crate & Barrel in Nashville, so I wasn’t able to touch that pizza stone. I should have checked out the mixer while at Bed, Bath & Beyond a little more thoroughly. I should have explained to The Candyman, as the main chef in the house, that hot oil scares me.  I should have measured my damn dining room table. 

While the registry part will probably be fun for most of y’all, like everything else about your upcoming marriage? Do be thoughtful. Do it as a team. Avoid the registry regret.

 

1 Spiral notebooks, standardized tests, can-openers, ladles, liquid measuring cups, receipt/paper placement when signing my name, built-in numeric keypads on a keyboard…it’s a long-ass list.

Friday
Jan212011

The Best of 2010, Part III

This is one of my most favorite posts of all time. The women, the mission, the product - all so freakin' amazing. I am proud to say we donated a nice sum of money to Thistle Farms, thanks to all of your comments and tweets and spreading of the word. It makes me so incredibly proud and happy that this post is included in The Best of The Thirty-Something Bride 2010! It gives me hope that all of us are here to do more than post pretty pictures or bitch about our lives, that in truth we are far more blessed than we can ever imagine.

And don't forget...Monday I'm announcing a KICK-ASS contest!

How Love Can Heal

OK, so a couple of years ago The Candyman and I were invited to a backyard wedding in East Nashville. This East Side wedding was lovely, as all weddings are. The bride wore a lacey white top and a light colored, long suede skirt and cowboy boots. The invites were paperless, as was the RSVP. A friend officiated. The couple requested that no gifts be brought. However, since people are insistent (and they are), they allowed guests to bring a bottle of their favorite wine for the reception (brilliant idea) or they could donate to Thistle Farms.

Uh. Wait a second. Donate WHERE? I looked it up online and their website was crap and I didn’t understand it and so I opted to bring the wine.

Fast forward a year or so. The Candyman and I were engaged and one weekend I popped into The Frothy Monkey for a much needed latte and the line was just killer long. As I was waiting to order I was browsing some of the shop’s items for purchase and l noticed some Thistle Farms product. I made the connection and did a little reading about the place. I was floored. And I knew RIGHT THEN that The Candyman and I needed to include Thistle Farms as part of our registry.

So that’s what this introduction leads us to: ALTERNATIVE REGISTRIES and specifically, Thistle Farms.

Like I mentioned a few weeks ago, I went on a field trip. I buddied up with Tabitha and Ashley from Ashley’s Bride Guide as well as Jonathon and Sharon from Jonathon Campbell Photography.

The ladies of Thistle Farms, Ashley's Bride Guide and The Thirty-Something Bride!

I had met Carolyn Snell, one of Thistle Farm’s volunteers at the ABG Sex and the City party. We talked excitedly about how I had come to know them and I just KNEW I had to blog about this and tell everyone I possible could about this amazing place. So what is it? Here we go:

The Story of Magdalene and Thistle Farms
Magdalene is a two-year residential community founded in Nashville Tennessee in 1997 for women with a history of prostitution and drug addiction. Magdalene was founded not just to help a sub-culture of women, but to help change the culture itself. We stand in solidarity with women who are recovering from sexual abuse, violence, and life on the streets, and who have paid dearly for a culture that buys and sells women like commodities. 
At no cost, we offer women a safe, disciplined, and compassionate community for two years, paid for by the gifts we receive from individuals and private grants. Magdalene stands as a witness to the truth that in the end, love is more powerful than all the forces that drive women to the streets.


What is Thistle Farms?
Thistle Farms is a non-profit business operated by the women of Magdalene. By hand, the women create natural bath and body products that are as kind to the environment as they are to the body. All sales proceeds go back into the program.
Through Thistle Farms, the women of Magdalene gain much needed job skills, and learn responsibility and cooperation. Into every product goes the belief that freedom starts with healing, and love can change lives. Our dream is that people will come to see Thistle Farms as a humble but powerful business synonymous with women’s freedom.


