Some happy thoughts on a sad day

It was a year ago today that my younger brother passed away in drowning accident. I recently mentioned some more serious thoughts about his life and example, because his life truly was focused on what was important – serving God. Today, though, on this day where tears keep springing to my eyes, I wanted to share a few things that can’t help but bring a smile to my face, even while the tears still come.

Just random funny stuff he would say on Twitter…

A quote from one of his sermons, which our friend Hannah Roy sketched. It’s very indicative of how Adam thought … thankful for even little and quirky things, but always with a mindset toward God. You can listen to his lesson here (first one under Sermons -> 2012). Here is Hannah’s sketch…

And my new shirt, which features one of Adam’s original drawings of a robot punching a T Rex. I love it. Adam had been planning to sell t-shirts to help put our younger siblings through college. Adam didn’t get to fulfill those plans, but some of Adam’s friends, including Stephen Rouse, have helped to make some of Adam’s t-shirt designs a reality. So thankful. And the mug is a random quote mug we gave Adam that he used a lot:

I miss him. But he still makes me smile.

You are invited!!

Even if you don’t know much about me … you may know that I love books. In my art shop, FlourishCafe, I have designed a whole slew of prints with the theme of books and reading. I tend to devour books and have trouble putting them down. I love classics, I love sci-fi/fantasy, I love historical fiction, I love dystopian, I love mysteries, I love non-fiction.

So! Here’s the plan. As a part of kicking things back off in my blog and business this month, I’m going to be having a Book Party next Tuesday, live on Facebook!

I’ll have fun bookish games, ideas for encouraging a love of reading in kids, holiday shopping, aaaand, of course, fun prizes. I’ll have free book/reading-themed art prints from my FlourishCafe shop for prizes – and also free books from Usborne Books & More. Ever since I was … I don’t know, 13? … I LOVED Usborne books. They are my go-to place for engaging non-fiction. I’ve loved them for a long time, but just recently I became a part of their team, so I’ll have some Usborne books to share and give away for prizes as well.

Here are some previews of some prize options…

And here’s what to expect at the party:

SO! If you’d like to come hang out for some bookish fun, prizes and holiday shopping, let me know! It’s going to be a Facebook Event, and invite only, because I don’t want to be one of those people who is flooding everyone’s feed with stuff they’re not wanting to see. So if you want to come, just message me on Facebook, and I’ll add you as a friend so I can invite you to the party. (You can always un-friend me afterwards if you want, but Facebook is set up so the only way I can invite someone to an invite-only event is to be friends with them!) Here is my Facebook:

And … the first 20 people to RSVP “going” on the event each get an extra entry for the prizes, so don’t be shy to drop me a note. :)

So, here are the details …
What: Book Party!
When: Tuesday, Nov 18th @ 9:30 pm EST
Where: LIVE on the Facebook Event page
Who: Anyone who gets in touch with me to let me know they’d like to come! (Although, fyi on legal stuff … due to rules I have to follow, I can only offer the giveaways to 18+ in the US only.)

Hope to see some of you there – I think it will be fun!

A Fall Favorite – Spiced Tea Recipe

I love seasonal foods. Fresh strawberries sliced onto oven pancake in the spring, homemade chocolate ice cream in the summer, rich white chocolate “snowball” cookies in the winter. And in the fall, spiced tea. One of the reasons I love spiced tea is because you get to enjoy it in two different ways. First, as it simmers during the day and fills your home with the delicious aroma of cinnamon, cloves, apples, and a touch of citrus. And then, of course, as you wrap your hands around the steaming mug and get to sip the cozy autumn flavors.

It is very easy to make, and just creates a really nice atmosphere to have simmering as guests arrive for a fall gathering. Basically, it is a matter of throwing a lot of things in a pot, and enjoy the aroma and the taste. I also sometimes put in in the crockpot to keep warm and serve.

Below is the recipe I use. You can click here (or on the image below) to get the printable PDF version. Enjoy! :)

What are you some of your favorite autumn foods? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Opinions wanted!

Hello again friends. I have so many ideas bouncing around in my head, and I need your opinions!

