Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Birds on the Brain

I have birds on the brain.

This month, two of my little birds have left Mama's nest. Flown the coop to college. Senior bird flew to a rental house near campus, where he is learning to feed himself, clean up after himself, and pay some bills. Big adult stuff. Sophomore bird flew to a brand new, state-of-the-art dorm.

I'm happy for them. Really, I am.

My nest feels a little empty now. Quiet. Too much empty space.

And then I read this quote from the book Seven Sacred Pauses by Macrina Wiederkehr.
"Each day we are summoned to be creators of the present moment. Artists know the value of white space. Sometimes what isn't there enables us to see what is. Perhaps you are being called to the spiritual practice of bringing a little of the white space- of nada- into your workday. There in that white space you will find your soul waiting for you."

I find myself with a little more white space now. More time to walk. More space to let my mind wander down creative paths. More idle hours to read and observe.

My new daily rhythms allow me more time to observe the birds. I can watch in awe as the parakeet makes his way to my feeder every day, and wonder how I will coax him indoors before cold weather comes. I marvel at the number of new goldfinch that are daily visitors. I smile at the ungainly young mourning doves and the newest batch of immature cardinals.

All of these birds rely on the steady source of food that I provide. Every morning. Every evening.

It brought to mind this verse from Matthew chapter 6: "Look at the birds of the air. They do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"

I am the sparrow with mouth wide open, waiting for God to fill. And He provides every time. Food for the family. Money for two college tuitions. Cars and a home and abundant blessings.

I continue to feed the birds, and the Father continues to feed me. Daily bread.


Monday, August 20, 2012

History of a Blog, Part Two

In yesterday's post, I looked back at how Mary Rose's Cafe began, from its humble beginnings to its humble middle. LOL! No meteoric rise to fame here! Of course, what blogger doesn't begin a blog in the hopes of having a huge number of subscribers?

But truly, I was different. I never wanted a vast number of daily readers. I just wanted one reader who happened to be a book publisher with a five- book contract. And maybe one more reader who happened to be an executive director and producer of blockbuster movies.

Alas, not every blogger gets to grow up and become Rhee Drummond (The Pioneer Woman) one day.

But bloggers are hopeful creatures. We're constantly trying to change and evolve for our readers.

I've got it! I'm going to spend a year making every recipe from Julia Child's cookbook! And then I'm going to blog about it! And then some young, up and coming Hollywood actress will play the part of me!

What? That's already been done?

Well, drat!

And that, my friends, is the problem with this little blog. It's already been done.

There are some truly gifted paper crafters in the field today. Give them stamps and ink and glue and paper, and they'll create a work of art. They have fantastically popular blogs and galleries that inspire the rest of us to buy more and craft more and surf the web more. Let's face it. If you are on a design team, your sole purpose is to be amazing so that others will purchase stuff in the hopes of one day being amazing, too.

I'm older and wiser now. I know my strengths and my weaknesses.

My strength is not in the things I create with my hands.

My strength has always been in the thoughts I think in my caffeine-riddled pea brain, thoughts that sometimes come together in a cohesive manner to form something original, something that is completely and honestly me.

Where do I go from here?

Well, let me tell you what Mary Rose's Cafe will not be. It will not be the place you will visit to see the newest product being used for some card or paper craft creation. I'll probably still be making cards, but I'm not posting them here. I will still have a gallery at Splitcoast Stampers (under the screen name "maryrose"), but the truth is that I'll only make cards when I want to and when I need to. I'm perilously close to reaching the saturation point with this craft, and I don't want to totally burn myself out...again.

Mary Rose's Cafe will also not be a lifestyle blog. No recipes, no artful photography. Been there, tried that, not trying any more.

This blog will not be my public journal. In this regard, I'm blogging to the Lord now, and that will suffice.

So, I've taken away the cards. I've taken away the recipes. I've taken away the photographs. What's left?

To be completely honest here, not much. Words on a screen. Thoughts. Time and space to clear out some mental clutter, time to find focus and purpose.

I'm taking the time to pursue my writing goals now. I'll occasionally pop in to the cafe to let you know how that's going. And if I have some brilliant thought that needs to be shared, I may share it here.

Today, I feel nothing but thankfulness in my heart for all of you! You have been there at a tumultuous time in my life, and I am so grateful. You befriended this poor friendless soul, and you encouraged me on a daily basis. You sent me cards and notes and gifts, and you offered me fellowship when I so desperately needed it. Bless you!

