Artist Feature: Albion Tea Company! When Tea is More Than Tea

Today’s Artist Feature is one of the single most inspiring, mobilizing stories of beauty and heart that I’ve had the privilege of sharing so far on this blog.

Deborah and Brock Wilkie are the founders of Albion Tea Company, a business + ministry that not only creates beautiful and delicious teas (and even herbal coffees- what?!) and tea products, but also utilizes their heart for the broken, marginalized, and needy. They are doing good as well as creating good product and I simply can’t say enough about them!

Settle in with a cuppa for my interview with Deborah as she tells of the adventures that led them to start this exciting journey! (All product photography by Kara of Humilitea House who was featured on this very blog here!)

Tell us a little about your background:

World travel was a big influence in my life. I started traveling overseas immediately after high school and never looked back. Germany, Malta, England, Wales, 4 times to Ireland, 2 times to Australia…interning on a cattle station, helping as an au pair, teaching English, volunteering with a ministry…wide variety of experiences that broadened my horizons and gave me a deep appreciation for other cultures, cuisines and of course, introduced me to the wide and wonderful world of TEA!

WOW! That is a lot of travel!! (I’m only a little jealous…like 99%) Were you always a tea-lover? How did that passion develop?

I grew up collecting tea things and having teas with my mom. Our favourite book was Emilie Barnes’ If Teacups Could Talk. From picnic teas to themed seasonal teas, to teas with my dolls and teas at real tea houses, it was a staple of my girlhood. The teas my mom would throw became legendary in our area. So many amazing memories wrapped up in the gentle beauty and bonding of tea time.

I love that tea was such a sweet and meaningful part of your childhood!! I’d love to hear how the business developed from a passion into a business?

Albion Tea Company really all started with chai tea. I first had authentic loose leaf chai while on my first trip to Australia and fell in love. I never could find it back in the states, so I set about learning how to craft it myself. Many, many months later I developed a stunning chai we dubbed Rivendell Chai which has become our flagship tea. This experience opened my eyes to the complexities of tea blending, but also to how much I enjoyed the challenge and the process.

My husband and I have a heart for the UK, particularly Wales. We fund raised for two years to move to Wales and work with World Horizon’s Youth Development Team, leading an outdoor adventure program for Welsh young people. However, UK immigration denied our visas which closed that door, causing us to look for a new direction but still with a burden for that corner of the world.

Wanting to be free to pursue ministry stateside and create the life we wanted for our young family, in 2016 we decided to go into business for ourselves. Early in our marriage I had been crafting a few teas and candles and such and selling on the side. Our friend, Kara, was the one who asked if I had considered re-starting a full-on tea business, considering I had already crafted a killer chai! ūüėÄ

The seed was planted, the idea grew, and we realized that was the perfect fit for us. I had become quite the tea snob from my time overseas, and my hubby and I could see a tea business being something we would love doing together. We had a soft launch in November, 2016 and were stunned by the response from family and friends to the teas we were creating. So we officially launched in January 2017 and made the leap: Brock quit his remodeling job and I stepped away from my role as Senior Executive Leader at Usborne Books & More to give 100% to the business we are building together.

This story is so uplifting to me as a creative, hearing how God has grown this dream into a reality! And you are also using this passion to give back to that corner of the world you’d felt led to as well, right?

Yes! We currently have a tea, Snowdonia Ceylon, that has a portion of the proceeds being donated directly to the YDT program in Wales.

Tell us a little about how you created your logo and came up with your company name?

Our logo includes the Trinity Knot and the name Albion is the Ancient name for Great Britain. We love books, so there was also a literary influence to our name choice: Stephen Lawhead’s Song of Albion trilogy which is a favourite of ours!

(Yes! Favourite with a “u” in true British style.)

Clearly, you have a heart for reaching people along with your passion of creating fabulous teas. Is God opening your hearts to any other avenues of ministry?

As we have looked at the future and how we can impact young people here in the states through our business platform, youth aging out of foster care were put on our hearts. Our goal is to build our business to the point of needing to hire employees and then hire young people in this much ignored, but often very needy, demographic! We want to provide a good income, a stable work environment, mentoring, and assist in plugging them into the community and find their passion for their future.

As many as 36% end up homeless as they lack the support system and skills needed to acquire a job and establish a life for themselves. Nearly half of youth who age out of the system end up in prison within 2 years. Our goal is to hire aging out youth as employees of Albion Tea Company, providing a steady paycheck, mentoring, and assistance plugging into the community.

That is amazing!!! I think you’re the first person I’ve heard of point out this overlooked corner of the population. How awesome would it be to see God use Albion to reach and bless them!

We are actually moving to northern idaho next year and looking at farm properties. To expand our business and ministry, we want to have a pick-your-own-lavender and tea farm with a tea/gift shop, a getaway cabin or two, and tiny houses for the youth we employ to live- a place of peace and rest for folks to come, relax, and find Christ-love. Our own little Rivendell if you will.