So, as I mentioned earlier this week, I’m dusting off my blog and getting back into the swing of things. I’m working on planning my upcoming blog posts, and I’ve been trying to get a sense for which types of topics and directions I want to focus on with my blog. But, considering I’m not the one who reads this blog, I thought it would be a good idea to get input from those of you who do. :)

The types of topics I cover on my blog are pretty varied, but all have the central theme of things that affect our home and lifestyle. Here are some topics that I’ve done in the past … some of which I intend to include, but some of which I’m on the fence about continuing. So, let me know which types of things sound most interesting to you – and also if you have any ideas/requests that are not here! This is certainly not an exhaustive list, just kind of a sampling of things I’m tossing around…

Topics! In no particular order

DIY: Projects and how-to’s

BIZ: Running a handmade or creative business

OM NOM: Cooking, food, recipes

BIBLE: Verse printables & perspective

HOME: Family, marriage, schooling

APT: Organization & decor

DESIGN: Graphic design & art tips/info

WORDS: Books, reading, writing

PANACHE: Fashion & style

GO: Travel & exploration

So, a couple questions – and feel free to only answer one or answer all! I appreciate any feedback!

1. Which of the topics interest you?

2. Are there any topics not listed above that you would enjoy seeing here?

3. Is there a post or topic on my blog that you’ve found particularly helpful in the past?

4. If you remember, what first brought you to my blog?

Leave your thoughts and answers in the comments below! Thanks!

The Last 2 Years & what it means to Flourish

Hello friends!

Well, despite a couple very half-hearted attempts to revive my blog, it has been sitting dormant for almost two years. In some ways I’m rather embarrassed about that, but in other ways, I’m not embarrassed at all. It’s been a difficult couple years, and honestly, there have been more important things that truly needed to take precedent. But as things are rolling into a little easier phase now, I feel I can again pick up blogging — and I’m looking forward to it! As for the last couple years, though, I’d like to share what has been going on … and what it is that I mean by a “flourishing abode”.

There was a time a little over a year ago when I was considering whether I could get back into blogging.
It didn’t end up working out. But I do remember one thing that struck me, as I considered my little online domain … the name of my blog. “The Flourishing Abode”. I looked around at my life – and it struck me that some people might not call it “flourishing”.

In the past few years, there has been a lot of upheaval….

There have been times where we had no idea where our income would come from or where we would be living. We’ve had job changes, and we’ve moved several times in the last few years … the last time was a very sudden move this summer which was not by our own choice, but circumstances outside our control. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, and we love where we are now — but there were scary moments not knowing what was going to happen. Over and over again, when things were unknown, we were blessed with what we needed and more, even if it was difficult or different than we had planned. But to an observer’s eye, the word “flourishing” probably isn’t what would come to mind to describe our physical situation over the last few years.

In the past few years, our marriage has gone through a time of change….

There was crisis – serious crisis. But we came out of it on the other side with a deeper and happier love than ever before … and it’s because long before either of us took vows to love each other, we each committed to love God more than anything else. It was that first love, and being true to it, that carried us through the hard times, through the tears and heartache, to the other side where we could actually overcome the crisis. And now, we are happier and more in love than I could have imagined, and I am constantly amazed by what a wonderful husband I have. But in the middle of the hard times, it didn’t look like or feel like “flourishing”.

In the past two years, my family has experienced the joy of birth – and ache of death…

In August of last year, our daughter Evangelene was born into this world. A few months later, in November, my brother Adam passed from this world in a tragic drowning accident at the young age of 25. Evangelene and Adam never got to meet. We were going to get to see Adam just a little later in November … but it never happened. My little brother was gone. And yet … not lost. He was first and foremost a child of God. His determination to serve God defined him. He also had an incredibly silly sense of humor, he was a talented musician, and very athletic. But those things are not what defined him. It was his faith in God.

A year later, I still miss him terribly … I wish he could call me on the phone and do his ridiculously accurate Chewbacca impression or recite random facts on my voice mail about African elephants (yes, he’d done that before).

That won’t happen now.

But there is a much greater hope: “But I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.” 2 Timothy 1:12

And that gets back to what it means to flourish. When I describe our home as a flourishing abode, I don’t mean there are no hard times. I don’t mean we always have tons of money. I don’t mean that there aren’t tears, heartache or sadness. Those things happen.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. … So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

(2 Corinthians 4:7-10, 16-18 ESV)

A lot of things may crumble around us … but the “inner self” can still be “renewed day by day”. That is how I want to flourish.

When I first started this blog, I initially considered naming it “The Flourishing Home”, but I chose Abode instead, because it sounds more temporary. Where we are right now — this apartment, this body, this life — is just a temporary abode. Sure, there are hard things sometimes. The last few years have been the hardest of my life so far- and I’m sure there will be other hard times ahead. But even in the midst of it, we can flourish, because we are not alone. There is One who will take us to our true home someday, when this temporary life is over. It is that hope and focus that can make a home flourish, whatever comes. It’s not just a catchy title, it’s my goal. To flourish in this temporary abode, because I know what I have believed, and I AM persuaded that He is able to keep me until that last day.

