ethical consumerism

12 Days of Christmas: Day 8? Day 9? // Are you still counting?

Tonight, I want to begin discussing a particular topic I've started writing on more times than I can remember. It's a topic that has too many facets to count, can easily become convoluted, and is so big that I usually end up calling it quits after a couple of hours because I can't wrap my mind around the vastness and simplicity of this philosophy.

Jesus said, "love your neighbor as yourself." When asked which neighbors he's referring too, he goes on to tell the story of the good Samaritan, pointing out that even those we perceive as our enemies are the ones he's telling us to love as ourselves.

I'm going to begin small here by saying that every purchase we make is an opportunity to love our neighbors both near and afar. There are companies out to make a buck, and there are others out to change the game, both in business and in the lives of those they employ. The question of course is why do we feel the need to buy from big, greedy companies? Well, for one--we're greedy and we buy into advertising that tells us that we need to make every purchase our heart desires. That's probably a whole other subcategory for another day (case in point on trying to write on this topic).

I'm going to the roots of These Sacred Grounds tonight by sharing my first coffee shop in the 12 Days of Christmas series. This is a business whose mission is to support those coming out of foster care, and whose instrument is coffee. I want to encourage you to check out their website, but more importantly support their work and the work of those like them.

If you don't know much about the foster care system, I'm not going to bog you down with statistics, but I will encourage you to do some research. I will also paint a simple picture for you: a human child is taken from their home due to some form of abuse or neglect. Child is sent into a foster home where they may or may not experience love and care. Child goes back home. Child is taken from their home again, but because there is no room in their original foster home, they get put in another one. Child goes back home. This cycle could easily go on for well over a decade, never giving this child a chance to know love, security, or deep and safe family bonds. Child turns 18, and is on his/her own. Child may or may not have experienced a plethora of abuses, substance abuse, or homelessness growing up, not including the aforementioned lack of love and care that all humans need. This creates a lot of problems for this child--now grownup. Where do they turn? Do they have any opportunity to go to college? Have they had any professional counseling? Did they graduate high school? Do they have any job prospects? The issues for these "state kids" is overwhelming to say the least.

Every corner of the internet these days is preaching the #village, the #tribe, the #squad, and yet what does it look like to have deep community where even the foster children know they have a safe place? By supporting coffee shops The Monkey & The Elephant, we can truly live out the gospel of loving our neighbors as ourselves in community. Can we all take in a foster child or orphan? Can we all go into prisons and show love to those living inside cell walls? Can we all support to needs of the widows, the abandoned, the abused, the sex trafficked? In the most perfect of worlds with the most perfect of communities, yes we can. In fact, I encourage you to take a moment to consider if your family should be doing any one of these things.

The truth is, for one reason or another--or at least a million and one excuses, we are not doing these things. I can't get into all the reasons we (weeee all) need to surrender and do the dirty work of the gospel because that's not the purpose of this post. The purpose of this post is to say that through creative thinking, intentional buying decisions, and by not giving into big companies telling us how we should live, we CAN do all of those things by supporting businesses and non-profits like The Monkey & The Elephant. There are many out there, and with the internet they're easy to find.

This may just be one tiny step in the direction of living our neighbors as ourselves, but we can't have a revolution without taking a step.

The Monkey & The Elephant
1218 South Alder Street
Philadelphia PA, 19147
IG | FB

12 Days of Christmas: A Sharing Sesh // Day 4

I’ve been writing for several hours this evening, and while I thought I was going somewhere very specific on this 4th Day of Christmas (5th on the East Coast; sorry, friends!!), it turns out that the somewhere I thought I was going should wait.

For this reason, my fourth share with you is the thing that makes me love Netflix more than anything else. Yes, more than House of Cards and Fuller House put together. For me, the gem of Netflix is the documentary selection.

If you’re still of the mind that documentaries are just “boring movies,” it’s time to catch up, my friend. There is a whole world out there of people telling incredible stories in beautiful and compelling ways. Documentaries are the peoples’ stories. They are research and they are art. Documentaries make for great discussions with friends and with people we otherwise may not know how to find a connection. Through the screen, documentaries teach us about a topic in much less time than personal research.  Maybe that’s their key selling point, that we can get information quickly and beautifully right from our own television in an afternoon.

