The Journey of a Year.

This time last year, I was beginning to realize the layers of beauty in what I call “Double Blessing Shopping”.

I blame this on a blog reader. I learn so much from all of you – if you didn’t keep me informed and educate me on the best stuff, my life would be so much less enriched. But this particular blog reader was Dyan, a missionary in Africa who started a site called Karama Gifts. Learning about their beautiful products and more gorgeous ministry to the women who make them birthed a process and a stirring in my heart.

They were helping women escape from trafficking, from societal shunning, and from poverty by teaching them a skill, paying them a living wage, and ministering to their heart. In doing this, they also created an easy, quick, simple way for me to buy beautiful jewelry, bags, and other gifts to give to my family and friends for Christmas.

And buy I did – I think everyone in my life now has at least one product from Karama.

Shortly after that, I decided to do an exhaustive search, trying to find as many organizations as I could that had this double blessing philosophy, which led to me writing a super-long Christmas shopping guide to tell you about the best products that I ran across.

God was speaking to my heart through these discoveries, and at the same time, He had been prompting me to find a way that I could help The WellHouse, a local ministry rescuing victims of human trafficking right here in Birmingham as well as all over the nation. The discovery of double blessing organizations was one of the pieces that God used to unveil what exactly He wanted me to do – and that was to open Picture Birmingham, where I could sell products derived from my photography and give 100% of the profits to The WellHouse.

Picture Birmingham

It felt kind of crazy of God – I wasn’t exactly looking to create an organization, or really to add anything to my already quite-Thanksgiving-sized plate of life. But it was completely unavoidable. And somehow God has multiplied my time to enable me to do it, although my office looks a bit more tornado-stricken than it used to, and my husband and Siri have to remind me daily to do simple things that just don’t fit into my brain anymore.

But it has been exciting, exhilarating, and downright shocking at what God has done. Since starting in March, Picture Birmingham has been able to donate $5,000 to The WellHouse, and I have had many opportunities to share about their crucial ministry both on social media and in traditional media.

And now that Christmas is rolling back around again, I would ask that you consider adding Picture Birmingham to your list of Double Blessing organizations from which to choose gifts. My list from last year is still fantastic for jewelry and accessories, but here’s what I can add to the product selection this year:

1. Note Cards – Printed on luxuriously thick 100% cotton artisan paper and available in a number of different quantities, these make fantastic stocking stuffers, hostess gifts, and teacher gifts. They come in three different sets – two featuring scenes and sunsets from Birmingham, and one from the Gulf Coast.

All Note Cards

If you would like for me to print customized Christmas cards or if you have specific photos from my collection that you’d rather have on note cards, I can do special orders.

2. Calendars – a collaboration project with Mission Birmingham, this calendar is printed on premium glossy cardstock paper and features a different, beautiful angle of Birmingham each month. Prayer prompts are provided from Mission Birmingham as well, and at the end of the year, you can cut out the images and frame them, if you like.

Calendars

50% of the proceeds from the calendars go to The WellHouse, and the other 50% is donated to Mission Birmingham.

3. Curated Collections – In an effort to help people sift through the way-too-many photos that I’ve taken, I carefully chose coordinating photos for ten different curated collections.

Abstract Beauty Curated

Each of these collections has a theme – Birmingham Landmarks, Abstract Beauty (great for non-locals, as the photos are not location-specific), Railroad Park, Wonders of Alabama, Trains and Rails, and more.

Birmingham's Angles Curated

Each collection contains 3-5 coordinating photos, allows you to choose from five different sizing options, and is 25% off of the regular print price. Starting at just $41, these collections are fantastic for Christmas gifts, office decor, or wall collages.

Waters Curated

4. Gallery-Wrapped Canvases – every print in the shop is available on canvas. The three-dimensional effect of the gallery wrap along with the ready-to-hang ease makes this a fantastic gift.