Here is a verse that has long been a favorite of mine … I’ve read it over and over and over again.
This is how and where I want our family to flourish…

That also ties into the verse I have on the banner at the top of my blog: “A merry heart has a continual feast.” (Proverbs 15:15) It’s not, “the one who has a physical feast on the table has a continual feast” or “the one who has an easy time in life has a continual feast.” It’s the one with a merry heart … the one who chooses to see the joy, whatever is on their figurative plate.

And lest this seem like a dreary post about how hard life has been in the last couple years … things are really wonderful right now. I even have enough time to get back into blogging! As my friend Lori Biesecker says, life is full of mountains and valleys. I’ve recently been through some difficult valleys, but right now I’m enjoying a peaceful mountain top. And I’m sure, for as long as the Lord lets me continue in this trek through life, there will be more valleys and more mountains. But He is there through all of it, and that is a blessing beyond words. That is the reason to have a merry heart, and to flourish, whether there are mountains or valleys along the way.

Thanks for sticking around with me. I’d love to hear from you in the comments below, even if it’s just a “hello!”

A happy announcement for our family…

Yes, we are expecting or second child!!

And yes, I am still alive. After almost a year of posting on my blog multiple times every week, even while travelling, or packing, or moving across the country — I suddenly fell off the face of the internet. My last post was at the end of November saying I would be back in a week. Yeaaah, that didn’t happen. There has been a lot of difficult things going on lately, and added on top of that, we just moved into a new apartment, Tim had to start working both an overnight job and a day job, and I have been very sick.

BUT – the good news is … Tim was able to quit both of those draining jobs and is now, for the first time ever, able to put his masters degree to work, and is officially an engineer! So happy for him – and so happy that we get to have more family time now that he only has to work one job. And, super happy news for us, the reason I’ve been so sick is that I’m expecting! I’m due in August, and I’m currently 16 weeks along. Our 5 year old is SO excited to be becoming a big sister. :) And a lot of the other difficult things are simultaneously getting better and making us stronger in the process. We are so thankful to God for his provision and seeing us through some dark days.

And sometimes in life you have to say “good-bye” to things that are, perhaps, nice and fine, in order to make room for something better. And so, I am officially closing down my graphic design business and shutting down my Etsy shop for good. We are no longer dependent on it financially, and while I’m grateful that I was able to help our family while still staying at home with our daughter, I am SO much looking forward to being able to devote more of my energy to our family and to more important things. I was, in fact, also planning to shut down my blog, but various family members and friends (including my husband) really urged me to keep it going. And I think I will – it is nice to have a creative outlet, and one where I can chronicle and look back at later and (perhaps) write something that someone else will enjoy, is worth it to me. I will not plan to post 3 times a week, like before, probably more along the speed of once a week. And the focus will be much more on the home and not on business … which was, after all, my intention in the first place with this blog.

But my Etsy shop … it’s going. I’m planning to close in about a week. So if there’s anything you’ve wanted to buy from my shop, now is the time to grab it. I’ve got some inventory I’m looking to get rid of, so starting today until I close, with any order I will also include 3 more prints for free (of my choosing from my inventory.) But very soon it will be closed for good. It feels a little bitter sweet, but I’m also really looking forward to the first time in 3+ years to not be shipping out orders anymore. :)

Anyway, I know I kind of abandoned my blog for a couple months there, and I’m not sure how many of you are still around. If you ARE still around … thank you for your patience. :) I’m so excited about this new phase of our life, and I’m also looking forward to writing here on the blog again.


Stay tuned – we’re getting a new Abode!

We’re getting a new abode! And I don’t mean online – I mean in real life. Many of you know that about 3 months ago, our family moved to Boston. What you may not know is that in that interim time, we haven’t had our own home. Some dear friends of ours let us use their finished basement as our home base while my husband was working on getting a job up here. We’ve felt so blessed to be able to spend this time with our friends, and grow closer to them and learn from their godly examples. Things have been clicking along for Tim and now he does have a job — and this weekend we are at last able to move into our own apartment!

I’ve thought before that it might seem a little odd that I write a blog called “The Flourishing Abode”, at a time when we didn’t have our own home. And even when we have had our own home, I’ll be the first to tell you, I’m no great housekeeper. But, really, the space in which we live is not really what this blog is about. The important thing to me is not the house, but the home. And we constantly have to be working to improve our home and our family, because that is so much more important than a physical building. BUT … it is going to be nice to have our own physical apartment again! (And I do look forward to taking care of our family’s physical space with a new-found respect after being without it – here’s to improving my housekeeping skills!)