Why Thistle?
Considered a weed, thistles grow on the streets and alleys where the women of Magdalene walked. But, thistles have a deep tap root that can shoot through thick concrete and survive drought. And in spite of their prickly appearance, their royal and soft purple center makes the thistle a mysterious and gorgeous flower.

Carolyn Snell, our wonderful Thistle Farms liaison!

Our group was invited to tour Thistle Farms. At 9am, a large group of people circled a lighted candle and started the Daily Meditation. A woman read a passage from a book about secrets, the topic for the days’ meditation.  From there, we went around the circle and introduced ourselves, much like an AA meeting. Sometimes that’s all that was said: a name.  Other women elaborated about who they were, the secrets they had kept in their lives and how it became toxic in both body and soul. It was one of those moments in life where I absolutely know for certain that I:

  1. Will never be the same.
  2. Recognize the courage it takes for a person to truly acknowledge themselves, faults and all.
  3. Am overwhelmed that places like this exist and were built to help.

There were a few comments made that rocked me hard and I wrote them down to share: 

Freedom ain’t free.

Turns out, the only person I was keeping secrets from was myself.

I’m not ashamed of my past, I'm proud of my future.

I learned early on that I don’t have to dance with everybody, but I have to dance with somebody.

I am breaking the cycle of secrets.

When you put these statements into context – a long history of abuse, drug addiction, crime, broken families and lives – they MEAN something. Something big.  It was truly an amazing experience.

Once the mediation time was over, they went into some general business and house-keeping issues: pick up your trash, make sure the back door is locked, thanks to the candle folks who worked overtime – just like any other staff meeting at any other business. There were ladies who were clearly ready to get to work, others who wanted to socialize – just like any office.

The "no nonsense" supervisor. As a graduate of the program, this lady knows what she's doing. I was impressed.

 

A Thistle Farm employee prepping bottle for labeling.


Happiness found in candle making!

We got a lovely tour of the work space, the packaging and shipping areas and I had the opportunity to stop and talk to two women.  Neither of the women is considered a graduate yet, but I was moved to share their stories.

“Mary” is 32 years old and had been at Magdalene house and Thistle Farms for 9 months.  She had been on probation for drug use, got caught using and the courts took her son away from her.  In order to keep her son out of child services and with her mother, Mary entered the 2-year program at Thistle Farms. She got her GED and was just accepted into cosmetology school. Her number one motivation is her son.

Listening to Mary's story.

“Alice” is 39 years old and has been at Thistle Farms for 2 months. She started using crack cocaine at 13 years old. After 8 years of addiction, she was able to kick the crack habit, but switched to alcohol. This is her 5th program and she was order by a judge to Thistle Farms. The judge pulled her order, but Alice has decided to stay. It’s her goal to “break the co-dependency cycle.” Her big news?  She’s just gotten her driver’s license back.

Inspired by Alice!

Thistle Farms creates  a myriad of amazing products. They have yummy smelling candles, lip balms, shower gels (my personal fave), lotions, body balms and essential healing oils. The products are all natural, made by hand and smell and feel great. Honestly, they do.  I was scared to try them because I have really sensitive skin – but they are glorious! They feel and smell so good! And you know what else? They have built partnerships with other women’s groups in Rwanda and Uganda to import the little bags they sell their “Summer Survival Kit” in! So cool.

So what is the point of this blog post? You can help. Today. Right Now.  For every comment, tweet, Facebook post or link to this article from your blog  (either here with The Thirty-Something Bride or on ABG or BOTH!), Ashley and I will team up and donate a $1 to the women of Thistle Farms.  That’s right!  Do what you gotta do – we’re picking up the tab.