We believe this vision to provide work and housing for a time will give these people much needed tools and eventually help them work towards full independence to chase their own dreams!

I am already in love with this idea, not only because I would obviously want to visit, but because it’s so empowering and inspiring to find ministries and businesses and creatives (or a combination of the three) who are not only creating beautiful, excellent products, but are also using their gifting and business etc. as a vehicle to draw people close to Christ and grow the kingdom of God.

Personally, I LOVED the teas you sent me. Would you share a little more about your process of creating them and what kinds of products you have?

Each tea blend we sell is completely our own creation. We dream them up and make them a reality. We currently have 15 black and herbal blends, plus 4 drinking chocolate blends, and an herbal coffee blend, plus chai tea jelly and a chai spice blend. We love to get creative and think outside the box with tea! We also love searching for unique beverage accessories to provide for our customers.

Herbal coffee?! Okay. That’s the next thing I’m ordering. And hey, if I decide to go absolutely all-natural everything tomorrow, can I still consume your products?

Absolutely! We are committed to an organic, eco-friendly life style and this carries over to our business as well! Our tea ingredients are organic and fair trade. We do not use any artificial or natural flavorings or preservatives…if we can’t make a flavor with real food ingredients, we don’t make it! Presents a huge challenge but we are committed to providing tea as it should be…fresh, pure, organic, utterly delicious.

We create our teas and drinking chocolates to order so each customer receives a deliciously fresh product every time. Nothing sitting on shelves and collecting dust over here!

What if I’m new to the tea-drinking world? Can I ask questions or reach out to you guys?

Definitely. We love teaching people how to use loose leaf tea and love answering our customers questions about the process from selecting a kettle to choosing an infuser! The taste of fresh loose leaf will blow the mind of anyone accustomed to drinking tea made from boxed tea bags. And not only is it easy to prepare and tastes amazing, but it is highly cost effective. Our loose leaf canisters come out to less than 50 cents per cup for made to order, fresh, organic, fair trade tea! You can’t beat that anywhere!

That is a lot cheaper than my Starbucks order, not gonna lie. Can you give us any sneak peeks of what’s new or coming up for Albion Tea Company?

This month we have launched our Adventure in a Cup Club…a monthly subscription box featuring our teas and drinking chocolates, along with carefully curated accessories and goodies. We have a box for adults as well as one for kids! With our love of world travel, we will be exploring different cultures with our boxes throughout the year.

That sounds fabulous!! And for kids, too? I would never have thought of that.

Yes! Kids love tea too; plus, it makes a super yummy alternative to sweet sodas and juices! We have created many of our herbal blends with kiddos in mind; our daughter Carys LOVES being our official taste tester for those. ūüėČ Her favourite is Misty Mountain Chai.

Since it’s summer, do you make any cooler options?

All our teas and drinking chocolates can be made ICED! How cool is that?! So for warm months, or for those not keen on hot drinks, we have ya covered. My favourite trick to make iced loose leaf tea (which knocks bagged iced tea out of the park!) is to use a french press (that hasn’t been used for coffee of course.) You put in 1 tsp per 6 oz of water, cover with cold water, pop the french press in the fridge for 6-12 hours (depending on which kind you are steeping), press down, and voila!

Also, the drinking chocolate makes amaaazing homemade popsicles! A trick of the trade for hot herbal brews is to cover your mug with a plate while steeping to keep all the healthy herbal goodness and flavor in your tea instead of letting it escape with the steam.

Wow. Great tips!! Anything else we should know about your fabulous company?

In July, we will be donating 10 trees to Trees for the Future for every canister of tea we sell: our goal is to sell 1,000 canisters in July to plant 10,000 trees! 1,000 trees brings an entire family out of poverty! (After July we will regularly be donating 1 tree per canister.) Trees for the Future has an amazing program teaching forest farming techniques to families in Africa to help bring them out of poverty and to restore the land itself. Check them out here.

I can’t stop saying wow… Readers, are you inspired yet???

Thank you to Deborah from Albion Tea Company for taking the time to share your story with us!!! And just for you, reader, use this COUPON CODE to receive 15% off your order: BEAUTY15

If you want learn more about Albion Tea Company, here are all the places on the interwebs you can find them:

ALSO: Deborah and her hubby are hosting a tea time event TOMORROW evening for anyone who would like to know more about their online tea experience program!!! To find more info, click here.

And one more thing…
If you’d love to do something fun in support of Brock and Deborah’s fabulous business + ministry, here’s a truly fun idea!

MomGirl Products are HERE! Plus, a Giveaway!

Look! Up in the sky- it’s a bird! It’s a plane! No. It’s MomGirl!!!

She is¬†here,¬†y’all!!! MomGirl products are officially up on my shop to order! I’ve been working so hard on these for a couple months, trying to figure out how best to offer my messy-bunned, legging-clad, coffee-drinking superhero to the world.

So, if you are in need of some MomGirl in your life (or if you know someone who does), here are all the goodies so far! Click on any of the pictures to be taken to the listings within my Etsy shop.