Don’t get me wrong, documentaries are not the end all of learning about a topic. But, if you’re interested in learning more about food, education, the prison system, farming, other cultures, or anything else under the sun, documentaries are a wonderful gateway. They help us begin good and necessary conversations.

I’m going to keep this one brief, and I highly doubt this post is changing any lives, but if you haven’t embraced the world of documentaries, I encourage you do so. Go out (by staying in, of course), and learn something new today. Maybe it will spur you on to greater things tomorrow.

Have you ever watched a documentary that helped change your life or views on something? Tell me about it!!

What's in a Name? // Featuring Common Grounds, Waco, TX

I’m slightly obsessed with names. I love to know the meaning behind a name and the process by which a name was chosen. This is true of people’s names as well as the names of shops and businesses, books and other forms of human creation. My brain can barely handle picturing the process by which one human may have named every creature and plant in the Garden of Eden. That may have been the most creative time known to humanity—the beginning, a completely blank, pure and precious canvas. What fun!

When starting this blog, I made list upon list of words and ideas that eventually found their way to These Sacred Grounds. As the blog’s first birthday approaches, I received an email from Squarespace regarding the renewal of my domain name, and therefore—the blog’s name. It’s made me think about names a whole lot these last ten days.

Throughout my own life, I’ve gone through a series of names so far: my parents and childhood friends had their nickname for me; in college, I adopted a new variation of my name that friends knew, and still know me as; only recently have I begun introducing myself by my given name again as I did in adolescence.

Names are important. My imagination consistently dreams up other forms of my name I might be known as. Or better yet—known for.

I sometimes wonder if other new names will come along with different stages of my life. My daughter calls me "mama" and someday will likely morph that to "mom," but what will my grandchildren call me? I’ve always loved that my name means strong, but not that it was one of most popular in the years surrounding my birth.

Because of its commonality, I haven’t embraced my own name. This makes me wonder if parents ever regret the name they gave their children. If so, would they ever admit it and risk having their child question the identity tied to their name? Naming humans is no easy task, and naming this blog wasn’t either. The difference being that I can change the blog’s name much easier than I could either of my daughters. I was reminded of this upon receiving the previously mentioned email. Choosing the names of both daughters and this blog consisted of meaning and namesake and purpose.

I’ve questioned the name of These Sacred Grounds several times throughout this past year, considering whether or not I’d change it when the domain expired. As I considered, I looked back to my process—to one of the many lists I initially created. I remember going back and forth as to whether or not it should include some cheesy, coffee-themed word or if it should be something more obscure—less obvious. I’ve debated this decision specifically several times since last September.

As I think about the name now, I think about Moses taking off his sandals as he recognized the sacredness of being in the presence of the Holy. I’ve encountered more sacred moments in the everyday, simple moments of life than I can remember. As a few specific examples, I’ve seen the sacred hand of God in other humans, in hospitality, and in various forms of creativity. Sometimes these moments are referred to as “thin spaces.” This idea of thin spaces, as I understand it, is a moment or place in life when the divide between heaven and earth, between the holy and unholy, the peaceful and chaotic, the spiritual and unspiritual or whatever other terms you choose is closer than usual.

So here formed the idea of These Sacred Grounds. It’s an encapsulation of the profound and the simple, the everyday and the momentous. It involves both the legacy of the ancient world and quirkiness of the coffee-themed “grounds,” opposed to an equally suitable synonym.

I think, at least for this year, the name shall remain. Thank you all for reading along this past year, for your support and your encouragement to just keep writing.

This post's Coffee Shop feature is for a place that makes up 1 of only 2 reasons I'd ever want to go back to Texas (sorry not sorry, TX). The other is to see a sister's family, so this place is kind of amazing. Plus, we share the commonality of "grounds," which means we're both a little bit quirky, a little bit common, and a lotta bit embracing the everyday simplicities of life.
Common Grounds //
1123 S 8th St, Waco, TX 76706

For a glimpse of their space AND music venue (what?!), check out their IG here.

