Monday, March 30, 2015

The Story of the Open House Stew

We've had a revolving door of showings at our house this week.

An agent tour on Tuesday, followed by three house tours.

An open house on Saturday, along with two more house tours.

And every day in between? House showings at all hours of the day, but most often the evenings.

Evening showings pose a problem. How in the world can I feed the family if I have to leave the house at dinner time?

The answer, of course, is that you have to take the family out to eat. It might sound like a great option in the beginning, but it gets old really fast. And expensive.

I finally hit upon a great idea. Make dinner early in the afternoon, serve it in the late afternoon, and then skedaddle!

My body was craving something wholesome and nourishing, so I decided to make my Curried Vegetable Stew. Cauliflower, chickpeas, and assorted veggies. Mmmm!  And my oh my, was it ever delicious!

It was nice to finally sit around our own table again, breaking bread and sharing our day.

We cleaned the dishes, wiped down the kitchen, and left the house for the showing.

But when we came back a few hours later, we walked into the house and were greeted by an unpleasant odor.

"What's that smell?" my eldest asked.

The only way we can possibly describe it? Farts. Honest, it smelled like farts.

"Oh no! How could it smell that bad! I washed the dishes!"

And then it dawned on me. In my haste to get the family out of the house, I forgot to take the trash in the kitchen out to the garbage can in the garage.


Strangely, no offers to buy our house for top dollar came in that night. But I have learned an important lesson. Cooking odors will linger. Burn candles, spray some Febreeze, open a window.

Or better yet, take the family out to dinner...and get your soup at Panera's. ha ha ha! I crack myself up!

If your house is not on the market, and you remember to wash the dishes AND take out the trash, I highly recommend this hearty stew!

Open House Stew (formerly known as Curried Vegetable Stew)

3T. Olive Oil
1 Green Pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small head cauliflower, chopped
2 turnips, chopped (can substitute with potato)
1 carton chicken broth
1 can chickpeas, drained
1 can diced tomatoes
2 t. curry
salt and pepper
2 bay leaves
fresh parsley

In Dutch oven, saute onion, green pepper, and garlic in olive oil. Add turnips and cauliflower, stirring until softened. Then add chicken broth, chickpeas, and diced tomatoes, and seasoning. Cook on low heat until veggies are softened, about one hour. Add chopped parsley as garnish to each bowl and serve.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Finding A Place To Call Home, Part Two

We want community. A place to belong.

And let me tell you, that's a rare and elusive thing on a house hunt.

How will you know, for example, if the neighborhood is friendly and welcoming to newcomers?

How will you know if you are likely to bump into a neighbor at church?

How will you know if there are plenty of residents of varied ages?

How will you know if there will be opportunities to meet your neighbors?


The answer is you cannot know for certain until after you've moved in to your new home. And that is so unnerving!

We have lived in neighborhoods that were warm and welcoming, and we have lived in subdivisions that were subdivided. But we've never known which is which until after the movers have deposited our worldly goods and left.

But not this time.

This time, we've opted to live in a planned community called Mill Creek, where the housing options are varied, the amenities are plentiful, and the chances for community are great.

There is a church in the center of the community, and a marketplace too!

Golf course, biking and walking trails? Check!

Neighborhood pool and community center? Check!

Neighborhood schools? Check!

An interactive farm? How wonderful! This may become even more important when you consider that this is the size of our backyard:

But that's okay! I can make this work...I think. I was happy to hear that the neighbors that live on these streets have alley parties in the summer. How fun!

The house? Well, I hate to talk about it too much because it's not a done deal until the contracts are signed and the keys are handed over. But let me say just a few things: it's an American Four Square style house, with Craftsman details inside like coffered ceilings and board and batten wainscoting. The kitchen? Unbelieveable. I may need to host my own cooking show! The laundry room (because you know how much I love my laundry room!) is so pretty. There are spaces for the boys, spaces for guests, and a really nice basement with a movie viewing area for my husband.

But the thing that's got me really excited? A front porch! A place to sit with a cup of coffee and a good book. A place to meet and greet the neighbors. And maybe even a place to play the dulcimer again.

I have learned to trust my feelings when house hunting. I like to think of it as more of a spirit-guided navigational system that whispers to me.

Not this one. Move along.

