Saturday, November 29, 2014

Why I am so thankful for my super smart 2013 self!

As October came to a close, I flipped the calendar to a new month and found this. A note! A note from my 2013 self. And here is what it said:

You see, my 2013 self was very smart. She knew a few things about herself. For starters, she knew that she was prone to selective amnesia regarding certain events. This plays out in thoughts like this: Surely the turkey wasn't that bad. The meal couldn't possibly have taken that many days to prepare. It wasn't really that expensive, was it?

Yes. Yes to all of the above. I just had to look in my financial book to see that I spent $75 on a dry, tasteless bird last year. Apparently, free range organic turkey equates to dry and nasty. It's all of those preservatives and artificial ingredients that make that Butterball turkey so delicious.

And so I listened to 2013 Mary Rose and I ordered the Bob Evans thanksgiving entire meal for the price that I paid for the aforementioned nasty bird.  And it was delicious! I served it up on my fancy Spode turkey plates and Longaberger dishes, and we enjoyed it just as if it had cost me $300 and a week of preparation.

So what did I do with all of that free time on Thanksgiving Day? I enjoyed the guests that came for dinner.

It was a lovely day!

I am pretty sure there is a message waiting for me for the month of December...which is Monday, my friends. Aack! It's time to buy a new calendar for 2015! May I make a suggestion? Leave your future self a few notes on that calendar. You will be one year older and one year wiser for the effort.

Hope your Thanksgiving was full of blessings!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Sharing What I Learned From Pinterest

So I have these Levi's blue jeans that I love, but they just seemed to be getting smaller with each wash. I swear, they were shrinking. I wasn't growing. Honest. Uh huh.

I am the queen of laundry in this house, and I am normally so careful with the wash. But once or twice, these probably got thrown into the dryer instead of being hung to dry. Boo hoo!

What to do?

Pinterest to the rescue!

I found a pin on Pinterest for how to un shrink clothing.

Step one: Soak item in luke warm water with a capful of baby wash. Let it soak for a while to soften and loosen the fibers in the fabric.

Step two: Remove clothing but do not rinse. Squeeze out excess water.

Step three: Roll the jeans in a towel to remove excess water.

Step four: Place the jeans on a clean dry towel. Now gently pull on the jeans in all directions to reshape. Allow to lay flat to dry.

And when they are dry, voila! Your favorite jeans, back to the shape they were when you first bought them! This works for sweaters, too.

My jeans are finally comfy again, and I no longer feel like a stuffed turkey when I try to put them on.

Tuck this useful knowledge away for after Thanksgiving Day feasting. Trust me. You will thank me later.

And just tell yourself "It's not me. It's the jeans."

Blessings and thanksgiving, friends!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Never Make A Major Announcement

What happens when you make a major announcement in a public profession-kind of way?

The universe instantly conspires against you to make certain that the thing you announced you would do is exactly the thing you will look back on and see that you, indeed, have not done.

It's a conspiracy.

It has been two months since I last reported here on the blog that I would be taking a break to write! write! write! until my stubby little Hobbit-sized fingers were sore from the writing.

Guess who has not been writing.

{insert woman sheepishly raising hand in shame here!}

Which begs the question...what in the world have I been doing for the past two months?

It might be easier to tell you what I have NOT been doing.

I haven't crafted a card in over two months. Not even one.

I haven't been house fluffing.

I haven't been entertaining out-of-town guests.

I haven't been to bible study with my group.

I haven't even added a single word to my novel.

Well, now that THAT list is out in the open, what about the other list? The "What I did on my two months of blogging vacation" list?

I spent my twenty-fifth anniversary with the love of my life in California.

I drank wine.

I hiked in the redwood forests.

I crossed the Golden Gate bridge.

I dipped my toes into the Pacific ocean.

I ate amazing food at vineyards too beautiful for words.

I got a job.

And then I quit that job and got another job.

I crafted a collage-style painting.

I visited the women in my family.

I cut my bangs...myself.

I made delicious pies and soups.

I cared for sick boys and old dogs.

I went to church.

I heard a sermon on being faithful using our talents for God's glory.

I felt that familiar conviction of the Holy Spirit.