I'm a Sucker for a Good Referral. Am I alone?

A year ago this month, I discovered my first online customer referral program, and guys...I'm hooked. Any site I go to now that has a referral program and an item I want to buy, I'm instantly sending out those semi-obnoxious, but well worth it, emails, texts, and social media plugs with my personalized referral link (i.e. albeit to a lesser extent: this post). Recently, a friend and I even worked together so she could get a free 15 bucks to spend and I could get 15% off my purchase to try out a new American-made company. Win win win.

1. ThredUP. So...it was this time last year. I don't remember how it happened, but I discovered ThredUp. I'm obsessed with buying used clothes. You know...typical millennial wanting to lessen my load on the landfills. ThredUp and I became besties pretty fast. Originally, if a friend signed up through my link, I'd get $20 to spend and they'd get $20 to spend. How cool is that? I built an entirely new wardrobe just from friends signing up to get their $20. I literally got to spend hundreds of free dollars because of my link. Since becoming more established, they now offer $10 for referral signups, but hey--you won't see me complaining. ThredUp is still my first source for any clothes I need. Designer, but not new and overpriced? I'm in! Here's my link if you want to get your free $10 to spend.

2. E-Bates. Other sites have come along over this past year, which I'll share below, but my latest main squeeze in the online shopping world is E-Bates. This is a site that really and truly gives you money back just for shopping through their links. They are basically the ultimate friend referral for loads of sites where you already buy stuff and things. It's also the site I'm kicking myself for not using when friends told me about it two (gosh...maybe three?) years ago. To think...all the baby items I've ordered these last two years and how I could have gotten cash back on all of them. I've been a committed user for two weeks, and already have $20 in my account. I would have more if I ordered more from Target's website instead of going to the brick and mortar for things like my newly acquired Nutra Ninja. Se La Vie on that one, but here's my link for that site as well. This one won't have a popup; simply click my link then hit the Sign Up button in the top right corner. They currently have a welcome bonus of $10 when you spend your first $25 AND if you refer 3 friends, you'll get $60!! The more friends you have sign up on E-bates, the greater your bonuses become--so their incentives are well worth creating a free account.

3. Notice how the links on these things are never pretty? Well, mine are currently hyperlinked, but when you click and sign up for your various accounts, you'll see what I mean. There's nothing personal about them; they are long and random. I'm just a number in a system, and I'm totally OK with that since I've tested these sites and they've each paid their dues.

This is true, with one exception. When you partner personally with other blogs and small businesses, you just may have a personalized link or code. For instance, if you visit my friend Lindsay's shop over at Chalk Full Of Design any time this month, and put in the code SACREDGROUNDS, you can enjoy 15% off you order!! AND since she's on Etsy, you'd get 1% cash back with your E-Bates account. If you've read this blog with any regularity, you know how much I love, and prefer, to support small businesses. Lindsay has always had an incredible talent for calligraphy. It used to come in the form of notes during our years of working at summer camp, and now she's turned it into a her own business. She's both creative and an inspiration!! The thing that impresses me most about Lindsay's model is that each item is HAND-DRAWN!! This is a rarity these days with so many options to print a piece of artwork.

4. Traveling somewhere? Try Airbnb and Turo. If you haven't tried Airbnb, let me tell you--it's awesome! People renting from people--how ingenius is that? Furthermore, a GREAT referral program. Here's $35 of spending money if you want to get out of town or enjoy a little staycation. You can also get money by offering to rent your own place (a room, the whole house, whatever you're feeling adventurous enough to try). For this, you'd get an even bigger referral bonus. I haven't gone that far nor do I have the space to, but it could be fun!! Our last trip was to Groveland, CA for a visit to Yosemite National Park. We rented a 3-bedroom for 5 of us, and we saved tons of money avoiding a hotel and having to eat out.

If you need a car during your travels, check out Turo. I've used Turo for out-of-town trips and when I needed a truck for moving into a new apartment. Renting cars from other people in your area or at airports around the country can save you TONS. Here's $25 to give that a go.

