"New" Old Community Traditions

There are some community traditions you grow up enjoying. Then there are some traditions you don't discover until well into adulthood. Last night my family attended our first ever Downtown Advent Walk. 

The walk is a progressive ecumenical celebration among five historic churches in downtown Paducah. We began at Broadway Methodist Church for a short service then we walked to Washington Street Baptist Church for music and scripture reading. Then, we went to our home church of Grace Episcopal Church for more choral music and a short sermon. Last on the walk were services at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church and First Presbyterian Church.

It was such a special thing to be out on the streets of Paducah with so many people from the community. However, it was more than that. It is not very often that one gets to experience so many different churches and worship styles in one evening. I couldn't believe how few churches I had worshiped in in my own town. There were so many buildings I'd driven by a thousand times but never actually stepped foot in.

I recently read an essayist who argued we all want to rush Christmas because it's one of the few remaining communal celebrations in our society. As I celebrated advent with my town yesterday evening, I knew exactly what he meant.

I'm already counting the days until next year's advent walk.

~ Sarah Stewart Holland 

When Mother Nature hits too close to home...

Sometimes, for all our compassion and empathy for far away places struck by disaster, it's easy to forget that the weather can flip your geography upside down as well.

Yesterday a tornado passed just north of Paducah before hopping the river to wreak havoc on the nearby town of Brookport, Illinois. By nearby I mean three miles or less as the crow flies.

One of my dear friends was principal at the town's elementary school until last year, today one of his students was found unresponsive. One of the beloved workers at Mommy's Day Out - a woman who has taken care of both my boys since they were babies - just posted that she lost her home.

Her previous post was yesterday. She had just put up her Christmas tree.

So, in this season of thanksgiving, let us remember that nothing is guaranteed and be thankful for every peaceful moment afforded us.

Then, let us help those who had chaos come knock on their doors.

~ Sarah Stewart Holland

2013 River's Edge International Film Festival

I know what y'all think. Even if you won't admit it to me, you think there's not a lot to do in Paducah.

Well, you're wrong.

We've got quilts and barbecue and we've got our very own film festival!

Founded nine years ago, the River's Edge International Film Festival is dedicated to showcasing quality independent films from around the world. For three days in early November, Paducah becomes a hot spot for theatric artistry and cinema innovation!

Run by our small arts cinema, Maiden Alley Cinema, and staffed entirely by volunteers, the River's Edge International Film Festival screens every type of film from features to documentaries to animated shorts.

So, if you love film and have been looking for a reason to visit us in the Western part of the state now's your chance!

For more history of the film festival and insider's tips, check out Paducah Life Magazine's cover story on the film festival from 2012.

~ Sarah Stewart Holland

I heart Kentucky

I love Kentucky. I am not originally from Kentucky and may have hemmed and hawed when we moved to Paducah, Kentucky my freshman year of high school but when people ask where I am from, I proudly say Kentucky.

A few weeks ago, I was in Lexington and I locked myself out of my friend’s house as I was packing up my car to go to Louisville. I only had my car key and my car.  So after about 10 minutes of panic, I got into my car and found the nearest establishment to see if I could use their phone.  I pulled into Rose and Jim’s, a biker bar off of Georgetown Road, and was met with southern hospitality. They let me use their phone, patrons bought me beers and I met my freshman year roommate’s high school teacher.  Their kindness really turned a terrible experience into one I will never forget.  

One of my new friends from work decided to go to the University of Kentucky for undergraduate on a whim and will be leaving for Lexington in two short weeks. I was so excited when I heard this and told her to read up on the rules of basketball!  She inquired about Kentucky because she has not been to Lexington yet and I talked her ear off. I told her that I have never met a state that is more beautiful and if there is a state that has more state pride, I have never found it.  I told her about the story above and her jaw was on the floor.  I told her about Keeneland and tailgating. I told her about Ramsey’s and Cheapside. I also told her to check out HerKentucky…the premier source for all things Kentucky!

I am putting together a Lexington guide for my new friend but I have not lived in Lexington for over 10 years. I am using HerKentucky as my main resource for all things awesome in Lexington, but wanted to know what is your favorite new thing in Lexington? What should I recommend?

Thanks for your help y’all! I really appreciate it!

My Dream Kentucky Wedding

When I started planning my wedding to my handsome fiancé, I knew that I wanted our wedding to be personal, affordable and in my hometown of Paducah, Kentucky. To set ourselves apart, we chose to have a Mexican fiesta reception. We asked our favorite Mexican restaurant to cater and adorned the tables with orange, hot pink, navy, lime green, turquoise and purple table cloths. To ground everything, I added black and white accents and lots of mustaches. But my table tops did not stop there; I added white cloth napkins with name cards and black ribbon, candy boxes with black and white ribbon, taper candles, votive candles and champagne flutes to toast the bride and groom. To tie everything together, I kept the centerpieces the same on every table. We chose deep red roses and vivid green limes to add another element of elegance. 