From humble beginnings to just plain humbled.

From the bottom of my heart...Thank you!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

History of a Blog, Part One

In late fall of 2007, I began a blog (on Typepad back in those early days). I opened the doors to Mary Rose's Cafe for the purpose of helping my good friend, Beth, get her fledgling business enterprise off the ground.

Do any of you remember the Saltbox Studio? It was a line designed by Beth and carried by Amuse Art Stamps. Beth and I poured our heart and soul into that line, but sadly, it just didn't take off as we'd hoped. Consequently, this blog never took off, either.

So many crazy things took place in those early years! I was a Stampin' Up demonstrator, and then I wasn't. I lived in the suburbs of St. Louis, and then moved to the suburbs of Indianapolis. I went from worshipping at a megachurch to worshipping at the Church of the Holy Cornfield. I went from being a mother of a preschooler and school aged children, to now being the mother of one school aged child and two college students. I've had good jobs, I've had bad jobs, and I've had no job.

The blog has changed during these seasons of my life. At times, it's been about business. At other times, it's been personal. I've shared my cards and other creations, and I've shared my life. There have been successes, and there have been struggles.

Last year at this time, I was burned out. Burned out with paper crafting, burned out with blogging, just burned out in general. I nearly gave it all up. But instead, I sold off most of my stash and started anew. New stamps, new companies, new products, a new vision.

One year later, and here I am again. Burned out with paper crafting, burned out with blogging, just burned out in general. I won't lie to you. It's been a tough summer for me. I've been sick since Memorial Day, and let me tell you this. I'm sick of being sick. Life has been pretty draining.

So that's where I'm at, folks. I'm drinking an espresso, trying to get some energy into this tired body, and writing for anyone who will read my ramblings.

Bless you for reading this far! If you care to read more, then stop back tomorrow for the rest of the story.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Organized Chaos

Do you like the new look of the cafe? This background is called Organized Chaos. Yep! That's the one for me! It pretty much sums up my life right now.

This basket is my attempt at organized chaos. Boy shoes of every size, shape, style and smell. My attempt to create a little order in a house full of boys.

This weekend, we're moving Luke to his new rental house near campus. Chaos!

Next weekend, we'll be moving John into his new dorm room. Chaos!

I've been jokingly telling the college boys "I can't miss you if you don't leave!" But we all know that I will miss them when the house goes back to quiet again.

I know that in just a few weeks, life will find a new rhythm again. I just don't know what that rhythm will be.

I can feel a change in the air. It's going to start right here at this blog and then blow into other areas of my life.

Change is good.

Time to organize a little chaos.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Treasures of Ellis Island

Last month's trip to Ellis Island was so inspiring. One of my favorite exhibits in the museum showcased the treasured items that immigrants carried with them from their homeland. Bibles, prayers books, jewelry, clothing, pipes, fine china, musical instruments. It makes you pause and think to yourself "What items would I choose if I could only bring those things that I could carry?"

The room featured a lot of needle art, such as this redwork design. I felt so connected to those hands that labored over a creative pursuit. Every needle threaded, every flower stitched, every bead added, every seam sewn, every quilt and article of clothing made by hand.

I finished this summer basket sampler last night. I stitch because it is meditative. I stitch because I can take it outside and enjoy my garden and the birds while I create. I stitch because there is nothing on television worth watching. I stitch because it gives me a break from reading again. I stitch because it connects me with my past, with those women who carried their floss and linen and scissors over oceans and strange lands.

I connect with those women who knew that a cup of tea served in a china cup can make any day better. The women who knew that if they had their Bible, they had everything they needed.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

This Day

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 14, 2012

Have A Great Day

You know it's going to be a great day when an unexpected visitor stops by to say hello. Yes, a parakeet. Yes, in central Indiana at my bird feeder. Well, that has to be a sign of something great, right?

It seemed like a great day to make a card with a stamp set I received last Christmas and haven't used yet. I have to be careful. It's too easy to fall into the trap of accumulating and not using.

{Today's Brew: Hero Arts stamps and dies, PTI card stock, papers from Crate Paper Pretty Party, doily, yellow baker's twine}

It also seemed like a great day to make a card that wouldn't be too bulky to put in an envelope and mail off. Because sometimes, simple is better.

I'll save the fancy and exotic for my feathered friend.

Have a great day!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Dreaming with Subtitles

The weirdest thing has been happening to me. For the last month, I've had dreams where I am speaking foreign languages. French, German, Spanish. In some dreams, I can converse freely, without even having to think about how to conjugate a verb. In other dreams, my conversational skills are limited, and I'm struggling to get my message across.