And so I came here to say... major announcement.

Just a "Hello, friends!"

It is well with my soul.

Hope it is well with yours, too!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Pursuing a God-Sized Passion

Thank you, dear cafe friends, for your understanding and encouragement! After reading so many of your kind comments, I found a theme that became quite evident.

I like paper crafts, but it is not my passion.

I like needle art, but it is not my passion.

I like house and home fluffing, but it is not my passion.

Words. Words are my passion.

You, dear readers, identified with the words. And that makes me so happy!

You see, for quite some time I've been working on a novel. Yep. A novel! It's a pretty ambitious thing, I'll grant you that. It's a story that just won't leave me alone. I've been known to put it down for months at a time, and when I pick it up again, my first thought is "You know, this is pretty good. Why did I stop?"

Recently, God has been whispering to me "Why not now? Let's get this thing finished now."

And the timing just feels right.

I am laying down the blog so that I can pick up this writing pursuit. I need to give it more attention and discipline than I have been doing thus far. It's a big God-sized dream that seems impossible, which is exactly why it now seems so plausible.

By the way, the protagonist of the story may or may not be a crafter. Just sayin'. ;)

I may pop in here periodically to tell you all how I'm doing. Actually, I hope you will hold me accountable to keep this momentum going!

You, sweet friends, have blessed me this week. I can't begin to tell you how much it means to me!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Blogging, or When The Lord Chooses Not to Bless It

This should be a hard post to write, but I found it to be surprisingly easy.

I am closing the cafe.

It wasn't one defining moment that brought me to this decision. Just a slow decline and an awareness that I've lost my way.

Seven years of actively sharing my ups and downs.

Remember when I was so sick with Lyme disease? And subsequently, suffered from depression?

Remember when I moved from St. Louis to Indiana? And then from Indiana to Pennsylvania?

Remember when I was a Stampin' Up demonstrator?

Remember when I was on a design team?

Remember when I sent kids off to college?

Remember when I sold off nearly my entire collection of stamps?

Remember when I was going to quit stamping and blogging all together?

Blogging was such an important outlet for me. It helped create a sense of community when I didn't have a community. It helped me reach out to friends and family far and wide who just wanted to peek in at what was happening in my crazy roller coaster life.

And it was all well and good. Until it wasn't.

God has really blessed me in countless ways the past year. I have made so many new friends and new connections in a new community. New home, new garden, new churches, new interests. He has blessed me every step of the way and answered prayers in such obviously blatant and lovely ways.

But there's this one area that God has chosen not to bless.


It's been a dead end at every possible turn.

This is not to blame you, the twelve people who consistently read my blog. (Even as I type that, it makes me laugh out loud!) I blame myself. I never had a consistent voice.

Am I a crafting blogger? Am I a home blogger? Am I a mommy blogger? Am I a faith blogger?

I just wanted to be me, a little bit of everything served up with a side of coffee. But the blog world has transformed into an enterprise, a marketing tool. You have to have a "brand" to sell, and if you are not consistent with your branding, no one will read you and no one will care.

I suppose that my background in feature writing is to blame. I was never interested in just one thing. I wanted to write about everything!

The truth is I am a terrible blogger. Pretty, carefully cropped photos showing the prettiest slice of life? Nope, that is not my thing. I know my strengths and weaknesses. A good writer? Yes. A good blogger? No. Good writers do not always good bloggers make, and vice versa.

Perhaps this is why God has chosen not to bless my blog. It is not the ministry that He has in store for me.

I find that the more I get sucked into anything involving technology (the internet, email, Facebook, e-reader), the less I feel God saying "Yep! This is where I want you to be." The more I try to feel connected through technology, the less I actually feel connection. The more I research the process of creating, the less I actually create.

Back in July, I decided to "unfriend" myself from Facebook. Too much drama. Too little of meaning and importance. It was an artificial world that created the impression that I was building relationships, when in fact, I was not. It was the best decision I'd made all summer.

I think it's time to go one step further and "unfriend" myself from the blogging world. I want to be a better steward of the time, talents and treasures that God has given me. So I will continue to write, but not for blog posts. I will continue to create, but not for the photographic opportunity. I am unplugging the "artificial" espresso machine so that I can connect with people face to face. Over a cup of coffee in my kitchen. At the corner diner. In the line at Starbucks.