We welcomed our guests with margaritas and passed hors d'oeuvres and had an appetizer buffet including the classic Mexican queso. Shortly after our first dance everyone dined on fajitas, rice and frijoles and they were delicious. While Mexican food might seem like an alternative choice, everyone LOVED it and it was affordable. I cannot tell you how many people complimented us on the food. We also had an open bar full of bourbon, bourbon and more bourbon and served cupcakes and grooms cake from Purcell's Bakery in Draffenville, KY. Our NYC friends said that they were some of the best cupcakes they have ever tasted...and they know cupcakes!

During the planning process, I poured over every detail to make sure it was a reflection of us. I added pearls to all of the bouquets and boutonnieres. 

I spent months beading the train of my dress. 

I made the freshwater pearl sets for my bridesmaids and I persuaded Scott to get the best groomsman's gifts ever, Rayban Wayfarers. I also did all the calligraphy for our invitations. My mom and I crafted every element on our reception tables and I  made our centerpieces with my maid of honor and her mom, Allison.  I also made my own bouquet and Scott's boutonniere and I even made sure that the ribbon on your place card matched the color of the tablecloth at the table you were seated! 

It overwhelmed everyone else around me, but I was in heaven. Pure. Crafting. Heaven!

As illustrated above, I have always wanted a unique and fun wedding, but I never wanted to pay the giant price tag. I worked in fashion for several years and know how much the wedding industry inflates their prices. Below are my tips for saving money during your wedding. 

  1. Always ask for a discount. When we chose our photographer, we wanted our engagements done in NYC and she worked with us to make it affordable. She did an all day shoot in NYC and it is one of our most favorite memories of the wedding planning process. 
  2. Shop around. I really wanted chair covers and the vendor in Paducah was offering them at $3.75 for the cover and sash. I found the same thing on the Internet for $2.50, so we sent her the link and bargained with her. While $1.25 is not much, every little bit adds up.
  3. Look at Sam's Club or Costco for your flowers. When we first got engaged, I asked all of my married friends what they thought about their weddings after the fact and most of them said that they wished they had not spent as much money on their flowers. They said that they really were a waste of money. So I scoured the Sam's website and found a bridal package that worked with our theme and bought 300 red roses for our center pieces. We paid only $600 for all of our flowers and no one was the wiser. 
  4. eBay can be your best friend. Right after we got engaged, I bought my wedding shoes off of eBay. It really just seemed like the most logical first step for me. I got a pair of unworn champagne satin d'orsay peep toe sling back Jimmy Choos with jewels on the front and I also picked up a pair of Kate Spade white satin d'orsay peep toes with a kitten heel for the ceremony. My grand total was $160. 
  5. Do not spend a lot of money on your dress. I know I will probably get a lot of flack for this one, but really ladies, you will only wear it for one day and the general public is not going to know the difference between your fancy fabric and polyester. I will, but I just told you not to spend a lot of money on your dress, so no judgments here ;) I think you should concentrate more on fit and flattery, than the large price tag. My dress was $180. It was plain, but it fit my body beautifully and I spent months sewing freshwater pearls onto the train to make it special. I was very happy with the end result. You should also choose a dress that is not too trend based so your wedding photos look classic for years to come. 
  6. Shop sales. I knew I wanted my bridesmaids to wear polka dot tights, specifically Kate Spade polka dot tights, so I waited until they went on sale and got them for $15 instead of $25. 
  7. See what you can do yourself. I knew I wanted to give my bridesmaids a pearl set so I scoured the Internet for loose pearls and found some gorgeous 10mm baroque freshwater pearls at a great price so I bought them up. I was able to make their pearl sets at a fraction of the cost. P.S. those bouquets are from Sam's! 
  8. Etsy is your other new best friend. A lot of our table top elements came from Etsy and I could not have been happier with the result. I paid about $35 for all of our table top printables and our wedding programs and then just printed them off. 
  9. Look for areas to save money. I really wanted a champagne toast, but knowing that not everyone enjoys champagne as much as moi, we decided to leave flutes on the table and have everyone fill them with whatever they wanted and it worked out well. Not a single drop of champagne was wasted!
  10. Do NOT make your own bouquet! I loved my bouquet and had a fun time making it, but we only saved about $60 and I was up until 1:00 AM the morning before putting it together.
  11. The Dollar Store is a great resource for tabletop items. We purchased vases, votives and candlesticks for a fraction of the price and now people are borrowing them from us!