(Side Note: I sense this post will be filled with all the exclamation marks and much all-capping. You have been warned.)

First, greeting cards!!! 

There are 3 cards up in the shop at the moment, which are the following:

 

GAH. Aren’t they so cute?!?!¬†(Is that ok to say about your own artwork? I’m just so excited about them!)¬†Each card comes with the teal envelope you see pictured.

Each card has a fun caption inside, too.

 

 

Here’s the second one:

 

And here’s the third:

Plus, they’re pink on the back!

You can see more details and/or purchase any of the cards over on my Etsy shop, Ebenezer Designs! 

 

NOW. Prepare yourself for what I’m all giddy-like-Hermione-Granger-in-Gilderoy Lockhart’s class about.

Letters from MomGirl- aka a MomGirl Subscription!!!

YOU GUYS. I’m so excited. SO EXCITED!!! Ok. Here’s how it works. You can choose from a 3, 6, or 12-month subscription, which will feature one 5×7 MomGirl print per month, with a short note of encouragement on the back from me, MomGirl!¬†(Gasp! I’ve said too much…now people will know I’M MomGirl…)¬†

Here’s what I can promise about the encouragement: it’s real, it’s brief, and it’s lighthearted. Moms carry enough weight- baby or otherwise- and levity is such a gift when you’re parenting littles and overwhelm hovers ominously close by.

Plus, it arrives each month in a pretty pink envelope!

This subscription is an ideal gift for new moms, no matter how many children they have! But really? It’s a gift for anyone who feels like a hot mess. MomGirl is here to say- “Me too, girl.” She wears a messy bun for the fourth day in a row, throws on¬†that pair of leggings¬†with the mysterious crust on them, and loves on her people the best she can- often while doing one or more jobs on top of all that!

I wanted to offer something that would be a means of support and a smidgen of self-care to those who need it. Hopefully, these Letters from MomGirl can be a vehicle for that!

SO. In celebration of launching these MomGirl goodies, I wanted to offer a gift and a giveaway.

Here’s how to get the gift:

The first 3 people who purchase the MomGirl subscription (regardless of 3, 6, or 12 month) will receive a custom print of themselves as MomGirl!

Here’s the giveaway:

One lucky winner will receive a MomGirl care package including one MomGirl greeting card, a pack of these watercolor thank you cards, and a Starbucks gift card! (So you can get your coffee on.)

Here’s how to enter:

  1. Purchase any MomGirl product.
  2. Subscribe to this blog.
  3. For bonus entries, repost one of the MomGirl posts on my Instagram and tag me in it using the handle above!

This giveaway will run for one week, ending on May 25, 2017!

I have been so excited to share this with you, and hope you enjoy these goodies!!!

Keep on momming.

MomGirl, out.

 

P.S. You know what another fabulous method of self-care is? Listening to the Kindred Mom podcast which just launched yesterday!! I am already enjoying listening to these ladies share encouragement from their journeys in motherhood. PLUS, THEY are doing a giveaway too, which includes stuff from Magnolia Market y’all. MAGNOLIA MARKET. Go check them out¬†here!¬†And enter their giveaway by following them on IG @kindred_mom

A Few Tools for Creative Juices {And Spring Starbucks Cups}

So, one of the purposes of this blog is theoretically to talk about and/or wrestle with being an artist¬†(in all the senses of the word)¬†and in particular, being a follower of Christ who is an artist. But obviously, I’m not able to write as regularly as I was pre-second baby. Which is totally fine!

But lately, I’ve felt the nudge again; I’ve felt the pull to tell you some things. Namely, I want to say- Remember! This is a safe place, where hopefully you’ll feel the hospitality of the Holy Spirit to bare your battles and burdens as an artist, and where you can come on over any time to get a cup of coffee¬†(or tea, if that’s your- well- cup of tea) and we can say all the things to each other. Probably a lot of, “Me too!!!”

Things like:

  • I’m discouraged.
  • I feel like I’ll never be the type of artist I want to be
  • I feel overwhelmingly small, like a dust bunny swept under the rug.
  • Is anyone else out there feeling this way?
  • I know God is faithful, that he gave me dreams and desires, but I’m having trouble shaking the dust of today off of my perspective.

OR

  • I’m loving my life right now and I just want to see and/or celebrate all the pretty things.
  • I am so thankful and encouraged.
  • I’m praising¬†Jesus!! Because I’m feeling security in my now, not because everything is secure, but because he is.
  • I feel small in such a good way, because he is so much bigger, and because I know he can do big with small things.
  • My art is my art, and I’m going to do it and feel joy abounding, and not question it.

OR really, any other think you could think.¬†(No, that’s not a typo, but we’re working on¬†“Seussical Kids” at the performing arts center right now, and that’s an actual song from it.)

Also, I love the idea that occasionally when you come for a visit and for the aforementioned hot beverages, you might find something helpful in your artistic journey. Something to encourage and bolster you with the stalwart ferocity¬†of¬†a British sea captain in the 1800’s (or at least one from the movies).