IMG_2284

Also, if you’re local and one of those people that would rather browse actual products than look on the internet, I will be at West Elm at the Summit on Saturday from 11:00am – 3:00pm – I would absolutely adore it if you came to visit me! I will have prints, canvases, note cards, calendars, and postcards, and will be available to sign them (although I don’t really like writing on them and still think that’s weird. But whatever.)

Thank you so much for your support of my new endeavor – you and I together have helped multiple women find freedom from sex slavery – and that is so very totally worth me having an extra-messy office.

Work of Worth: Pretty Things Changing Lives {Giveaway}

Third World Entrepreneurial Philanthropy. It sounds all big-wordish and heady, but it’s one of my favorite concepts that has been made easier due to the internet age. In short, it means freedom.

Freedom for women enslaved in sex trafficking.

Freedom for families who have no way to support their children.

Freedom from work that exploits, mistreats, and abuses.

Freedom from having to decide whether to starve or sell a child.

The particular form of Entrepreneurial Philanthropy that I’m referring to is when a company opens up in an impoverished area with the intent of employing people who need a chance to find those freedoms. They are committed to paying fair wages, treating their employees with dignity, and transforming lives.

The way the internet greatly aids this cause is by connecting these organizations with the Western Market through e-commerce. Never before has it been as easy as it is now to buy artisan products from Africa, India, and anywhere else in the world. The opportunity to be able to purchase these beautiful and unique items while helping provide freedom to people who desperately need it is truly a gift. And it is a gift I try to utilize any chance I get.

There’s a brand new organization providing the valuable service of connecting us with freedom-bringing products: Work of Worth International.

Join us

Work of Worth carries beautiful artisan products from organizations that they have thoroughly vetted to ensure that they are truly offering hope and freedom to their employees. They have a particular focus on groups working with employees who have found escape from sex trafficking, as well as groups who focus on preemptive sustainable employment so that families are not faced with the choice of feeding someone or selling them.

Work of Worth’s headquarters are based in Birmingham, so I was able to go to their launch event last month for a sneak peek at the beautiful products they’re carrying. I bought jewelry for myself, a very special journal for Ali (she obviously carries it everywhere), and a t-shirt for Chris.

IMG_5165

I have LOVED my jewelry, and find myself constantly admiring the exquisite craftsmanship of it, shocked this amazing bracelet only cost $10!

Work of Worth Bracelet

I was also privileged with the opportunity to go through all of their collection and recommend my own mini-collection of Work of Worth items. It was difficult to narrow it down, but I pushed through – just for you.

Rachel Callahan CC L

Decopalm Journal, $15; Grecian Goddess Necklace, $20; Rings of Hope Bracelet, $15; Sari Hobo Bag, $30

These pieces are just fabulous. They are all luxurious, gorgeous statement pieces that can go with anything. And any of them would make stand-out Christmas gifts (it’s just around the corner, ladies!), or simply gifts for yourself. Because hey – why not buy for yourself when you have the excuse that it’s helping someone else?

As an added bonus, though, I’m buying something for you. Just in time for the cooler weather, one of you will receive one of these stunning Sari Infinity Scarves. All you have to do to enter is check out Work of Worth’s Shop and come back and tell me your favorite find.

Sari Infinifty Scarf

You have until Thursday, October 30 to enter. A winner will be chosen and announced on my giveaway winner’s page on Friday, October 31. Best of luck, and I can’t wait to hear which items are your favorite!

Disclosure: I was not compensated in any way to write this post. Opinions are my own, I made purchases of my own products, and I’m paying for the giveaway item. I am simply in love what Work of Worth is doing.

How to Properly Use Alabama Jell-O Molds.

In a huge announcement of unprecedented importance, Jell-O proclaimed that they were releasing University of Alabama Jell-O Molds.

(Along with molds for 22 other Universities, but I’m positive none of them took it nearly as seriously as Alabama fans.)

Because I love my husband and I’m a sucker for a good Jell-O mold, I immediately went to my personal shopper (named Amazon) and bought a set for my family.

University of Alabama Jell-O Molds 6

However, my purchase was made amidst great state controversy.