I also always knew that I wanted to get married in Kentucky. It is such a beautiful state and I really consider it to be home. With 75% of our guests coming from out of town, we really wanted to add elements that embodied Kentucky. For our out of town guests, we included a map of Paducah and a sugar cookie from Paducah's own Kirchoff's Bakery that was decorated with the double wedding ring quilt pattern as a nod to quilt city. We had our rehearsal dinner downtown and encouraged everyone to explore the surrounding area and flood wall.  At our wedding, everyone danced the night away to the The Cruisers, a local favorite for weddings, and we featured cupcakes from a local bakery. We also gave everyone a Kentucky bourbon ball and an Ohio buckeye as our wedding favor and yes,we made those too! 

I had such a wonderful time planning our wedding and would do it a million times over, but my favorite part was marrying my handsome husband.

Photo Credit: All photos by Makenzie Lynn Photography

My (original) Kentucky Wedding

My husband and I are celebrating ten years of marriage this summer with a vow renewal ceremony in July. Before I share the specifics of that party, I thought I would share some of the fun Kentucky details of our first ceremony a decade ago.

We got married in my hometown of Paducah, Kentucky, and I wanted our guests to feel my love for our locale. Out-of-town guests got the customary gift bags filled with local products. Everyone received Starnes BBQ sauce, a little Paducah pin, and some chocolate from a local shop.

I used Queen Anne's lace in my wedding bouquet as a send up to the local wildflower that grows like weeds in the hot months of a Kentucky summer. Even better, I'm reminded of our wedding every year as it springs up along roadsides and fills fields near my home.

The day of our wedding a summer rain storm came drenching the area and sending me into hysterics. Luckily, the rain stopped before our reception which was held in a restored home, with half of the tables being set up outside under the trees. Unfortunately, the rain turned the already hot day into a sauna-like evening.

We had a signature bourbon cocktail to help our guests to cool down. It was called a Trolley Cooler as a send up to the Paducah trolley car we took from the church to the reception. The cocktail was a shot of bourbon with a 1/2 cup pineapple juice and a 1/2 cup of cranberry juice. However, our "bartender" (who was really just a family friend) began partaking of the Trolley Coolers and by the end of the evening it was more like a cup of bourbon with a splash of pineapple juice and a splash of cranberry juice!

However, I think the crowd favorite of Paducah-specific details was our end of the evening treat. After a night of dancing (and bourbon), we pulled out coolers of Dip 'n Dots for our guests to enjoy as a final treat. Dip 'n Dots were invented and are manufactured in Paducah so I knew we had to include them. For years, I would have guests comment on the Dip 'n Dots and how much fun it was to have them at the end of the night.

I wish I had Style Me Pretty worthy photos of all these details but alas my wedding was before the age of photojournalistic style documenting of every little flower and flourish. Still, my memories are happy and I hope ten years later our guests still remember having a good time in the little town of Paducah, Kentucky.

~ Sarah Stewart Holland

It's beginning to look a lot like...QUILT WEEK!

As Paducah gears up for Quilt Week, I thought I would revisit a post I wrote last year to introduce the rest of Kentucky to the event that preoccupies my little neck of the woods. - SSH

There is one event the entire year revolves around. There is one event every Kentuckian around me loves but also dreads. The tourists. The crowds. The traffic.

The Kentucky Derby?!?!

Nope! That's for you central Kentuckians. Over here in Western Kentucky, the event of the year is the AQS Quilt Show. Starting early this week, the streets of Paducah will start to fill with quilters from near as far (seriously, FAR, as in Japan far) and really live up to its name The Quilting Capital OF. THE. WORLD.

The Quilt Show transforms the entire town. I will never forget the first year I moved back. I walked into my favorite coffee shop downtown only to find the front had been filled with fabric bolts of every color. Coffee shop/Fabric store! Only during the Quilt Show.

Some less enthusiastic citizens complain about The Quilt Show. These are the people who have never actually gone to the Convention Center and taken in the beauty and artistry that is competitive quilting. These are the people who prefer to frown over the slightest change in their routine and giggle at the ladies in their quilted vests. These are the people who don't even go down town the entire week for fear of being confronted by someone not from Paducah!

These are not my people.

I'm very lucky to have my own quilting tour guides every year. My husband's parents run Planet Patchwork, a popular quilting website, and have been coming to the Show for years. (That's how I knew Nicholas and I were meant to be. He took me to the Quilt Museum on his first visit to Paducah and showed me his father's endorsements in the front of all the quilting books.) They show me all the best shops and shows. We eat at the church quilting luncheons. It's a blast to be a foreigner in your own town.

So, as the rest of Kentucky gears up for a little horse race, Paducah will be living large with the quilters. If you're not from around here, I encourage you to come by. And if you are from Paducah and have never embraced the Quilt Show in all its glory, it truly is your loss.

~ Sarah Stewart Holland