So, here are some ideas to help provide encouragement and bolstering and stalwart ferocity:

  1. On Being Creative– Remember this? Well, if you don’t, it was a series I poured my heart into last spring, all about many of these struggles¬†we face as creatives/artists/people in general, and specifically about my own struggles.
  2. Frannerd and Iraville on Youtube- if you’re an illustrator, THESE TWO are my favs right now. Find them on IG. Just do it. You need the beauty, the inspiration, the skill of these ladies… Also, Fran is HILARIOUS. She likes cussing a little bit, though (can we all just admit we like doing that sometimes?), so if your kids are around, you know… wait til they’re not around.
  3. Art & Faith Conversations–¬†My friend Libby John has been doing some big things in the past year, like recording and releasing her album¬†(WHAT!)¬†and now, launching this new podcast with her friend, Sarah. They talk about exactly what’s in the title: conversations about all things art and faith, the battles a creative fights, identity, Jesus, how we approach art as believers, and of course- C.S. Lewis and Tolkien, because can you talk about art of any kind too long before bringing up those guys? No. No you cannot. You can also find links to the podcast on her Facebook page¬†here¬†or you can just search it in the iTunes store.

So, these were just a few¬†things I thought I might share with you, my artsy friend. Keep making your art, okay? If this isn’t enough stalwart ferocity for your British sea-captain sensibilities, I suggest renting¬†Master and Commander.

 

P.S. Have you SEEN the springy cups at Starbucks?! They are my new favorite thing. Here’s one I doodled this week. Doodle-able cups are the best.¬†(Fyi I used a red micron pen, a light pink tombow dual brush marker, and this random blue pen that just says “Le Pen” on the side.)¬†Also? That aqua/turquoise color is MY JAM. That is all.

Happy 2017- Wait. Let’s Try That Again.

The month of January was a month of false starts. After traveling for two weeks with our little girls, we got home. Ahhh home.

After we unpacked and ever-so-promptly did all the laundry and cleaned up the assorted Christmas debris, I prepared to settle in, get a new calendar, arrange my life in ever-so-orderly a fashion.

Focus, I thought to myself. Focus shall be my word for this year. I will cultivate true presence with my husband, with our children, in our relationships. I will engage in the varied jobs and responsibilities I have with humility and attentiveness. I will be patient with where we are in life and savor the season with gratitude and joy. I will practice listening to the Holy Spirit and quiet my chatty soul.

And all in all, I shall transcend the heretofore tolerated messes in my life and failures of character into a rosy, glorious existence of serenity and wisdom.

I mean. So much serenity, you guys.

These are the things I considered with much anticipation as we undecorated in the last day of December and first of January. And then, January second arrived, and I’m pretty sure Peeves the Poltergeist was lurking somewhere ¬†enjoying the coming upheaval, cackling in delight. He was probably also eating popcorn…

First, I got a cold. Then, in those first days of January, Ryan asked me, “Where’s your wallet?” I unconcernedly assured him I didn’t know, but that I’d find it. Fast forward to a week later, by which point we had ransacked all of our earthly possessions and even gotten so desperate as to call the Cracker Barrel we ate at on our way home from Christmas traveling. No luck.

On top of that, one of my big toes started hurting. Real bad. It started as a minor annoyance that first week of January, but by the end of the second week, I was limping around pathetically, with a swollen, gross horror movie of a toe. I decided I was probably dying.

So, we paid the urgent care $100 only to have the doc come in and say, “Yeah, I don’t do toes. That’s infected. You should go to a¬†podiatrist.” And I was like, “Greeeaaat. Would you like to tell me any more obvious things while I light some more money on fire?”

Later that week, we went to the podiatrist. Let’s just leave some mystery there. I don’t think you really want to know what they had to do to my toenail… Regardless, it was expensive. So, you know, a really good time to lose my wallet¬†(and the extra Christmas money we’d received which was inside it).

“Focus.” I flinched¬†as my glowingly good-intentioned word for the year arose in my mind. The irony was not lost on me.

Meanwhile, marchers protested and blew up the internet with their signs and their rage and their holy hashtags. What was all this about? I wondered. I looked into it and was kind of like, “Wait, so what are they marching for again? Did Trump like, veto women’s rights to vote and I missed it??? Oh. They’re just…preemptively protesting. Got it. Well, they’re allowed… Oh, and¬†pro-life groups were removed from the list of protesters. Okay.” I felt increasingly disconnected from this group. Which is weird, since I’m a woman.

But I say this because the holy hashtaggers flooded social media, and subsequently another wave in the onslaught of political arguments resulted across the board. Friends I know deactivated their Facebook accounts.¬†(I didn’t. Because cute pictures of other people’s babies, you know.)

So it felt like I’d stumbled into 2017, into a loud, distracting mess. I wanted to back away slowly- back into 2016. Maybe no one would notice?