What I want to stress the most about this post is the fact that you CAN register for something other than stuff.  You can link directly to Thistle Farms and donate on-line. I would love for you to choose Thistle Farms. But if you choose another, more personally meaningful charity, that’s great too!  While I was in love with the idea of Thistle Farms, we actually ended up choosing The American Cancer foundation. The Candyman’s mom died of cancer and my aunt was unable to come to my wedding as she was undergoing chemo at the time (she’s now in remission!).  We made a tough personal choice on this one. Hopefully, your choice will be easier. And I can’t tell you how happy we were to get cards from our friends and family who donated. It felt so wonderful and I encourage all brides to do the same.

Some other choices that Thistle Farms is offering:

In lieu of favors – framed signs and post cards for donations made in the names of your guests. Printed on handmade, thistle paper (natch).

 

Wedding Favors – Lip balms and postcards.

 

 Gift Baskets - Perfect for your maids!

Bridal Showers – Thistle Farms employees will com come to you to share their personal stories of hope as well as samples of goodies to buy!  You can also bring groups to Thistle Farms for tours, just like we did!

The easiest way to support Thistle Farms is to leave a comment and help spread the word!  When you share today's post on Twitter or Facebook or as a link on your blog, The Thirty-Something Bride and ABG will donate $1 to Thistle Farms. Fan-fucking-tastic, right? So share and mention @T30SB and @thistlefarms and link to this article (http://bit.ly/cgFQAP). EASY-PEASY!

Celebrate your wedding day with products that truly say, “Love heals.”



Friday
Dec172010

Best Non-Registry Gifts Ever.

The Candyman and I registered for gifts. Yes, we did. There was no way in hell we'd get away with not doing it.

And I will be perfectly honest here: I wanted to register. I know, I know. I should be all groovy and cool and hip and politically correct and say something along the lines of, "All we need is love. Don't buy us anything, we have all we need" or perhaps "Gift registries are so materialistic. I don't want that clouding our commitment of love" or maybe even " We politely request your presence, but no presents."

I call that bullshit.

I wanted to register. I wanted a new Cuisinart Blender to replace the one my parents handed down to me when I moved out of the house like in 1991. It was a lovely harvest gold color and things would start to smell funny if you blended too long. Yeah, it was time for new. I wanted a spring form pan - and I don't know why. I wanted some "good" china. I did, I wanted stuff.

And I'll be really honest again, part of me felt just a little vengeful. I mean, come ON! I got married at 38 years old. Do you even know how many weddings, bridal showers and baby showers I had to attend in my life by that time? Can you imagine the thousands of dollars I had to spend on gifts and travel? Remember that one episode of Sex and the City when someone steals Carrie's shoes at a party and it becomes this whole "thing" with the hostess and replacing her shoes and how much money Carrie had spent over the years on gifts and showers and such? By the time I'd met The Candyman, I totally felt like that. I was so over shelling out gobs and gobs of money on other people and their wedded bliss.

When it came to registering, I kinda felt like it was FINALLY my turn. Is that wrong? If it is, I really don't care. It felt good to get presents. And conversely to yesterdays post, I like getting presents. Yes, I adore giving them, but getting them when it's not your birthday or Christmas is totally bad-ass.

But I also think it was something that The Candyman and I needed to do together. That blender isn't mine. It's OURS. The dishes we got are OURS. The folding gifts we got went into our joint account. So when I hear and read about all these alternative options to giving gifts, I'm never quite sure if it's the thing a couple should do. Now, I'm not saying that alternative registries are bad. I mean, we included a charity on ours because we felt strongly about it. You might too and that's OK. But think about the gifts for a second longer. Think about what starting your married life with some new appliances, extra dough in your joint account and some plush towels from Bed, Bath and Beyond might mean. Even when you already live together, these gifts make a difference. It's weird, but they do. It's all a part of that thing that happens after your wedding day. Being married feels different. It does. So why not embrace that and start fresh in other areas of your life too?

Having said all that, we got three really super-fantastic gifts that were not on our registry.

1. The Candyman's aunt gave us the folding kind of present, but she also gave us a gift bag filled with old photos of The Candyman and his brothers as kids: school pictures, Olan Mills-esque types of photos and candids. Since The Candyman's family consists of 5 boys and their dad, family portraits were not high on their list of to-do's. I love having these photos incorporated into our home. It makes me feel like WE are representing.

