Wednesday, August 26, 2015


Community. It is such a hard thing to establish after a move, and yet it is so vitally important to daily life.

Community gives a sense of belonging. It is something that's built one day at a time...over coffee cups and fences and Bibles.

Community involves bold decisions...take that class, go to that meeting, try that program, sign up for that event.

Today, I had coffee with Sara, the unofficial welcome committee of our new church. It was so great to talk with someone, ask questions, share stories. A simple act, like baby steps, finding my way in my new community.

{Today's Brew: The Chaicoffsky from Graham's 318 in Geneva!}

Caffeinate responsibly, my friends!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

PTI August Blog Hop: Oh The Places I'll Go!

 Today is the PTI Blog Hop, and what better day to show you one of my favorite pastimes here in my new town. Can you guess what it is?

I like to make long cards on occasion. They fit so perfectly into a business size envelope, leaving ample room inside to tuck a small gift or maybe write a nice letter.

{Today's Brew: PTI Pedal Power stamps and dies, PTI Twig Wreath stamps and dies, PTI card stock and Autumn chicken scratch gingham papers, PTI inks and button twine, copper nailhead brads}

And here is the inspiration for today's card:

My new, slightly used Electra Townie bike! Isn't she sweet? I think it looks just like the bike in today's card, don't you? I don't have my basket on yet, but I will be adding that soon.

With all of the amazing trails here in my town, I knew I wanted to get a bike to replace the old mountain bike I had sold in the last garage sale. After doing a little research, I was pretty sure that I wanted an Electra Townie. Part cruiser, part city bike, it makes bicycling comfortable and easy. And for someone of shorter stature like myself, I loved the flat foot step through design for stability. I also loved that it has just seven gears. Easy to operate, and pretty low-tech.

But the price. Oy vey. I really didn't want to spend a big chunk of change. So I waited, and searched, and waited some more. And then one day, this lovely bike popped up on Craigslist. The exact color I wanted, and a fair price I was willing to pay. Sold!

We spend a lot of evenings on our bikes as a family, just exploring and enjoying the lovely weather. Here are some photos that Sam took on our last bike ride through the trails of Fermilab. Yes, it is a lab, part of the U.S. Department of Energy. It houses the National Particle Accelerator. How cool is that? It sits on the prettiest section of prairie, with trails for biking and walking.

Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam...

...yes, the buffalo really do roam here at this farm! There are also crops of corn and soybean, along with fields of wildflowers, ponds, and groves of trees.

A special thank you to my photographer, Sam, for supplying today's photos!

Thanks for visiting the cafe today!

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Almost Amish Life

Have you ever read a book that just resonated with you? This is that kind of book.

After hearing author Nancy Sleeth speak on Moody Radio more than two years ago, I finally had the chance to pick up her book last summer. I read it, and I made my friend, Beth read it, too. And then, as friends will do, we could not stop talking about it. It was as if this book planted a little seed in our minds that germinated over time. And just now, we are seeing those ideas begin to take root and grow.

Almost Amish isn't a trend. It is not a fad or religion or some crazy bandwagon to hop on, like trying to purge your house for 365 days a year. As the subtitle explains, it is "one woman's quest for a slower, more sustainable life".

And seriously, who doesn't want that? This book had me at the cover alone. Hello, cute apron and loaf of bread in a basket!

The premise? The author examined some of the principles of the Amish, those areas that are so appealing to us in our crazy techie super busy world, and looked at ways to apply those same principles to our daily lives. Community. Simplicity. Our homes. Our dependence on technology. Nature. The lost art of hospitality. Our families, our faith, our service to others.

When I read this book last summer, I was living in Pittsburgh, driving forty five minutes to get to church on  Sunday. I was spending too much time at home, alone, isolated. And isn't that right where the devil would love to keep us?

And then God intervened in some amazing ways. For starters, I felt him whispering to me that I needed to get out in the world and be of service, to mix with the public and bring a little light to His people. And so I did one of the things I knew I could do. I got a job working in retail, gearing up for the holiday season. I loved it. Here, I found a sense of community. I could help people, I could laugh with people, and I could serve humbly each work day. I could make my co-workers laugh. I could bake a batch of warm brownies for the break room. They were little acts of service, but I could see them making a big impact on myself and others. Win win.

And then God intervened once again, and my husband was offered a position in Chicago.

Chicago, Lord? How in the world am I supposed to find a slower, simpler, more sustainable life in the big city of Chicago?

We decided to take a much different approach to house hunting this time around. We started looking at churches first. Knowing how important church life is to our family, we decided that being in close proximity to the church was a top priority. And let me tell you, after spending a year on long commutes to church, we knew how important this would be. We had become lazy Christians, attending Sunday services, but unable to give back to the church the other six days a week. We needed those other six days to connect with the congregation in fellowship and service.

We looked at churches, did drive-bys, checked out their websites and mission statements. We found a church in the Fox River Valley, a far flung suburb of Chicago. And then, we started looking at houses nearby. After weeks and weeks of searching in surrounding areas, we finally stumbled upon this house that had sat on the market for a while. And guess where it was located? Less than a quarter mile from the church.

And not just close to church, but close enough to school that Sam can bike or walk with the neighborhood kids to school every day!

But wait, there's more! We can walk or bike to the neighborhood park for a game of tennis, some basketball, or just to throw a frisbee and take a turn on the swings.

It gets better. We even have bike paths and trails that connect to our neighborhood, leading to our quaint downtown along the river. We can bike for ice cream, pop into the bike shop or a restaurant or cafe, and even bike to the library or the community pool.

It's as if God told us "Make the first things first, and I will take care of everything else."