Here are a few more services I use that also have referral links. Because, as with all of these referral programs, it's a no brainer--with the exception of small businesses, these companies are MAKING OUT with these business strategies, so why shouldn't we? Whatever online services or sites you use, I definitely suggest checking to see if they have a referral program and then SHARE IT...share it far and wide because it's only benefiting you AND those who sign up through you. Have fun everyone and go make that extra dough!!

5. Grove Collaborative. Another site I've tried out this year is Grove Collaborative--where I now buy all of my cleaning supplies. Grove is SO good. Almost out of tin foil and tooth paste even though I was JUST at the grocery store!? No biggy; I'll hop on Grove. They are fast, convenient, and the prices are fantastic. They're customer service is on point too. They forgot to ship one of my items recently; their response team was so kind and helpful, and they even offered me a $5 credit for my trouble...which was really no trouble at all. If you try them out, you'll also get free and discounted goodies to try quite often, which is just an extra bonus (chap stick, a toothbrush, things like that). If you want to give Grove a try, here's a free $10. **Something to Note: Unlike other membership sites, Grove does not have mandatory monthly purchases, but they will send you emails each month with suggested items they've already put in a cart, You'll want to login and remove the items if you don't want them sent to you automatically. Smart cookies.

6. Love trying new coffees? Obviously, I do. Here's $5 to try a Bean Box. Coffee delivery tasting service? Uh, yes please. If you review the coffees they send you to try, you'll also get a $1 credit per review.

7. Thanks to my friend Jeana's recent $10 referral code share, here's 10 Bucks for Backcountry.com. Remember that Ebates link above? Go there first for an additional 4% back on this site. Say What!??

8. Here's $5 for Amazon Prime. I'm sure Amazon Prime has way more advantages than I've ever explored, but I use it for the free 2-day shipping.

9. 15% off American Giant. Have you heard of them? The ultimate American-made sweatpants? I watched their video and immediately knew I'd be purchasing a pair this season. Click the link. Watch the video. I'm sure you'll understand. **Side note: A friend and I ordered together to get free shipping.

10. Want to try HULU? Here's a free two weeks!

What do you think? Have you found any referral programs on sites you already love? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below. Feel free to share your referral links as well!!

Because both of my ladies mentioned in this post are back in NJ,
here's to a coffee shop I used to frequent for Philly > NJ meetups in Haddonfield.
This is also the FIRST NJ Coffee Shop or Roaster I've featured.
Is that weird? It is my home state after all..I'll have to get on this.


Jersey Java + Tea Co. // 140 N Haddon Ave, Haddonfield, NJ, 08078
IG // FB // Tw

B.G. Cook: Mom of Girls

As I peruse through various social media profiles, I often notice an assortment of titles that women place in their bios. I’ve seen labels such as, “mom of boys,” “mother of…fill in the blank number of children,” or maybe “mom to multiples.” By no means do I believe mothers of daughters love their children any less when they don't put "mom of girls," I just don’t remember seeing this same title claimed by those who only have daughters.

Before my husband and I had children, I had an idealized view of a boy being the firstborn and girls arriving second or later. With no scientific tracking, I noticed that this was the birth order in many families I admired—specifically because sibling bonds seemed closer. In these families, whose Christmases I imaged to look like some combination of The Family Stone and The Sound of Music, a boy was usually the oldest with girls or boys following after that. Long before I even met my husband, I also had the not-so-secret dream of marrying into a family of brothers. While I hadn't yet processed all of the subliminal thinking that went along with my view of males, when it came down to it I eventually realized how many lies I believed about what it means to be a woman.

As time went on, I married an only child--so there’s that. But when I found out I was pregnant—literally the moment after seeing those two red (blue?) lines, something else changed. Within those first, take-my-breath-away moments, I prayed and I also knew my firstborn was a girl. You know how the saying goes—I just knew she had to be a girl. I wasn’t as confident with our second, though I had both a desire for another daughter as well as a sense that she too was a girl.