But we can’t run away from our messes. Does that mean we join protests? Do we take the bait and follow the crowds? Follow the popular instagrammers, YouTubers, some who used to be pillars of faith and now have decided a deep end of half-truths is a better place to dive than to face the hard things- minor or major- head on?

Clearly, I experienced some disillusionment as these things transpired. Not that I now despise anyone who is well known or think blogging is a waste, or that hashtags are evil. (They’re not necessarily. They’re fun, and I usually overuse them.)¬†But I just reminded myself that¬†I’m not one of their “followers.” I am a follower of Christ.

No, I’m a disciple of Christ. And that means certain things for how I view the world.

For one thing, it means that when a mini-maelstrom of minor calamities befalls me, I don’t feed my fearful, suspicious side. You know, that ominous voice inside that says, “It’s a sign. Doom is at hand. This will be the year of crap.”¬†

Instead, I say, “You know what, no.” Just because January threw a fit and marched in protest of not being 2016 anymore doesn’t mean it’s worth coloring all the other months in similar hues. I am not the victim¬†I once was. Not that I’m not weak, but that Christ’s¬†strength is growing inside me. This is a time to be a victor.

So, whatever, January. You sucked and you’re over. Also, you didn’t suck because the Lord helped me drive a stake in the ground and declare that even times of losing my wallet and subsequently our Christmas money, times of stupid toenails and stupid toe infections, times when I have a cold on top of all the other stuff and can’t take any normal decongestants because I’m nursing, times when half-baked opinions and wholehearted unkindness is rampant- in the midst¬†of times like those, I can be joyful. Because the Lord is sufficient in all things; he always gives us what we need.

And he did.

Aimee always says that laughter is usually her default. I decided that was a better plan than implosion. So I tried laughing at all the distractions. I asked God to help my trust sing louder than the noise- trust that he would provide, that we could handle this, that light is still brighter than darkness, and that darkness is paltry and puny in comparison.

It worked out well. Because you know what? Someone left a Walmart gift card with a hefty amount on it anonymously at our door. Ryan ended up receiving a chunky check for some work he did recently. And several other providential, out-of-the-blue things like that happened. In fact, only a few hours after my procedure at the podiatrist, we received word about that check. Hours, you guys.

God is good. He gives us everything we need.¬†And I realized¬†these distractions were just opportunities- to focus. So that’s still my word for the year.

Therefore, I will not be joining the ubiquitous tantrum that everyone is throwing about how terrible things were in 2016, or will be in 2017, or whatever.

Instead, let’s throw a party. Or at least have some cake pops. Let’s be people who add flavor to the world. It’s February. Happy New Year!

Shifting from Fall to Christmas Decor!

Well, the fact that you’re reading a new post from me right now is nothing short of a miracle. Because babies. I can hardly believe it, but sweet Evangeline is already two months old! What even?! And a post is coming¬†(someday)¬†which will feature a ridiculous number of pictures of her adorableness. But it’s a lot easier to sort through 20 pictures of decor versus 20 billion pictures of my new baby…not that I’ve taken that many or anything.

Anyway, because I haven’t gotten to share any of our fall decor this year¬†(though I did document it),¬†I wanted to include that as well as sharing what our Christmas decor looks like this year, since you know, fall is kind of my favorite thing ever…

So, here is a look at what fall looked like at our apartment this year.

fall-living-room-1

My favorite thing in this setup is either that light aqua throw pillow (from At Home, that giant Home-Goods-on-steroids-warehouse store) or that pumpkin painting, which I did real quick one afternoon.

fall-gallery-wall-2Also, that wreath is my new secret weapon, since I can decorate it for any time of year, not to mention it was $4 at Walmart!! #winning (My mom came for a visit and brought some other lovely things with her, which meant that some of the decor got shifted around and/or improved, but I failed to document that since, you know, it was right after Evie was born.)

I do also love that¬†thankful¬†pillow over on the brown velvet-y chair… It’s always hard to put that one away.

fall-gallery-wall-1

That painting in the middle is a VERY rough attempt at copying¬†The Umbrellas¬†by the brilliant Renoir. I painted it in college, and it’s so far from perfect¬†(cough* those disproportionately long arms * cough)¬†but it brings me joy so I don’t even care that it’s sort of janky.

fall-gallery-wall-3

I love that I can feel like the art on my walls has been updated just by switching out pictures! So I had to put up this “Autumn Dreams” watercolor, one of my most favorite fall pieces from the shop. Creating art is my outlet of expressing my unrequited love of swirly hair. Such profundity…

Then there’s the entertainment center. I really wish I had taken a photo after Mom came and I added two orange pumpkins to either side, because it looked so happy! But I was still pretty excited about trying out adding color with books. A-like so:

fall-ent-center-2

fall-armchair

Yeah, that cord… it bugs me that it’s in the picture, but whatev.

fall-ent-center-3

I wanted to utilize oranges and blues¬†(cobalt like on the Blue Willow dishes, and aqua¬†because it’s my fav),¬†and grabbing a couple stacks of books with those colors made me feel like I accomplished that.