I’m really tickled about the apartment we found. It’s definitely going to be very urban living, which I’m excited about – we’ll be a 5 minute walk to the subway station. Bonus points – we live next door to a branch of the Boston Public Library. *fist pump* (On the off chance that you’ve never visited my art print shop, let’s just say a significant part of it is dedicated to my love of books.) We’ll be without a fridge for a short time, and I’m not quite sure how we’re going to get our furniture up the twisty stairs, but I know everything is going to work out just fine. I’m just SO excited! I hope to be able to put up some pictures of our new place before too long.

In the meantime, though, due to the huuuuge number of things I have to do this week, such as shipping all my orders from Black Friday – Cyber Monday, plus moving our things out of the storage unit and into our new place, I’m taking a one week hiatus from blogging. I’ll look forward to be back next Wednesday and pick up where I would have been this week, if we weren’t moving. So, stay tuned for your regularly scheduled programming!

A shout-out of thanks to our hosts who graciously let us live in their basement. And thank you to all of you who have supported my FlourishCafe shop and/or blog over the last few months – that’s been our family’s income! But most of all, I give thanks to God for his provision and care, even in less stable times of life.

See you next week!

Winner Announced for the Shabby Apple giveaway!

Well, the Shabby Apple giveaway has ended! And it’s time to announce the winner. Using a random number generator, comment number 38 is the winner, and it is … *drumroll*

Congratulations, Rachael! Thank you to all of you who participated, and thank you to Shabby Apple for making this lovely giveaway a possibility!

Gift giving guides

As the gift-giving season approaches, sometimes it can be difficult to know what to get for people. When I design a new piece in my shop, I usually have a specific type of person in mind who would like it – for instance, I’ll make something to appeal to gardeners, or a design specifically for a bibliophile, or a print that I think guys who cook would like, and so on. So I thought it would be helpful to break down into categories some things I have designed that could appeal to certain types of people on your gift giving list! (Plus, if you buy it this weekend while I have my buy-one-get-one-free deal going on, you can get something free for yourself in the process!) All while supporting small business this holiday season. Here are some ideas….

Gifts for the traveler…

Let’s go exploring print
– Road Less Travelled poster
– Adventure print
– More travel related prints

Gifts for the bibliophile …

– Lost in a Good Book mini print
– Oh for a Book print
– I Love Books and Coffee print
– Other reading related prints

Gifts for the home chef …

– Eat your vegetables poster
– Whisk print
– Beat It print
– Onions quote print
– Other food related finds

Gifts for guys …

– Bacon and Eggs poster
– Brevity print
– Nosh print
– Other prints for men

Gifts for the writer…

– I Write mini print
– Dark and Stormy Night print
– Writer’s Art Supplies poster
– Other writing related prints

Gifts for the gardener …

– Herb prints
– Taste of Nature print
– Farm Fresh print
– Stop and smell the roses print
– Other outdoors related prints

And don’t forget – today through Monday (11/23 – 11/26) for Black Friday and Cyber Monday I am having a buy one get one free special in my shop! Just mention in the “message to seller” at checkout which print of equal or lesser value that you want for free.

Happy shopping and happy holidays!

Curious, too – how many of you do Black Friday/Cyber Monday type shopping?

Black Friday – Cyber Monday Preview for FlourishCafe!

Black Friday is almost here! Closely followed, of course, by Cyber Monday. I’m very excited to announce that for the entire time from Black Friday through Cyber Monday (11/23/12 – 11/26/12) my entire shop, FlourishCafe, will be buy one get one free.

So how does it work? Just purchase the print(s) you are wanting, and then in the “message to seller” section at check out, simply link to the other print(s) you would like to get for free. If you buy one print, you get one free. If you buy five prints, you get five free! The only stipulation is that the free prints much be of equal or lesser value to the purchased print.

I hope this will be useful to you in your holiday shopping! :)

I’ve also been adding some new and exciting things to my shop! (Some of which will also give you some discounts.) Here are some of the changes….

— some new designs:

— some new ways of purchasing prints! For instance, if you’re interested in purchasing more than one print, you can get a discount for getting multiple prints. Or, if you see a print in my shop that you would like in a smaller size, I can do that for no additional cost. Here are a couple examples:

(you can see various options for custom sets and resizing, here)

— and some prints which I am planning to discontinue at the end of the year, and so I want to get rid of any inventory of those prints, and they are available at a very steep discount until then. You can check out all the clearance prints, here.

So happy holidays from FlourishCafe! And if you want to get some buy-one-get-one-free prints, make sure you catch the deal this weekend, Black Friday through Cyber Monday (11/23 – 11/26). Happy shopping!