As my first pregnancy went on and I eventually learned that she was most definitely a female, I was filled with so much awe and gratitude that I had the honor of mothering a daughter. I thought about some of my husband’s former students from different parts of Asia and how they felt unloved in their families compared to their brothers or male cousins. I thought about all the unwanted baby girls around the world and the epidemics that some countries will eventually face of having a drastically uneven amount of men and women within their populations because of abortions and abandonment. I thought of the suffragists and women’s rights. I considered all the little girls around the world who are trafficked and those who aren’t allowed to get an education because of their sex. Overall, I thought about how women are the most violated, abused, and vulnerable “people group?” in the world.

On the contrary, I also thought about all the amazing, world-changing women I know--either first hand or through the media and realized, “wow, what a privilege it is to raise a daughter in this world.” What a privilege it is to know that I have the opportunity to teach my girls about their self worth and identity, their strength and how to be brave. What an honor it is to shape these two into women who will know that they can pursue their dreams and callings like any man, only with the added reality of being that much braver and stronger on the other side. Not only that, but that they too may have the opportunity to fight for their own rights and the rights of others as they grow up. They too may have the chance to stand up against injustices, to persevere and to strengthen their characters over the years simply because they too may need to work harder than the men around them in order to follow their dreams. I am overwhelmed and humbled by the simple thought of having the opportunity to shape the future image of women both in the U.S. and elsewhere by being a mother of daughters.

Choosing names for these girls was a long process. We wanted to take into account both namesakes and name meanings. Both girls are named after incredible women who fight (fought) hard to show the love of Jesus, to live lives that are (were) sacrificial and outward focused. None of these women are or were perfect, but that’s part of the beauty of this whole conversation. The beauty is that in the midst of life's already existing struggles, being a woman in this world can mean that much more hardship, making these women that much more bad ass, strong, and brave to lead the lives that they do and that they have. At different points, I was sure that both girls would have a middle name that meant warrior. It turned out that we named the first to mean, “a noble light” and the second—“beauty, love, and freedom.”

Through each of these attributes as well as looking to their namesakes, I want my daughters to know that wherever they go and whatever hardships they overcome, they are capable of stepping into the legacy of women who leave the world better off than when they arrived.

This feature is long overdue, but for the most beautiful English Garden-esc setting, check out Julie's Coffee and Tea Garden // 1223 Park Street, Alameda, CA 94501

For a glimpse of their space, check out their IG here.

How To Find Your Community Using Hashtags

About this time last year, my husband and I hit an unexpected turn on our path that led to a 3,000-mile move across the country. Going from Philadelphia to Oakland, I knew nothing of the city I would soon call home, but three weeks after deciding to make the move, we hit the road with our then 9-month old daughter. In that decision, we left behind family, lifelong friends, and the rich community we had in our church and neighbors. It wasn’t long after our arrival in Oakland that we began to see how our community life here would look exponentially different than it did in Philly.

I’ve written several posts about community on this blog, about how it requires commitment, sacrifice, and time. I've also written a couple posts on motherhood and how I think it's hugely important for moms to have a diversified group of friends, so as to not lose sight of their identity. The question that may still linger in your mind is, “how do I find my community?”

During our time in Oakland so far, I have come to love this city. I love the neighborhoods, the art, the local businesses. I love the people I’ve met in various settings, and the cool, laid back culture everywhere I go (well...let's be real, Jersey girl still adjusting to that one). I love that this city is a hodgepodge of Oakland lifers, artists, transplants, young and old. I love that Oakland melds together the beauty of ancient Redwoods, vast rolling hills and the salty bay breeze with the downtown feel of any quickly changing, vibrant, yet forgotten city that up until recently was more likely to be known as the dangerous city across the San Francisco Bay. The city of Oakland is a beautiful place with beautiful people who make up its unique identity.

These are all characteristics I know to be true of Oakland now. But when we moved here 11 months ago, all I knew of was the reputation that preceded it of being violent and undesirable. As I set out to start this blog, I did so in large part to meet people in my new city—to find local hangout spots and feature them within my writing.