I am going out of business, folks. The cafe is closings its doors. But if you are ever in Pittsburgh, I'd love to meet you for a nice latte. My kitchen is always open!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Free To Put A Bird On It!

My sister and I noticed a theme last weekend. If you have something old and you want to make it look like fall, you "stick a mum in it!" Crocks, barrels, wheel barrows, watering cans. Stick a mum in it, and you've got autumn!

I also like to "put a bird on it!" And it just so happens that's the theme for today's Free For All challenge at Splitcoast Stampers!

{Today's Brew: stamps from Papertrey Ink, PTI inks and card stock, Simple Stories papers, SU lace punch, SU gingham ribbon}

Joyful Friday, friends!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Stenciled Trees

Today's Ways To Use It Challenge at SCS: Stencils! I've purchased quite a stash of Memory Box stencils from Stamp Fanci, my local stamp shop. I love stencils! So easy to use, so many techniques that can be applied. One of my fast and easy stencil application of Distress Stains, which is what I used here.

{Today's Brew: PTI Leaf Prints stamp set and die, SU God's Way stamp set, PTI card stock and ink, Distress Stains, Memory Box stencil, PTI button twine}

I thought this Bible verse was perfect for this card. Whenever I go out to get the mail, I look up into this maple tree and think of what a blessing our new home is. I may be thinking of these "blessings" a little differently when I'm getting blisters from raking all these leaves, but for now, they are a "good and perfect gift".

Blessings, cafe friends!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Diner Love

Do you love diners? My family loves them! We try to avoid chain restaurants, preferring to explore the local gems instead.

Isaly's is conveniently located just a few doors down from my favorite local stamp shop, Stamp Fanci!

Look at those vintage colors!

We were there, bright and early, for breakfast one morning recently. I love a place that serves breakfast all day long. And coffee. Lots of coffee!

When you move to a new city, you have to replace all of your old favorites with new haunts. We went to a new diner after church this Sunday, and my husband said it may be a new weekend tradition. :)

Tell me, what's your favorite local restaurant?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Koalas For The Birthday Boy

Sam loves koalas. I think it must be a comic book/manga art kind of thing. When birthday boy turned eleven on Friday, I knew I would have to pull out the koala from the Lawn Fawn stamp set Critters Down Under! I used the grass die below, and used the stitched sunshine die to make a sunny statement in the corner.

I decided to fussy cut the koala so that he'd stand out against the leafy backdrop. To tell you the truth, sometimes it is easier to fussy cut a simple shape than it is to get it stamped exactly on a diecut. All it takes is a good pair of scissors, like Stampin Up's paper snips, and you are good to go.

After making the card, I felt totally Koala-fied to make another surprise for Sam. A stuffed sock koala!

You may have seen quite a few sock monkeys, but how many sock koalas have you spotted? This one is a total original of my own design.  I simply shortened the legs and arms, made some big floppy ears, and used felt to add the distinctive nose, white ears, and white belly. Buttons for eyes, a bow tie to give the head its form, and voila! I gave him raw edges, which adds a little shabby flair to this fellow. Sam loves him, and he's dubbed him "Limes".

I may have to market this pattern. After all. I have the koala-fications! LOL!

Happy Monday, cafe friends!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Pumpkin Spice

My son, Luke, showed me this one. I laughed out loud!

Yes, pumpkin flavored everything is here.

Brace yourself...I even have a new pumpkin spice car!

Ready for adventure!

Maybe an autumnal road trip, with a pumpkin spice latte at hand.

Orange you glad you visited the cafe today?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

When Kindness Matters

We've been visiting a new church for the past month, and things are looking promising for this one.

Yes, it's a forty minute drive from our home, but it's also a lovely drive through farm country, with views of rolling hills and golden fields along the way. We pass farmer's markets loaded with bushels of apples and nursery centers with rows of colorful mums. I can only imagine how inspiring this drive will be when the leaves are in full color this fall.