2. An olive tree. Yes, that's right. Someone gave us an olive tree. Well, they adopted one for us. It's a company called Nudo. Here's what their website says about the program:

Once you've chosen and adopted a tree, the first thing you'll receive is an adoption certificate, to make you official, and your tree information booklet. Then over the course of the year you'll receive two more packages, one in the spring and one in the autumn, containing all the produce from your tree.

We say your tree but we actually collect your tree’s harvest with about 50 of its neighbours – to give us enough olives to press in one go. Think of it as being about the society rather than the individual.

Like other types of farming olive growing is becoming more and more mechanised. This is leading to soil erosion and blander, mass produced oil. We make olive oil with special care, and it’s a team effort. Your involvement will help to support small scale, artisan farming.

Honestly, it's the gift that keeps giving. We have gotten a shit-ton of olive oil from this gift and it's the most incredible oil I've ever tasted. I served it plain with chunks of a hearty grain bread at our little dinner party a few weeks ago and they guys loved it. Not only does it support small scale farming (which is all all groovy and cool and hip and politically correct, right?) it tastes freakin' fantastic. I highly recommend this gift to anyone. Want to try it on your own? They have all sorts of stuff you can buy right here.

3. The last non-registry gift we got was from my friend Abby (a regular reader and commenter on this blog) who I didn't even invite to the wedding. What's great about Abby is that she knew our budget, guest list restrictions and such and was A-OK with the reality of our situation. She sent us a little recipe card book that she had filled with her favorite recipes. It's filled with things like Baked Cheese Olives, Parmesan Tilapia (notated with *restaurant-like presentation*) and Chicken Pot Pie. My favorite recipe though is the last:

Forever Wedding Cake

Serves: All that 2 need.

Cooking time: A lifetime.

Preheat over to: HOT!

Ingredients:

3 lbs flour of love

1 lb buttered youth

3/4 lb good looks

3/4 lb sweet temper

1/2 lb self-forgetfulness

5 c powdered wits

3 T dry humour

1-1/2 t sweet arguments

2 c rippling laughter

dash of common sense

Directions: Put the flour of love, good looks and sweet temper into a well cared for home. Beat the buttered youth until smooth. Mix together self-forgetfulness, powdered wits and dry humour into sweet arguments. Combine the above and gently fold in rippling laughter and common sense. Work together until all is well blended. Bake forever.

I don't know why, but every time I read "Bake forever" it gets me all choked up. It does. I'll be innocently looking for Abby's recipe for Apple Goody or Hamburger Cookies and I'll read the Forever Wedding Cake Recipe and here come the water-works. It makes no sense at all. But I think that these are the best kinds of gifts. Gifts that are a part of your every day life that remind you of your commitment to each other. These thoughtful gifts are the ones that stand out to me, but the other gifts remind me too. Even the blender.

So what was your best off-the-registry-gift? Or, if you're just starting to register, how are you approaching it? Do tell.

P.S. Think I'm going to make those Baked Cheese Olives. I'll let you know how they turn out.....

Friday
Oct292010

Wearing White

Noooo....I don't mean on your wedding day. I mean after your wedding. And not on your body, but on your table. Yeah, that's right. I'm talking about dishes. Did you register for them? Will you? I definitely did. Why? Because as a Good Southern Married Woman I am required by Southern Law to do so. We need our "good china" y'all. My everyday china is nothing to sneeze at - it's Noritake stoneware - full service sets for 12 plus serving dishes that I got for FREE from a couple I know who sold their lake house and needed to clean it out. That haul also got me several of my Calphalon pots, pans and a few Restoration Hardware prints. Nice...