And now enter: The Hashtag (for me, mostly on Instagram):

As I set out on this project, there were a few basics I started with: #oakland, #eastbay, #oaklandcoffee, #eastbaycoffee, and #norcal. These five helped in my initial search to find local coffee shop favorites in the East Bay area.

Eventually, I discovered more specific hashtags and their associated IG profiles for locals in the city, like #weloveoakland and #Oaklandish. With these two, I began to find people online who also lived in Oakland as well as beloved local businesses, shops, coffee roasters, and events. As time went on, I had the opportunity to begin building both an online community with fellow Oaklanders as well as meet people in the community based on common interests through hashtags like #cmOak. "Cm" stands for the international organization called Creative Mornings while "Oak" stands for the Oakland branch of that organization. Creative Mornings is where creative minds get together monthly for talks on various topics.

This is where the real meat of the hashtag takes place—when it leads you out into your community, meeting others face to face. There are loads of organizations, shops, and events I discovered through hashtags and want to attend, but have yet to begin even scratching the surface on visiting them all.

As you get more specific (but not too specific) in your use of hashtags, you can begin to seek to diversify your community. By using various online forums, it would be much easier for me to attend advertised playgroups with my daughter and thereby only connect with other moms. Don’t get me wrong, there is certainly a need for playgroups and for moms to connect, but I also believe there is potential for more. Instead of stopping there, I've been able to connect with others who have a broader range of commonalities--some with children, some without, some with similar faith backgrounds, but by and large--not, some who are also transplants from the NE, but others with completely different cultural backgrounds and upbringings. The hashtag is incredibly helpful for meeting others with the added bonus of living an intentionally diverse lifestyle.

One final aspect to using these hashtags is discovering important local events; there are things happening in Oakland that I would not know about without the use of hashtags. Not even two weeks ago, a local man, Twon Shavers was shot and killed. It was horribly sad to read about this young man’s life, his love for his daughter, and his commitment to Oakland. By discovering #pray4Oakland, I was inspired by this beautiful legacy left by a man committed to seeing change in his city. Discovering a person's story, being inspired by their life, and having important conversations all based on a hashtag is an incredible resource for our current place in human history, so why not take full advantage of that?

Each of these examples led me to finding and following others who love the city of Oakland. These individuals may also be raising small children here; they may also be artists or love the outdoors. By starting broad, then honing in on local love, and eventually focusing in until I found others with more specific commonalities as myself, I've been able to find gems of places and people in a relatively short time. Everywhere I turn on Instagram and Twitter, by way of using various local hashtags, I’ve been amazed by this city, it’s people, and how quickly I’ve taken pride in calling my home.

A couple of real-life friends I’ve made by way of hashtags are from Slojoy Coffee.

They are currently sharing their roasts by way of events and pop-up shops throughout Oakland. These guys love this community. They are committed to spreading joy, to providing local roasts from small batches of coffee to their subscribers, and did I mention--they love SPREADING JOY in the city of Oakland. I love them a lot and hope you’ll check them out and SUBSCRIBE to have their coffee delivered to your doorstep.

A Mother's Day Gift Guide // aftcra

In light of my love for all things American and locally made, I wanted to share a site with you I recently discovered. In their words,

"aftcra is an online marketplace where you can buy and sell American handmade products. Our mission is to support local artists and artisans living in America by connecting them with handmade admirers across the globe."

In hopes of spreading the word about this up-and-coming American artisan site, I've created this Mother's Day guide featuring products from aftcra. Don't worry, don't worry--you didn't forget; Mother's Day is still about five weeks away. But, in order to support artisans, it is important to look ahead for the necessary turnaround time for production.

I know my husband and I often forget to show appreciation for the moms in our lives. For this reason, I'm taking some time to think about all the things I'm grateful for about them, and beginning to plan which of these aftcra treasures might show them our love when May 8th arrives. You can click on any of the photos to go to the artists' links, none of which are affiliate sites. Enjoy!!