I noticed something about our new Sunday drives to church this week. Somehow, some way, this deliberate action of making the trek to church has turned our ordinary Sundays into Sabbath days.

We talk on our long drives, as a family, without interruption of televisions and laptops and cell phones. And after church, we make a point of going out to eat for brunch somewhere along the way. After that, we might just explore a shop along our new route, too. And before we know it, church is not a thing to cross off our To Do list. IS the point of our entire day.

Last week, we received a very sweet card from the pastor. And this week, we were able to talk to him after services. We told him briefly about our journey to find a new church this past year. And that's when he said the kindest, most amazing thing.

"Two in the morning, two in the afternoon. No matter the time, if you have a care or concern that needs a pastor, I hope you will think of me. I know how hard it is to be without a church home, and until you find yours, I hope you will consider us your church family."

His words brought tears to my eyes. So gracious, so humble. What a servant heart!

Looking back at this year long journey, I can see how God has provided for our little family in ways big and small. This week, I know for certain that He answered my prayer, this desire of my heart.

Prayer changes everything.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

PS Anything Goes: That's Nuts!

I needed a fun birthday card today, something that expresses the sentiment "You're 60? Impossible!" Naturally, I went for the fall leaves and acorns!

I made this for the Paper Smooches Anything Goes Challenge!

I did a little paper piecing on the acorn, then used the leaf die to make a negative image on the polka paper. Another leaf for the top, and there it is!

I stamped the sentiment with Paper Smooches Alphadots, which is probably my favorite alphabet set of all time. So simple, and you never have to worry about lining just works, magically, every time.

{Today's Brew: Falling For You (Paper Smooches), Alphadots (PS), PS leaf die, Simple Stories Harvest Lanes papers, PTI card stock, SU woodgrain embossing folder, button twine, Prisma markers}

And while I was photographing this card on my sidewalk, I looked around...fall leaves everywhere! Sorry, sisters, the calendar may say end of summer, but the trees don't lie!

Autumn...coming soon to a town near you!

Monday, September 1, 2014

It's Here!

It's here! It's here! It's finally here!

Apple season!

I went to the orchard this week and bought the first crop of early apples...Ginger Gold. Mmm! Crisp and tart! Soon, the macs and the golden delicious will be harvested. Oh the joy!

My dog, Maggie, loves apples. We share them in the afternoon...a slice for me, a slice for the dog. When you are nearly fourteen years old, you cherish the simple, drool-worthy things in life, like apple time with mama.

I made this apple card, today! My friend, Marylynn, reminded me to get out my flip card dies and put them to use this week! I pulled out some papers from Stampin' Up (gotta love that clearance rack!), and paired them with the stamps from Papertrey Ink's Fruit Fusion: Apples.

Apple season is probably my favorite part of autumn. What's yours?

Happy Monday, cafe friends!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

No Words

Some days, when I approach the throne of grace in prayer, I feel a little like Ralphie in A Christmas Story, dumbfounded that he is actually, finally sitting on Santa's lap. He knows what he wants to ask Santa for (Red Rider BB Gun!), but suddenly, he has no words.

No words.

I don't ever want to treat God like Santa, with a long list of wishes to be granted. I do know, however, that my heavenly Father wants to hear from me and that He has only good things in store for me. He wants me to pour out my cares and worries and big dreams before Him. But there are days when I have a hard time articulating what is in my heart.

I can't help but laugh when I think of the story my sister, Jenny, shared with me. She was in a catechism class filled with students, and the Pastor was leading the prayer. And then he bounced that prayer around the room for others to add in, and when that open ended prayer came to my sister, she said with all honesty
"Sorry, Pastor. I've got nothin' !"

Yep. I've got nothin'. But the truth is, I have so much that I can't even begin to put it into words.

Moments like this:

And this:

First day of school moments.

Sons making long road cars...that they will be driving...moments!

Where do I start?

Is God honored by my really creative prayers? Seriously? The creator of the universe is going to give me a better grade because I came up with a new way to combine consonants and vowels that has not been thought of since the beginning of time?

I don't think so.

It is times like these that I go to the prayers that I have memorized and tucked away for just such occasions.