That house in that subdivision? Sadness.

That town? Not for you.

But this house? In this community? In this town?

I have a good feeling about this one.

Tell me...have you ever felt that God led you to a certain house or town? I'd love to hear your stories!

Blessings on your Friday, cafe friends!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Finding A Place To Call Home, Part One

Six towns. Thirty-three houses. Three days.

It was a whirlwind Chicago house hunting weekend!

Thankfully, I had done a lot of research ahead of time, and we'd narrowed our choices substantially. We knew that we couldn't just fall in love with a house. We'd also have to love the community. The town had to be the right fit for our family. The schools had to be right. The commute had to be right. The nearby churches had to be right.

We had a lot to consider.

In the end, our hearts told us that we belonged in Geneva, a quaint town in the Fox River Valley.

We're so excited to show the boys our new town! We'll be taking them on a tour over Easter weekend, showing them the sights. I want them to see the schools, the downtown, the library, the parks, the train. We're hoping that they will love it as much as we did.

Lots of prayers now...for house and home, for relocation and transition, for timing and God's perfect plan.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Simple Stories Planner Goes To Chicago!

Last week, I showcased my Websters Pages personal planner pages that I have devoted to house hunting. Today, I thought I'd show you my Simple Stories Life Documented planner for the month of March.

As you can see, March is shaping up to be a pretty crazy month!

I used the Simple Stories Fresh Air Collection to add a little spring to my monthly layout! I combined it with stickers from Life Documented, and added my own personal notes and sketches as well.

And as you can see, this weekend I will be venturing out for my first house hunting trip in Chicago!

I like to include a Bible verse every month. This month's verse is from Joshua 1:9:

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; Do not be discouraged. For the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."

It is so important to remember that truth in the midst of a home relocation, especially when you are uprooting children and saying goodbye to friends and neighbors and everything familiar.

I also like to use the right hand column for any prayers that God puts on our hearts this month.

For my daily pages, I used a combination of Simple Stories Life Documented washi paper tape with stickers and other elements from Simple Stories Homespun collection.

We will have a packed schedule, trying to see houses in six towns in just three days! I will really need my planners to help me keep track of it all! I am following the advice of my Pittsburgh realtor when he told me "Take copious notes!"

I devoted a page to each day, including the town we will be visiting and the houses we will be touring in that town.

I also devoted a few pages to review each town, with a spot to weigh in on the pros and cons of the location, as well as our favorite houses in that region.

 I am loving my pages! And I am loving the fact that I am giving myself permission to use the pretty stickers and not hoard them for some future project, as is my tendency. I like to think of this as illustrating my daily life while sneaking a little art into my schedule.

Here's what I've found since converting to my planner system. I rarely, if ever, look at a wall mounted calendar anymore. I like calendars, and I especially love the monthly illustrations by some of my favorite artists from publishers like Lang and Dayspring and Legacy. But my planners have become my own personal art form. They inspire me to try something creative every day.

I hope my pages have inspired you to try something creative today, too!

Blessings on your weekend, cafe friends! And say a prayer for us as we set out on this new adventure!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Come To Me

I am tired.


Every day, I have a TO DO list that is a mile long.

House hunting. House selling. Cleaning. Staging. Sorting. Appointments. Inspections.

Add to that the normal schedule of school and jobs, shopping and cooking, dishes and laundry.

Add to that a husband who is now living in temporary housing in Chicago.

Add to that the tiniest bit of inconvenience, and it feels like the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.

It's a recipe for exhaustion.

Is it any wonder that I go to bed late at night with a sore neck, wondering why my shoulders and arms are aching. I'm carrying the weight of the world on these shoulders, that's why!


The word came to me last week, when I was so tired that I just wanted to cry.

Weary. Yes! That's me!

And then the Holy Spirit nudged me with the truth.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

There it was. Jesus' personal invitation to me.

In my busyness of life, I have strayed.

I am not in bible study (too busy!), not in fellowship (no time!). Too exhausted and close to tears to even articulate a prayer. And thanks to work and travel, I had not been to my home church in over a month.

I'm not just physically weary. I am spiritually weary, too.

I cannot do it on my own.

And that is why Jesus' invitation was all the more precious this week. He doesn't expect me to.

He beckons me to come to Him.