This week, I hope to show you our approach to this Almost Amish life, along with a few projects it has inspired along the way.

Blessings on your Monday, cafe friends!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Simple Stories Life Documented: August 2015

August. A crazy busy month spent trying to eek out every last bit of summer before the school year begins. Trips to the pool. Trips to amusement parks. Trips to the zoo. Trips to visit family.

Add to that the usual long list of appointments, obligations, house projects...

August is exhausting. In a good way. The kind of month you look back on and think "Wow, how did we fit it all in?"

{Today's Brew: Simple Stories Life Documented planner and stickers, Simple Stories Homespun collection, Making Memories page clip}

Is your August as crazy as mine? Tell me what you've penciled in on your calendar this month!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

How To Make A Fun Diecut Note Pad

I had so much fun making a notepad for my personal planner that I decided to make another notepad for everyday use, too! This time, I used notepad paper and ran several sheets at a time through the die cutting machine.

{Today's Brew: PTI Cuppa Love stamp set, Latte Love stamp set, card stock and inks (PTI), PTI dies, circle punch, Making Memories brads, gingham ribbon, notepad paper}

I made a pocket using cardstock, securing it with flower brads in each corner. This coffee tag appears to be hanging from the latte mug's handle, when in fact I just adhered it near the base of the pocket with a foam dimensional. I think the tag and its ribbon helped keep the note papers in place.

You may be asking yourself "Did she really stamp each page of note paper, or just the top sheet?"

I stamped every sheet of paper. I'm a little OCD that way. ha ha! I chose ink colors that were pale enough that you can still write over with a black ink pen or marker and see what you've written just fine.

And there you have it! A fun note pad made from die cuts! Give it a try today!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Bravest Boy

Today, I present to you the bravest boy in the world.

This boy of mine has more courage than even I can muster on my best days.

Play a lead role in the school musical? Sure!

Ride the tallest, fastest roller coasters? Let's do it!

He is his very own brand of nerdy, goofy silly every day, and I am so proud of him.

But today. Hmm. Today is tough. Tough for Sam, and tough for Sam's mom.

It's the first day of school at another new school, in another new town. New teachers, new friends, new experiences like lockers with combinations and gym with uniforms.

Is he afraid? Yes. But he bravely moves ahead, ready to face his fears head on.

As Sam's not-so-brave mom, I find myself riddled with worries today.  What if he has a bad day? What if he doesn't like his new teachers and new school? What if the kids there don't appreciate his brand of nerdy goofy silly?

I wish, oh how I wish, that I could give Sam the sort of steady, stable life that I dream of. A life where you probably go to middle school with the same class of kids you saw in kindergarten. A life that rarely changes, and when it does, it's in infinitesimally small ways that barely warrant a blip on the radar of life.


I don't do it very gracefully.

And yet change is the only constant.

I tell myself that we are giving our sons valuable life experiences, and that we are shaping them and molding them to be brave souls who are not afraid to go out and be salt and light to the world. I know it to be true. And still, a mother worries.

And so all I can do on this day is pray. I prayed the prayer with Sam that I pray every school day. I mark him with the sign of the cross, a reminder of his baptism and a reminder to myself of whose child he is. Not mine.

Help Him Lord, this day to be
Thy dear child, a-follow thee.
Help and save him by Thy hand
Until he reaches the heavenly land.
In Jesus name. Amen.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Newly Painted Foyer

I want to feel welcomed into a home the minute I step into it.

My Pittsburgh home had the most amazing foyer. It was huge! Terrazzo marble tile floors, a pretty crystal light fixture, and blue and cream striped wallpaper. I loved it! Something about that entry was just, in a word, gracious.

Our new home had an entry that just felt darkish and brownish and not so gracious.

I like stripes, but circus stripes? Not a fan.

So, continuing with our cooling color palette, I chose the same color that we had used in the lower portion of the office library room. Sherwin Williams Accessible Beige.

A little bit lighter, a little bit brighter. It feels airy and spacious now, where it once felt closed in.

I'm finally starting to hang artwork and decor on the walls. It takes me a while to decide if I like something in a particular spot.

I thought this painting worked well here, as it leads out to the garage. Our coat closet is on the right. Would you believe that we looked at quite a few houses in the Chicago suburbs that had no coat closet? Hell-o! Chicago! As in c-c-c-cold winters! Where do you put your coats, of which I have many? Coat closet was a must have on our wish list.

We still have to carry the paint color up the staircase and to the upstairs hallway. When we do, we also plan on painting the risers and spindles of the staircase a creamy white. I think this will help to brighten the front entry immensely.

This color palette is pushing me out of my comfort zone. In the past, I have always chosen colors that lean to the warm side with just a hint of yellow. And I still love those colors, to be completely honest. But this house has so many yellow tinted wood tones that I just felt the cooling colors will help balance that out. I keep telling myself that I'm choosing the colors that the house needs.

Just last night, my husband asked me "Are you sure you don't want to paint all the wood trim white?"

Am I sure? Of course I'm not sure! But at this stage, I am keeping it because it seems like so much work to paint it. Painted white trim is the trend right now, but in a few years it could swing back to wood stain again on a designer's whim. I think the wood trim matches the tones in our furniture, and the longer I live with it, the more it grows on me.

Soon, we will have our windows replaced and then we can proceed to painting the kitchen. I think when that gets painted (SW Lemongrass, on left in photo above), it will make a big difference in making the lower level color scheme feel completely cohesive.

One room at a time. That's been our plan all along for the Fixer Upper house. We've been here for two months now, and I think we're making some real progress in a short amount of time.