So, there you go. I wish I had been able to snap photos of it after we’d added some things¬†(including these two cute white and orange houndstooth patterned throw pillows from Target- that I got for like $8.50!!),¬†but I still enjoyed this simple decor for fall. Of course, I still got to enjoy my happy¬†fall wreath¬†on our front door again this year, but you remember that since I think I’ve talked about it for like a year.

And now, Christmas decor!! I did a combination of switching out artwork again, using our normal Christmas stuff, and shopping the house (as The Nester says) for some red accents (i.e. the red pillows in the next picture).

christmas-living-room

I also found that blanket scarf that the entire world seems to have at a fall festival for super cheap, and discovered it looks super festive on my couch too! Those white trees light up and change color, so they’re on the coffee table for now since Lucy LOVES them.

christmas-gallery-wall-1

There’s that wreath. I just love it! Plus, throwing a bow on it that I already had was so easy, and now it’s “Christmas” decor. You can find that Christmas print of winter pines in my shop for immediate download or you can order a physical print¬†(but I need all orders for physical prints in by this Friday at the latest!!)

christmas-gallery-wall-3

And the Prepare Him Room watercolor is in the shop too!

christmas-living-room-2

This old painting is another that I did in college of berries in the snow. I like it because it goes along with everything without being super loud and distracting.

And of course, the Christmas tree.

christmas-treeEarly in January this year, we found this prelit tree for something like $25!!! It’s our first year without our wonky little 6 foot tree. (5 foot? 4? I don’t know, but it was falling apart and Ryan’d had it since before we were married!)¬†Lucy gasped when she woke up the morning after he put it up and said, “I so ‘cited dekkate da chee!!”

lucy-and-the-tree

I mean… Is that not the most precious thing you’ve ever seen??? Ok, maybe I’m biased.

Moving on.

For the entertainment center, I basically just switched out orange and blue stacks of books for red and green…

red-books

 

green-books-side-2

So here’s the big picture.

entertainment-center

Obviously, the ocean-themed baby swing isn’t exactly Christmassy, but it IS necessary to our sanity.¬†(The baby on the other hand makes every room brighter!)


Also, I show you this next photo because of the banister, not because of the fact that it’s a selfie.

banister

It’s not the most voluminous garland, but you know what? It still makes me so happy. Oh, there’s another of those red bows¬†(like on the wreath above the couch)¬†on the end of the banister.

I guess I could explain that the reason I even have this selfie is because I have a billion photos of my babies on my phone and like, none of myself¬†(since a typical day rarely has me looking this put together right now).¬†Plus, I was headed to see two of my sweet voice students perform in a production of “Alice in Wonderland, Jr.” which was great!¬†(I also enjoyed getting to go somewhere by myself. I mean, that is even more rare than me looking put together…)

I’m so enjoying this new season, attempting to navigate life with a toddler and a newborn, a crazy but lovely gift. Hope the little ways we’re making a lovely fuss inspire you to do the same, even and especially if the only place you can afford to shop is your house.

Imperfect, Artful Living. {Sweet Days + iPhone Memories + Art}

Man. I can’t believe our 2nd baby girl is about to join us. Any day now… Really. Any day.¬†*AHEM.*

I was looking through my phone and the RIDICULOUS amount of photos there, and saw the increasing fullness of this year- from my belly to our schedules- and back to my belly. It’s been dizzying (sometimes downright nauseating- ha), unexpected, miraculously productive, risky, and so good.

 

all-the-art

 

I’ve been so blessed to work on multiple custom orders for the¬†shop,¬†new exciting illustration projects that hopefully you’ll hear about some time, whimsical¬†thank you cards,¬†and of course the autumn pieces I shared recently which are my happy place. All of this means I’ve not only created more items for the shop, but I’ve had more business- real, actual business- from the shop this year! Easily more than double last year! That’s such a huge blessing.

 

Beyond work or the shop or any measurable productivity, as summer wraps up- ANY DAY NOW please– I find the deluge of iPhone photos reminding me it hasn’t been all to-do lists and travels¬†(though often it felt that way).¬†

There have been coffee shop visits, in which much prancing around in tutus occurred:

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There was the annual weekend lakehouse trip with our small group:

 

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There was the¬†incredible and unexpected¬†experience of getting to perform 8 months pregnant at Gospelfest in Kettering, Ohio alongside 9 other artists¬†(and Sidewalk Prophets!)-¬†all of whom had to audition back in June (except Sidewalk Prophets…obviously). That process alone was a risk for me, and definitely a challenge, considering Ryan had to take the afternoon off work and lug a keyboard and equipment and our toddler across town to make that even happen!

It was one surprising moment after another- not the least of which was being asked by one of the audition judges to be on her radio show the day before the performance! I’ve definitely never done that before. Lucy enjoyed it, too!