Anyway, I felt like while our everyday stuff is fine, it is very casual. I wanted to have nice china for Christmas and Easter and Thanksgiving dinners. I like nicely set tables. My mom always does a really nice job of this and perhaps it's her habit of decorating the table that makes me want to have the "special" china for special dinners. We registered for our dinnerware at Crate and Barrel and I chose the Staccato pattern (we were lucky enough to have every single place setting piece we registered for given to us as a mucho generous gift from my aunt and uncle. THANKS, Sister!).

Why? Because it's simple, classic and elegant. I am going to go ahead and encourage everyone to buy white dinnerware, particularly for your formal stuff if you're going that route. Why? Because it's the most versatile. You can dress white with just about anything and have a gorgeous table setting.See:

Source

Romantic, feminine and oh, so pretty!

Source

I like this presentation from Young House Love. Imagine if they changed those table runners out for something more formal - like gold or silver - and took out the apple green bowls. Totally fancy-schmacy in a very simple presto-change-o kinda way.

Source

Oh. My. God. Y'all know how I love me some doilies. How cute are these all scattered about? Love. And it's just the little accessories of blue that make this setting unique.Again, pick a color scheme that works for the holiday, theme of you dinner party or just your mood that day.

Source

Come ON! How cute, right?

Think of it this way - your dinnerware and service pieces are like your little black dress. You've got one. It's basic. You rely on it. How do you make it current or different for the event you're attending? ACCESSORIZE ("The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize!"). Napkins, napkin rings, flowers, candles, table runners/cloths - all of those things are what you need for presto change-o fabulousness. And you can ALWAYS get that stuff WAY cheap, particularly at after Christmas sales at places like Pier 1 or Cost Plus World Market.

And when you're shopping for dinnerware, you need to remember a few things. First, while you may think I'm nuts and want to go for a bold dinnerware pattern, keep this in mind. Studies have shown (I know this only because of the industry I've been working in for the last 15 years) that people enjoy their food LESS when they are eating it off of a wildly patterned dish. That's why when you look at dishes, most of the styles only have the pattern on the rims. People will actually enjoy their food less when eating off of something like this:

And they would enjoy their food more if they were instead, eating it off of this:

Images Source

The other thing to consider is the usability of your dinnerware. Can it go in the dishwasher? ? Lots of patterned pieces that are hand painted or have really detailed decals (like the one directly above) don't recommend it. If you'd like me to explain why, send me an email and I'll tell you. I don't think everyone wants to read about how dinnerware is kiln-fired and how varying kiln temps don't always create a consistent seal on decals, blah, blah blah. Just trust me, m'kay? I know about this junk. Also, does it have metallic trim? If so, you will definitely be hand washing. And don't even think of putting it in the microwave unless you feel like blowing some stuff up.

The other great thing about simple, white dinnerware is that you can add on pieces later that aren't necessarily part of the set. For instance, the Stacatto pattern does not come with a gravy boat. WHAAAA? I know, right? I mean, what kind of Good Southern Married Woman can one be without a gravy boat? After the wedding I was looking at some of C&B's plainer gravy boats and they were like eighty billion dollars. OK, maybe not that much, but right after the wedding/honeymoon, it felt like that much. I was trolling around Target not long afterwards and found a really nice quality gravy boat for $9.99. Love it. I also bought a double handled solid white serving tray for $19.99 that goes really well with the pattern too. If I hadn't written this post, no one would be the wiser that I didn't get it all together (shhh, don't tell my dinner guests). 

Oh, and just in case you need it, here's the how-to when you set your pretty new table for your first married-people dinner soiree.

Or if you just can't wait to have that dinner party, you can do what me and The Candyman did.

Mmmm. Grill cheese sammies and mac and bean soup. They actually taste better on fine china.

So, now that I've sung the praises of white dinnerware, what's your take? Are you going to register for every day china or the fancy-schmancy stuff? Patterned or plain? Do tell.