For your Crunchy Mamas

 Coiled Rope Basket with Handles Made in North Carolina Price Tag: $58 (plus $10 US shipping)

Coiled Rope Basket with Handles
Made in North Carolina
Price Tag: $58 (plus $10 US shipping)

For your Wine-Loving, Hostess Moms

 Handcrafted Wine Rack with Early American Finish Made in Texas Price Tag: $62.50 (plus $18 US shipping)

Handcrafted Wine Rack with Early American Finish
Made in Texas
Price Tag: $62.50 (plus $18 US shipping)

For your Homebody Mamas

 Coffee Books and Rain Tee Shirt Made in Ohio Price Tag: $22 (plus $5 US shipping)

Coffee Books and Rain Tee Shirt
Made in Ohio
Price Tag: $22 (plus $5 US shipping)

For your Gardening/Homesteading Gals

 Reclaimed Glass Honeycomb Sun Catcher Made in Minnesota Price tag: $100 (plus $12.50 US shipping)  

Reclaimed Glass Honeycomb Sun Catcher
Made in Minnesota
Price tag: $100 (plus $12.50 US shipping)
 

For your Ladies who are always behind the Lens

 Business Card Pocket for Camera Strap Made in Oregon Price Tag: $10 (plus $4 US shipping)

Business Card Pocket for Camera Strap
Made in Oregon
Price Tag: $10 (plus $4 US shipping)

 Camera Lens Cap Pocket Made in Oregon Price Tag: $10 (plus $4 US shipping)

Camera Lens Cap Pocket
Made in Oregon
Price Tag: $10 (plus $4 US shipping)

For your Eclectic, Book-Loving Ladies

 Industrial Desk/Nightstand Lamp Made in Illinois Price Tag: $65 (plus $20 US shipping)

Industrial Desk/Nightstand Lamp
Made in Illinois
Price Tag: $65 (plus $20 US shipping)

And of course...your E-Book Worms too

 Oak Wood Valet Charging Stand Nightstand Dock Made in Virginia Price Tag: $49.99 (plus $13 US Shipping)

Oak Wood Valet Charging Stand Nightstand Dock
Made in Virginia
Price Tag: $49.99 (plus $13 US Shipping)

For the Mothers who taught us the value of Traveling

 A Custom Passport Holder Made in Utah Price Tag: $69 (plus $4 US shipping)

A Custom Passport Holder
Made in Utah
Price Tag: $69 (plus $4 US shipping)

 A Custom Driftwood Collage Made in Ohio Price Tag: $149 (plus $14 for US shipping)

A Custom Driftwood Collage
Made in Ohio
Price Tag: $149 (plus $14 for US shipping)


For the Mums who've always wanted to live in a Hobbit Hole: "Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”
-
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

 Barrel Top Twig Coffee Table Made in Kentucky Price Tag: $175 (Includes Shipping)

Barrel Top Twig Coffee Table
Made in Kentucky
Price Tag: $175 (Includes Shipping)

And lastly, for the Moms in your life who've heard far too many times, "I can build you that!"

 Pine Wood Dining Room Table with Hairpin Legs Made in Michigan Price tag: $555-$635

Pine Wood Dining Room Table with Hairpin Legs
Made in Michigan
Price tag: $555-$635

I'd love to hear your ideas for great Mother's Day gifts! Fill me in by commenting below :)...

Thanks for joining me, and don't forget to check out aftcra!!

 

My Favorites // Baby Edition

When my husband and I were preparing for the arrival of our daughter, there were so many items that friends and family graciously sent our way (we had three baby showers!!). Our people are seriously incredible. Some items we received and bought were incredibly helpful and I'd choose the same brands all over again. While other items, I probably returned or eventually gave away.

As we get ready for child number two, I've been thinking about the items I can't imagine living without, and here's what I've come up with (The links below are affiliate links: if you make purchases through the links, Amazon will pay me a little bit at no extra cost to you :-)). This list doesn't include things like clothes and toys, so much as the bare necessities. Although as far as clothes and toys--hand-me-downs for the win!

We tried SO many binkies with baby girl, and this is the ONLY one should would take. We weren't for or against using one in the first place, and waited several months for the sake of steering clear of nipple confusion. When it came to it, our girl was WAY fussy and so we were all for using a binky to help in those early days. These ones are made by a family business in Italy from 100% natural tree rubber.