 

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Oh, don’t mind my crazy eyes and dorky face. I was just freaking out a little…

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The concert happened the next day in an outdoor venue. Naturally, the weather decided to helpfully be either 91 degrees with 200% humidity or crazy thunderstorms that caused a 45 minute delay- RIGHT before it was my turn to perform. So, just more time for me to feel nauseous backstage, no big deal…¬†(My husband was so awesome; at one point during our wait, he said, “You’re gonna Adele the crap out of this place.” I just love that man.)

 

poncho-tastic

 

In case you’re wondering what love looks like? It wears a raging¬†bright orange poncho. And it runs through the rain to make sure all your stuff is okay.

Oh yeah! I had a booth there too… that’s the stuff to which I’m referring. All the artists had the option of utilizing a booth, and¬†this was my very first time actually having all my Etsy shop stuff out somewhere for purchase!

 

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(Hey look- Bethany is totally hiding in the background! And WOW I’m so pregnant in this photo.¬†Who knew I could get even more pregnant than this?)

That whole weekend was filled with such meaning and encouragement! Dear friends rode over with my parents- a 2 hour drive one way- to come and see me perform (and get totally drenched in sweat followed by torrents of rain). Not to mention people from our church who came out to support me, and even other extended family who I rarely get to see! I felt overwhelmed with encouragement and that they all took the time to come and be part of such a great experience with me!

Then, the last two weekends were occupied with two separate women’s retreats…at which I led worship. Because I’m super good at planning. Yet, in spite of how exhausting it is to really do anything at this point, all of those endeavors were such a blessing! I’ve prayed for God to open doors and provide opportunities for me to utilize the abilities I have, and I’ve even prayed for opportunities to risk!

This year has been chock full of those. Throughout the summer, I’ve just prayed desperately that God would help me get all the work done I needed to before Evie is born! But now, other than my desire for her to arrive, I’ve prayed that he would help me savor the sweetness of these days, of these answered prayers, and especially this time with Lucy before we¬†go from a family of 3 to a family of 4.

Yesterday, I told Lu we were going to have special Mommy + Lucy time and do fun stuff. “Fun stuff!” she gasped, “For¬†us??”¬†Just like that, which was the cutest ever. I kept it simple, which is pretty much all I have capacity for anyway, and documented our “fun stuff” as follows:

  1. Fall Coloring Pages- free via Google!

coloring

I decided to make it feel semi-preschool-ish and talk all about fall, because obviously. So, after we talked about pumpkins and acorns and leaves and colored several pages, we watched some youtube videos for kids about fall which she loved.¬†(Notice: she is looking super adorable in Ryan’s old Cubs t-shirt from when he was a little boy! How cute is that?!)

2. Making Peanut Butter Cookies! This was a brave activity for me to do with her. It was the first time I’ve ever had her help me make anything, thus I picked the easiest thing I could think of that was also cookies. My mom’s PB cookies have literally 3 ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup peanut butter

Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes and BAM! Peanut butter cookie deliciousness. There is no possible way you can mess these up. Oh, and you can sprinkle sugar on the top of them if you want. That’s optional. However, making a criss-cross pattern with a fork on each one is mandatory. I’m pretty sure that’s what makes them so good…

 

Lucy was a great helper! She helped dump the sugar in:

dumping-the-sugar

Then she got to help stir with the bright green “fa-tchua!” which pretty much made her life.

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And then that 10-minute wait, in which we could barely contain our excitement as the cookies baked… Then they were done!

 

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Then this happened so fast, I’m pretty sure she just inhaled it.

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These aren’t perfect pictures. They were not carefully curated to be¬†part of a¬†blog post. But they’re here because this is part of living beautifully.

This is part of leaning into the art made in the imperfect moments: when you still have storage bins in the middle of your living room that have been there for weeks or your little one is in mismatched pajamas, or you find yourself wearing the same top and leggings all the time because literally nothing else fits because of the new life preparing to arrive¬†(as evidenced by this rare photo of my prego-profile… I don’t typically post lots/any of those).

 

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I’m happy sharing our moments of imperfect art with you. Freshly baked from my iPhone. With a criss-cross pattern and sugar sprinkled on top.

For a little while, I’ll take a breather from writing here. But rest assured I won’t be able to stay away long! See you soon- most likely with lots more iPhone photos. Much Love!

 

pb-cookies

 

P.S. I almost forgot!!! 4 of my original songs are NOW AVAILABLE¬†on Noisetrade!!!!! Eeep! I’m SO excited about this!!! CLICK HERE¬†to go visit the page and download them!

How to Have a Fabulous Girls Weekend: 2016 Edition

Oh, the utter joy and funity of Girls Weekend!!! I think the last time I used the word “funity” was my post about hosting Girls Weekend last year…

I put a lot of thought, planning, and long Pinterest-sessions into this Girls Weekend, but I still followed the principles I outlined last year. Except a little different. Because I’m a million years pregnant.