Last night, I was struggling to help three Spanish speaking rail workers. "Donde esta l'estacion?" I notice that when I get frustrated in my dream, I'll slip back to French, the only language that I'm really proficient speaking.  My German? Negligible. My Spanish? Only slightly better. And yet, in dreams, I'm conversing with the world.

What does it all mean?

I made a French thank you card this morning, because it's always handy to have a little "merci" on hand.

{Today's Brew: card stock and stamp from PTI, papers and chipboard from Crate Paper Story Teller collection, lace edge punch, grosgrain ribbon}

I pulled out a few French text books and study aids this morning. The foreign language side of my brain was once used on a daily basis, and now it sits in the far recesses of my mind, dusty and covered with spider webs, but still there. If I could, I would learn as many languages as my brain could hold.

Any foreign language speakers out there? What one language have you always wanted to learn?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Lost Arts: The Stocked Pantry

It's been a hot summer, hasn't it? Most days, it was too hot to even think about cooking in the kitchen. Consequently, the daily diet got a little off course.

I picked up this book on clearance at Barnes and Noble this week to help me get back on track. Back in 2009, the Eat This Not That books spurred me on to healthy eating, and I lost nearly twenty-five pounds. I've let some of that weight creep back on, and I'm not happy about it. Seriously, seven pounds can mean the difference between fitting into those old blue jeans or giving up and putting the yoga pants on.

I've often felt that the key to healthy eating is a well-stocked pantry. But the truth is, I don't enjoy grocery shopping, so I put it off until the cupboard is nearly bare. Not a good plan!

The secret for me has always been getting enough fruits, veggies, fiber and lean protein. Snacking? Absolutely, especially if it combines a fiber and protein. Apple slices and peanut butter. Part skim milk mozzarella cheese stick and Triscuits. Hummus and carrots.

I made my own hummus today. This is a special blend that uses a little flavoring from kalamata olives. It got me thinking about the staples in my fridge and pantry. Here are some of my must haves:

marinated artichoke hearts
kalamata olives
diced canned tomatoes
chick peas, black beans, great northern beans
Barilla Plus pastas with extra fiber and protein
couscous and Uncle Ben's quick brown rice
Ghiradelli dark chocolate
olive oil
Gevalia espresso ground coffee
Triscuit or Wheat Thins type crackers

skim milk
feta and parmesan cheese
Tahini for hummus
Lowfat balsamic vinaigrette dressing
lemons, berries
peppers, garlic, onions
cheese sticks

Here's a quick and easy recipe using some pantry staples that made me look like a gourmet chef last week.

Mediterranean Tilapia

Four tilapia filets
1 jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained
1 T. capers
kalamata olives
lemon slices
freshly ground pepper and kosher salt
olive oil

Place filets on cookie sheet. Top with ingredients, drizzle with olive oil, and bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until fish is flaky. Serve on top of Uncle Ben's brown rice and enjoy!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Tiptoeing Into Autumn with WPlus9

Surprise! Mom and sister, Jenny, came for a short visit this week! We had a nice, relaxing time just eating and talking and being together. My sister is a diehard fan of summer. My favorite season? Autumn! And after a hot, dry summer, it can't come fast enough for me! So when August is here, I start to get out a few end of summer/beginning of fall items like sunflowers and apple scented candles.

Today, I made a decidedly autumnal card, using stamps from WPlus9 Design that were originally intended for spring. But seriously, these stamps are so versatile that it just needs a color swap and you can use them year round.

{recipe: Stamps from WPlus9 Design, card stock from PTI, papers from Crate Paper Farmhouse collection, Distress Inks and Distress Stain, marvy scallop square punch, corduroy button and twine}

WPlus9 just debuted their newest August/September release, and it's filled with all the warm country charm of the season! Sunflowers, scare crows, apples and pumpkins. And guess what? I was the lucky winner of two new stamp sets and matching dies! WOO HOO! Check it out!

I can't wait to play with these loverlies! Thanks, Dawn!

Stop back to the cafe in the days ahead to see what I have in store with my new stamps and dies!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Hospitaltiy and the New Neighbors

Happy Monday, Cafe Friends! I have a God story to share with you today. Hope that it will bless you as much as it is blessing me.

We went to Sunday School and church yesterday. We've been very negligent in the Sunday school department, especially where my son Sam is concerned. But the new Sunday school year was beginning, so we made the effort to get there one hour earlier.