Not only was this exciting news for football fans, it was also exciting news for the Alabama political machine. Because, you see, at least one lobbyist immediately condemned these Jell-O molds for fear that they would encourage underage drinking.

Yes, drinking.

I would like to say a few things to this lobbyist.

1. I’ve seen a lot of people slurp down Jell-O shots on Alabama Football gamedays. A LOT. And not a single one of them was actually a *student* at the university. In fact, most were over 50 and probably never even attended the University. Perhaps your concern might also extend to Alabama Football Fans with no educational ties to the University?

2. “I wasn’t going to drink while underage, but now that there are Jell-O molds for my University, well, that changes everything!”, said no college student ever.

3. Silly Lobbyist, Jell-O Molds are for Kids. Err, kids too young for underage drinking, that is.

To prove it, I present to you, my children.

There’s nothing my kids enjoy more than preparing for a Football Party, so I gave them the beautiful new Jell-O molds. Because football is upon us, y’all.

I wanted to delve into all the ways these molds could be used, so I bought chocolate, my favorite candy melts, and had the Jell-O that came with the molds. I also figured we could use the molds to create ice cubes.

There were two molds, which were apparently quite stuck together.

University of Alabama Jell-O Molds 1

But that did not deter the palpable excitement in my home.

University of Alabama Jell-O Molds 2

Okay no really. Were they superglued??

University of Alabama Jell-O Molds 3

Noah even got in on the action. At least in moral support.

University of Alabama Jell-O Molds 4

Finally, my daughter found the strength within herself to pull them apart.

University of Alabama Jell-O Molds 5

They wanted to start with candy melts, and I didn’t blame them – it’s the purest form of sugar, and it seems to travel straight to the blood stream.

Using Melting Candy with Children

It can even be absorbed straight through fingers!

Using Melting Candy with Children 2

We melted and poured, then dropped the mold on the countertop a few dozen times to beat out the bubbles.

Uses for University of Alabama Jell-O molds

After refrigeration, they came out beautifully, although next time I will fill the molds halfway to prevent the messy bottoms and make the serving size of straight sugar a little less coma-inducing.

University of Alabama Candy 2

Next came Jell-O.

I’m always amazed at how quickly Jell-O cooks, as opposed to my childhood when it seemed to take five lifetimes.

Noah, however, did not agree.

University Jell-O Molds 1

He aged fifteen years in that two minutes.

University Jell-O Molds 2

While we’re waiting for a boiling point, let’s talk about the background of my picture, also known as Random Clutter on Rachel’s Kitchen Table (RCoRKT).

What's in the Background

A: Two pairs of Noah’s Toms (my hypocrisy grows daily) and my running knee braces. Because that’s what belongs on chairs.
B: Running Socks. Hopefully just washed and laid out to dry, but there’s no guarantee that they hadn’t been sweat in.
C: Sunblock. Which is puzzling since I nearly never sunblock my children. Because hey – skin grows back, right?
D: A really unique sunset canvas. There’s this site where you can get one of your own…or use it as an excuse to come see me in person!
E: An Underwear Chart. Need I say more?

You’re welcome.

The water finally boiled, and Ali immediately volunteered to stir in the Jell-O. Noah, meanwhile, had moved onto other pursuits.

Making Jell-O with Children 1

But he’s never one to turn down a chance to splash and spill hot liquid, so he did take his turn.

Making Jell-O with Children 2

We pulled out our Lego and Magic Wand molds and filled nearly everything we had.

Making Jell-O with Children 3

The Jell-O came out just as beautifully as the candy, albeit harder to photograph.

University of Alabama Jell-O 1

University of Alabama Jell-O 2

And, although we haven’t melted our chocolate yet or made our ice cubes, we’re ready for tomorrow.

University of Alabama Candy and Jell-O

Because really, snacks are football’s redeeming value.

To some of us.

Disclosure: Jell-O did not sponsor me or this post. Nor did lobbyists, Alabama Football, or children. Okay – maybe the kids did. They did get a lot of sugar out of it, after all.