So, using those same guidelines from last year’s post, here’s how they played out this year:

1. decide on a theme based on something general or an overall feeling

This year, I didn’t have as themey of a theme as last year¬†(aka “Pretty Comfy Coffee Togetherness” which I¬†maintain is super articulate).¬†And actually, the theme stemmed from the decor, which was really pretty simple. Simple but impactful. But I’ll get to that in a second.

Looking at the happy, bright colors of my decorations, I decided to paint a little illustration and then print it off as little cards for everyone, just as a fun way to make it special!

Decor 5

“Colorful. Breathable. Fun.” Just a simple little watercolor piece on a half sheet of paper. Then I printed it on a half of a half sheet size… um, there’s probably an easier way to say that.

Decor 62. decorate with inexpensive yet WOW factor ideas

Ok, so just to remind you, these “guidelines” are borrowed directly from¬†The Nester’s post¬†about a girls weekend from several years ago… And my version of WOW factor = colorful poms.

Decor 1

I actually had these left over from a baby shower I’d thrown with a friend back in February!

Decor 3

Remember,¬†last time¬†I hung giant pink poms with those same white lanterns ¬†and some tulle in the “entryway” of our apartment?

Pink Pom Entryway!

That was super fun, but that area is generally pretty dark, and I wanted these to hang somewhere they’d truly be seen and enjoyed. So, I tried taping them over the island, which I liked!

The rest of the decor came from the Target $1 Spot. Because obviously.

Decor 8 2

Decor 4

The bunting, the colorful feather banner,¬†and the polkadot straws came from the $1 Spot, and the mason jars and burlap runners were also left over from that baby shower. I love that feather banner! It’s definitely made of like, plastic, but you don’t know that unless you feel the feathers.

3. cook something I’ve made before and only cook for the first meal and also make a few things ahead of time

So, this was kind of true, insomuch as I really only made one or maybe two meals? And most of the time, it seemed like this year we were all sort of collaborating on each meal- again special thanks to Kara and Heather, who really ended up doing 80% (99%?) of all food preparations.

Waffles and Quiche

Mmmm, waffles. I mean, those waffles were epic, you guys. They made me think of this:

Breakfast Food Meme

Also, I made that Pioneer Woman cowboy quiche (except I basically included the good stuff from both the cowgirl and cowboy quiche recipes, like bacon + sausage + mushroom + onions + cheese, and left out artichokes. Oh, and I definitely used frozen pie crusts versus making my own).

Scones

Mmmm, scones.

4. say yes when someone offers help

When I listed this tip before, I claimed that I’d taken it and helped it become the greatest version of itself. Little did I know how much greater it could become… If you’re not following my metaphor, I’m saying that I asked for help. Like a LOT of help. Before, during, and kind of after… Because again, I’m a million years pregnant.

Kara's Journal

May I add that as a result of being a million years pregnant, this year I felt more like the beneficiary of gracious guests than a gracious hostess. (Thank you, gracious guests!!!)

5. enjoy the people when they are here and don’t worry about cleaning every part of the kitchen to perfection

Because being together is such a gift, who cares if the sink is full? And yet, we did have to clean up sometimes, because there was a lot of stuff occupying¬†our island… Like amaaaazing bread, made by Kara.

Kara's Homemade Bread

 

6. Keep a loose hold on your agenda. Plans are good, but not when they hijack the fun(ity).

This group of girls includes some of the most kindred spirits I know! We don’t really need or want lots of activities to fill the time. We basically spend 75% of the time talking in our jammies, coffee and tea in hand.

However, we¬†do¬†love¬†a good coffee place… So, we found one in a super quaint town close by! It was so rustic and beautiful, with Joanna-Gaines worthy chandeliers and an upstairs full of welcoming nooks and lovely light.

Kara captured some beautiful shots of our time, and I begged her to let me share them with you! (She graciously consented. Thank you, dahling!)

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(I make it a point to have only super-mega-beautiful friends.)

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(See? And back in college, people used to mistake me for this gorgeous girl. I’ve never been so pleased to be mistaken for someone. Although, it was pretty funny when I got engaged and people kept congratulating her…)

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Kara wanted to snap a maternity shot, and I love this one! I don’t really have many- or any- nice maternity photos, so I love that she thought of it. She’s so good!

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“And on the eighth day, God made coffee.” Amen.

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This mug is so photogenic.

Group pic

Aaand obligatory group couch picture. There seems to be a history of group couch pictures…

This is what's actually normal for us.

This is last year.

couch picture

…We’re missing one dear girl in this one, but it IS a group couch picture.¬†(And documentation that I got Kara to wear red lipstick one time.)

This weekend is one of the most sleepless times of the year. And it’s 100% worth it!

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We feel so blessed to be able to get together like this every year. I think we figured out that this was our 9th year of our “road trip” slash Girls Weekend!

The guidelines have worked well for us, and I hope they might work for you, too!

 

Are you interested in a pretty, custom designed card or print for your own Girls Weekend or gathering of kindred spirits?¬†Send me a message! Go to my etsy shop and let’s chat. Fyi, I’ll be taking custom orders through September 15th, then I’ll be taking a break- errr, having a baby.