Tuesday
Aug242010

How Love Can Heal 

*Whatever you do, make sure you get down to the bottom of this post!*

OK, so a couple of years ago The Candyman and I were invited to a backyard wedding in East Nashville. This East side wedding was lovely, as all weddings are. The bride wore a lacey white top and a light colored long suede skirt and cowboy boots. The invites were paperless, as was the RSVP. A friend officiated. The couple requested that no gifts be brought. However, since people are insistent (and they are), they allowed guests to bring a bottle of their favorite wine for the reception (brilliant idea) or they could donate to Thistle Farms.

Uh. Wait a second. Donate WHERE? I looked it up online and their website was crap and I didn’t understand it and so I opted to bring the wine.

Fast forward a year or so. The Candyman and I were engaged and one weekend I popped into The Frothy Monkey for a much needed latte and the line was just killer long. As I was waiting to order I was browsing some of the shop’s items for purchase and l noticed some Thistle Farms product. I made the connection and did a little reading about the place. I was floored. And I knew RIGHT THEN that The Candyman and I needed to include Thistle Farms as part of our registry.

So that’s what this introduction leads us to: ALTERNATIVE REGISTRIES and specifically, Thistle Farms.

Like I mentioned a few weeks ago, I went on a field trip. I buddied up with Tabitha and Ashley from Ashley’s Bride Guide as well as Jonathon and Sharon from Jonathon Campbell Photography.

The ladies of Thistle Farms, Ashley's Bride Guide and The Thirty-Something Bride!

I had met Carolyn Snell, one of Thistle Farm’s volunteers at the ABG Sex and the City party. We talked excitedly about how I had come to know them and I just KNEW I had to blog about this and tell everyone I possible could about this amazing place. So what is it? Here we go:

The Story of Magdalene and Thistle Farms

Magdalene is a two-year residential community founded in Nashville Tennessee in 1997 for women with a history of prostitution and drug addiction. Magdalene was founded not just to help a sub-culture of women, but to help change the culture itself. We stand in solidarity with women who are recovering from sexual abuse, violence, and life on the streets, and who have paid dearly for a culture that buys and sells women like commodities. 

At no cost, we offer women a safe, disciplined, and compassionate community for two years, paid for by the gifts we receive from individuals and private grants. Magdalene stands as a witness to the truth that in the end, love is more powerful than all the forces that drive women to the streets.

What is Thistle Farms?

Thistle Farms is a non-profit business operated by the women of Magdalene. By hand, the women create natural bath and body products that are as kind to the environment as they are to the body. All sales proceeds go back into the program.

Through Thistle Farms, the women of Magdalene gain much needed job skills, and learn responsibility and cooperation. Into every product goes the belief that freedom starts with healing, and love can change lives. Our dream is that people will come to see Thistle Farms as a humble but powerful business synonymous with women’s freedom.

Why Thistle?

Considered a weed, thistles grow on the streets and alleys where the women of Magdalene walked. But, thistles have a deep tap root that can shoot through thick concrete and survive drought. And in spite of their prickly appearance, their royal and soft purple center makes the thistle a mysterious and gorgeous flower.

Carolyn Snell, our wonderful Thistle Farms liason!

Our group was invited to tour Thistle Farms. At 9am, a large group of people circled a lighted candle and started the Daily Meditation. A woman read a passage from a book about secrets, the topic for the days’ meditation.  From there, we went around the circle and introduced ourselves, much like an AA meeting. Sometimes that’s all that was said.  Other women elaborated about who they were, the secrets they had kept in their lives and how it became toxic in both body and soul. It was one of those moments in life where I absolutely know for certain that I:

  1. Will never be the same.
  2. Recognize the courage it takes for a person to truly acknowledge themselves, faults and all.
  3. Are overwhelmed that places like this exist and were built to help.

There were a few comments made that rocked me hard and I wrote them down to share: 

Freedom ain’t free.

Turns out, the only person I was keeping secrets from was myself.

I’m not ashamed of my past, I'm proud of my future.

I learned early on that I don’t have to dance with everybody, but I have to dance with somebody.