And when even those prayers are hard to grasp, I go here:

My Pastor in Indiana gave me this sweet book of prayers when we became members of the congregation. It is filled with prayers for just about any occasion, along with four weeks of morning and evening prayers. I find myself increasingly turning to this little book as my prayer prompter. And invariably, the daily prayer will speak to me in a fresh way.

Like today.

"Keep me humbly dependent on You for every good and perfect gift, for You are my Father, and I am your child."


For when I have no words.

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Apples For Breakfast

They come every morning for breakfast. Twin fawns, sweet as can be, until they start eating my flowers. And then they're not so sweet.

They've grown a lot this summer, too. It must be the steady diet that my flower garden provides! Now that the crab apple trees are loaded with ripe apples, they come every morning for their breakfast. Even though Mama Doe is not in sight, you can be sure that she's not far behind. She keeps a watchful eye on this pair. If they get too curious and come to close, she gives a warning twitch of her ears and then they leap back to her side.

Aww! Such a sweet speckled fawn!

I had to make a deer card in her honor!

{Today's Brew: Lawn Fawn stamps, papers, and dies, PTI card stock, prisma markers}

I used Prisma markers to give the fawn that speckled look!

I used the stitched cloud dies to make the toppers for my trees!

Hope your day is filled with sweet surprises!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Return Of An Old Friend

It came very subtly this year. We've become accustomed to the cooler than normal temperatures this summer. And cool evenings signaled the trees to switch into autumn mode.

Apples on the trees. Colorful leaves swirling around the patio. A shifting of the light and a crispness to the air.

Subtle. But significant.

Autumn may be early, but it is certainly here!

Sam will start the new school year on Thursday. Just as the sun shifts in the autumn sky, my calendar shifts into the ebb and flow of routine. Packing lunches and PTA. Book bags and Bible studies. Homework and hot soup.

Hello, Autumn! I'm so happy you're back!

I made this card for the Clean and Simple Coloring challenge at Splitcoast Stampers.  I pulled out my really really old Watercolor Wonder crayons from Stampin Up for this card!

{Today's Brew: Stamps and dies from Lawn Fawn, card stock from PTI, WW crayons from SU!}

Thanks for visiting the cafe today!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Practicing Hospitality

We have been hosting a lot of out-of-town guests this summer. Wave after wave of friends and family have come and gone. This was our summer of the stay-cation. We stayed here at home, while others considered us their vacation destination.

My husband and I have gotten pretty good in our respective hosting roles. I prep and clean and shop and cook. He plans the adventures and entertainment. I put out clean sheets and fresh towels. He packs bikes on the rack and water bottles for the trail. I make a pretty good espresso. He makes us laugh.

God's word encourages us to practice hospitality. And it does take practice. Hospitality means opening your home and saying "Here we are, with all of our faults and imperfections. Here you will probably find a cobweb in a neglected corner, a weedy patch in the garden, a carton of creamer that may be past its expiration date. But hopefully, you will also find love and laughter, comfort and joy."

We so treasure our time with family and friends. Mornings at the table, piled high with cookbooks and magazines. Dinners at local restaurants. Desserts on the patio with candles flickering in the darkness. Conversation and confession. Bread and wine. Communion.

It has been a busy, crazy, spontaneously planned kind of summer, the kind of summer that we will look back on in the snowy days of winter and say to each other "Wasn't that fun?"

"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms." 1 Peter 4:8-10

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Simple Change For The Birds

Last month, I moved our bird feeder. Not a big move, really. Just closer to the house so that I could see the birds from the kitchen window without having to grab my binoculars.

The bird feeder relocation had a huge impact! Suddenly, birds were flocking to the feeder all day!

Sam has been finding some really pretty feathers in the garden. Bright yellow feathers from the gold finch, blue feathers from the blue jay. Precious.

This card was inspired by those fancy feathers! I tried my hand at embossing paste with a stencil, and it was a lot of fun! I like the results, and will definitely have to try this again.

{Today's Brew: stamps from WPlus9, PTI card stock, embossing paste, memory box stencil, Distress Markers, button twine, SU burlap ribbon}

Thanks for visiting the cafe today! Make sure you visit Monday's post to see what items I have listed for the big Summer Sale!