Come to Him in the Word.

Come to Him in worship.

Come to Him in the fellowship of saints.

Come to Him in prayer.

And so I did. I took this poor weary body and mind and I leaned into Jesus.

I found Him in the Word, found him in worship and fellowship, and found Him in heart to heart prayer.

I came to Him, and He gave me rest.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Yesterday was my first born's twenty-fifth birthday!

Knowing that my eldest would soon be having a birthday, you'd think that I would have made a card ahead of time, right? I mean, it's not as though a mother can forget twenty eight hours of back labor. 28 HOURS OF BACK LABOR! And yes, I sometimes remind him of this fact when I need to add a few mom bragging points. But these days, my To Do list is a mile long, and the hurrier I am, the behinder I seem to be.

All of this to say, I made him two cards. And to follow along with the name of this blog post, here's the Good:

Aww, cute, right? I used a Lawn Fawn note card, added some Lawn Fawn papers, a little flair, a sweet punched heart, and some stickers from Simple Stories to spell out the "you". (I realize now that I really need a "you" diecut!)

Clean and simple. Cute and impactful.

This was card number two, after a failed attempt at quick stamping. Because, let's face it, stamping is just not quick. It takes thought and deliberation. And you really should have a plan before you start.

Here is the result of quick stamping.

The Bad and The Ugly:

Lawn Fawn stamps. PTI inks. There's not one thing that's terribly wrong with this card. There are just a bunch of things wrong that make the overall card a big ole yawn.

I didn't like the colors.

I didn't like the placement of the balloons.

I didn't like that I put the sun on the same plane as the sentiment.

I didn't like that the balloon stamps were unevenly inked.

I just didn't like it. Period.

So I scrapped it and started over.

Sometimes stamping is hard.

Not as hard as 28 HOURS OF BACK LABOR!

But get the idea.

Happy Monday, cafe friends!

Friday, March 13, 2015

House Hunting With Planner

Next week, I will be heading to Chicago for our first house hunting trip. In the meantime, I've been doing a LOT of preliminary work. Talking with realtors, visiting real estate websites, checking on schools and churches and communities. I'm not gonna lie. I have a mini panic attack every day.

This week, after too many cups of coffee left me sleepless at midnight, I decided to add a house hunting section to my personal planner. When life speeds up to a frantic pace, I like to sort it all out with pen and paper. It makes me feel like I am organizing my chaos into manageable parts.

My personal planner is just that. It's personal. I've customized it to suit my style and preferences. That explains why I am using Webster's Pages Color Crush Caramel Planner with Barnes and Noble Punctuate Planner inserts, And to make it even more personal, I am using Simple Stories Homespun and Life Documented collections to jazz it all up.

One of my many "lists" details what we are looking for in our next town.

I came up with a way to document the details of the houses we will be touring. I simply printed this onto my Simple Stories Homespun papers, cut it to size, punched the holes, and voila!

I can tell you from past experiences that after a day of touring a dozen or so houses, they all start to blend together. It's good to take notes! This way, when you are trying to process all of the information over a bowl of guacamole and chips later that night, you can pull out your notes to confirm the details and compare impressions.

I also have a "Wish List" for our future home. Granted, you never get everything on your wish list, but it is so important to create one anyway. And even more importantly, refer to the list often when making the house decision.

You have to ask yourself "Does this house suit our needs?"

We once bought a house based solely on the view out the back windows. I was recovering from the flu at the time, and was in no place to make sane and rational important life decisions. When we got home, I couldn't even remember the color of the kitchen cabinets (cherry, not my favorite). I had not given the house tour its due diligence, and ended up with bathrooms that had no drawers for storage, a balcony with no access to the backyard,  a dining room with no space for our furniture, a freezing cold basement, and a layout with terrible noise control.

As far as house hunting wish lists go, our needs are pretty open ended. We don't need a fully remodeled chef's kitchen, even if it would be nice. We don't need a specific square footage, just good flow and floor plan usage. We are not picky about decor, as that is so easily changed. We look for things that aren't quite as easily classified: quality, character, charm, coziness.

I hope this planner will serve me well on our house hunting trip next weekend. After all, a good late night panic attack is a terrible thing to waste.

Blessings on your Friday, cafe friends!