We pulled into the lot of the place that I jokingly refer to as The Church of the Holy Cornfield. Yes, we're in the middle of nowhere, with cornfields aplenty. The lot was showing that we weren't the only ones who've been negligent in the Sunday school category. Not many folks there.

We trudge into Sunday School, where five other adults and the pastor are waiting for us. Did I mention that this is a mission plant church? Did I mention that we're small? Did I mention we're in the middle of a cornfield?

The Sunday school lesson was about hospitality.

Very funny, God.

You see, we had new neighbors moving in next door this weekend. They will be renting the house from the single Dad who used to live there. I was a little nervous, not knowing who they were or what they'd be like.

And then the admonition came. Practice hospitality. Do good.

I went home, baked some snickerdoodle cookies, wrapped them up, and stuck a cheerful yellow bow on top.

I stamped a little card...nothing too fancy. Inside, I put our names, our dog's name, and our telephone number.

That evening, I walked over with my oldest son, Luke, and youngest son, Sam. Wow. Look at that! They've already started pruning some bushes. That's more than the single dad ever did. OH MY GOODNESS! Would you look at that! A yellow VW bug in the driveway! I was feeling very hopeful.

And then we meet them. Carol and Brad, empty nesters with some married kids, soon to be married kids, college kids and a few grandkids, too. Carol mentioned they had a little dog. Just a little girl bull mastiff. That made me laugh! We're talking a Henry and Mudge size dog, right? They adopted Bella from friends who were entering the mission field and couldn't take the dog with them.

Carol gushed over my cookies and card. She told me how my house looks so warm and welcoming, like you'd walk up to the front porch and it would give you a big hug. I gave her a big hug for that. Yep, they are awesome people. An awesome christian family that I can't wait to get to know better in the days ahead.

God is good, always. His Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Practice some hospitality today, friends! You'll be glad you did!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Playing with my new friend, Tim

My new friend, Tim Holtz! I was very slow to jump on the Tim Holtz bandwagon. Did I really need new inks and stains? Yes, yes I did! I recently purchased some Tim products like his Distress Inks and Stains, and finally broke them out and played with them this morning. What fun!  I pulled out my Ranger non-stick craft sheet, and laid a piece of Adirondack gloss finish paper on top. Then  I used the stains, swiping, blending, spritzing with water. Finally, when I had it just right, I heat set it.

Next, I used Ranger's Archival Ink to stamp the flowers and sentiment from Unity Stamp Company. I'm all about black-eyed Susans this week, so that was the flower of choice. After stamping, I heat set again. Then, when everything was dry, I trimmed and mounted onto card stock, and voila!

I LOVE the finished product! It looks like an autumnal sunset, complete with dappled clouds. What a happy accident! Super simple, with stunning results.

{Today's Brew: stamps from Unity Stamp Company, Adirondack gloss paper, card stock from PTI, black Arhcival ink, Tim Holtz Distress Stains in Spiced Marmalade, Crushed Olive, Dusty Concord}

Friday, August 3, 2012

Creativity in the Garden

I haven't been paper crafting much this week. My creative pursuit has taken me outdoors and in the garden. This must mean that:

1. Temperatures are cooler in the mornings and evenings, making it slightly more tolerable outdoors.

2. We've had a little rain...just a little, mind you. But enough to make a difference.

3. I'm starting to feel a little better now after three months of chronic Lyme disease. My symptoms haven't completely disappeared, but at least I have some energy again, and for that I'm thankful.

4. Due to the onset of Lyme back in late May, my garden had so many holes and gaps just waiting to be filled!

5. You can buy really nice plants at the garden center for dirt cheap this time of year!

Last month, a blog reader contacted me about a plant that was growing near my tricycle (I think we decided it was Celosia) from an October 2009 post. Ah, what a cool, wet summer that was! My garden looked spectacular then! What a difference a hot, dry summer can make.

I decided to add a lot of perennials in the hopes that they'll fill in next year. Lots of black-eyed Susans paired with Russian sage. Drought resistant? You bet. I picked a lot of plants that will look nice now, but will look even better as autumn approaches. Plants like asters and sedum and blanket flower.

I also transplanted two Spirea bushes, moving them from the front garden to the backyard garden. (More from that garden next time!). I now have two big holes to fill at the back of this garden. I think I'll pick up my favorite Annabelle Hydrangeas and add them to the mix.

Happy Friday, friends!