I am breaking the cycle of secrets.

When you put these statements into context – a long history of abuse, drug addiction, crime, broken families and lives – they MEAN something. Something big.  It was truly an amazing experience.

Once the mediation time was over, they went into some general business and house-keeping issues: pick up your trash, make sure the back door is locked, thanks to the candle folks who worked overtime – just like any other staff meeting at any other business. There were clearly ladies ready to get to work, others who wanted to socialize – just like any office.

The "no nonsense" supervisor. As a graduate of the program, this lady knows what she's doing. I was impressed.

 

A Thistle Farm employee prepping bottle for labeling.


Happiness found in candle making!

We got a lovely tour of the work space, the packaging and shipping areas and I had the opportunity to stop and talk to two women.  Neither of the women is considered a graduate yet, but I was moved to share their stories.

“Mary” is 32 years old and had been at Magdalene house and Thistle Farms for 9 months.  She had been on probation for drug use, got caught using and the courts took her son away from her.  In order to keep her son out of child services and with her mother, Mary entered the 2-year program at Thistle Farms. She got her GED and was just accepted into cosmetology school. Her number one motivation is her son.

Listening to Mary's story.

“Alice” is 39 years old and has been at Thistle Farms for 2 months. She started using crack cocaine at 13 years old. After 8 years of addiction, she was able to kick the crack habit, but switched to alcohol. This is her 5th program and she was order by a judge to Thistle Farms. The judge pulled her order, but Alice has decided to stay. It’s her goal to “break the co-dependency cycle.” Her big news?  She’s just gotten her driver’s license back.

Inspired by Alice!

Thistle Farms creates  a myriad of amazing products. They have yummy smelling candles, lip balms, shower gels (my personal fave), lotions, body balms and essential healing oils. The products are all natural, made by hand and smell and feel great. Honestly, they do.  I was scared to try them because I have really sensitive skin – but they are glorious! They feel and smell so good! And you know what else? They have built partnerships with other women’s groups in Rwanda and Uganda to import the little bags they sell their “Summer Survival Kit” in! So cool.

So what is the point of this blog post? You can help. Today. Right Now.  For every comment, tweet, Facebook post or link to this article from your blog  (either here with The Thirty-Something Bride or on ABG or BOTH!), Ashley and I will team up and donate a $1 to the women of Thistle Farms.  That’s right!  Do what you gotta do – we’re picking up the tab.

What I want to stress the most about this post is the fact that you CAN register for something other than stuff.  You can link directly to Thistle Farms and donate on-line. I would love for you to choose Thistle Farms. But if you choose another, more personally meaningful charity, that’s great too!  While I was in love with the idea of Thistle Farms, we actually ended up choosing The American Cancer foundation. The Candyman’s mom died of cancer and my aunt was unable to come to my wedding as she was undergoing chemo at the time (she’s now in remission!).  We made a tough personal choice on this one. Hopefully, your choice will be easier. And I can’t tell you how happy we were to get cards from our friends and family who donated. It felt so wonderful and I encourage all brides to do the same.

Some other choices that Thistle Farms is offering:

In lieu of favors – framed signs and post cards for donations made in the names of your guests. Printed on handmade, thistle paper (natch).

 

Wedding Favors – Lip balms and postcards.

 

 Gift Baskets - Perfect for your maids!

Bridal Showers – Thistle Farms employees will com come to you to share their personal stories of hope as well as samples of goodies to buy!  You can also bring groups to Thistle Farms for tours, just like we did!

The easiest way to support Thistle Farms is to leave a comment and help spread the word!  When you share today's post on Twitter or Facebook or as a link on your blog, The Thirty-Something Bride and ABG will donate $1 to Thistle Farms. Fan-fucking-tastic, right? So share and mention @T30SB and @thistlefarms and link to this article (http://bit.ly/cgFQAP). EASY-PEASY!

Celebrate your wedding day with products that truly say, “Love heals.”