I'm obsessed with our bottles. Again, Miss. fuss never took milk from a bottle, but we were eventually able to use these puppies. They are 100% plastic free, made of stainless steel. This means they won't break, don't leak gross chemicals, and are super lightweight. They're also compatible with quite a few different nipple brands if babe doesn't like theirs.

I've had six different baby carriers, plus one I made myself. Along with a very lightweight, bouncy wrap that I have (which you could find similarly at Solly Baby,) this is my favorite. We're on the go a lot, so strapping the mini on has made it possible for being active and some pretty strenuous hiking. This carrier is great because it isn't bulky or heavy, and it's machine-washable. Apparently there's even a 4-position carrier now, which is pretty sweet.

This is the only balm I use on basically everything. While our newborn had some pretty nasty baby acne, everything I read said leave it alone. But, in one place I read, it said to keep it moisturized, which made way more sense to me. So, I used this and it was gone in two days. Obviously this isn't medical advice, but it totally worked for us.

I decided to give cloth diapering a try, and it worked really well for us. I've put it on hold since moving to drought-ridden CA where we pay for our laundry. But, I'm so glad I chose these ones. They aren't bulky and we've never had a blowout.

I included this water bottle simply because I couldn't believe how thirsty I was during pregnancy and nursing. Nobody informed me of this and I didn't read it anywhere, so I learned really quickly to always have water handy. I'm not totally in love with glass water bottles, but I like that this one has the pop-open flippy top and a silicone sleeve. 

I'm sure everyone gets a pack 'n play these days, I just remember having NO clue how to decide which one. We were given and borrowed several. This is the one we ended up buying, and I'm really glad we did. It's compact, and includes a bassinet, a napper and a diaper changer spot. Baby girl slept in this puppy every night for about 8 months, and still sleeps in it at a year and half when we travel.

Heidi girl loves books, and it's been wonderful reading her stories out of this Jesus Storybook Bible. The illustrations are great and the stories give simple summaries of scripture, with each one pointing to Jesus.

What were your baby essentials? Was there anything you felt like was a waste of money/space or anything you never expected to want, but fell in love with?

I haven't been to this cafe yet, but cannot wait to check it out. According to their website, they have built in baby and children sections where parents can watch over their children while getting some work done. Srsly? This sounds like a win.

Small Talk Family Café // 1536 Newell Ave, Walnut Creek, Ca

(Please do not assume that this post reflects the thoughts or philosophies of the above featured shop. Thanks for joining me!)

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.a
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
-A psalm of King David

Zooptopia // An Attempt at a Movie Review

As my husband and I pulled out of the drive-in after watching the recent Pixar film Zootopia, many different thoughts of the film arose in our conversation. Here are a few:

  A cup of Verve.

A cup of Verve.

As a parent // Like my parents did for me, I want my daughter to know that she can pursue any dream she has for her future. Be it a career, an educational path, a desire to travel or move to the big city, I want her to know that we will support her and guide her to pursue any calling she believes to be hers. More importantly though, I want her to know that who she is matters more than anything she comes to do in life.

We hear all the time about miserable millionaires, dissatisfied celebrities, and hearts corrupted by greed and power. In the like, I've seen plenty of people who say they've "arrived," and yet have no more joy than they did before they even began to seek their success. And yet, on the opposite hand, I've heard stories and met people who struggle day in and day out to get by, and yet the joy that they have is contagious. They are full of integrity and generosity.

Of course, neither of these situations are mutually exclusive nor are they a guarantee on either part, but that's the point. No matter where my daughter's path leads, I want her to know that who she is as a human far outweighs whatever she comes to accomplish. Though the heroine bunny's goals were not money or fame, the focus was on her career path over her integrity and character as a future bunny police officer.

Title // As we talked about Judy Hopp's parents and the fear-filled values they were instilling in their daughter, we asked, "what happened to "'No Farms No Food?'" The writers of this movie had an incredible opportunity to show an example of parents who could encourage their daughter in her dreams, while also not belittling their life as farmers. Being portrayed as small town, back country bunnies, wanting their daughter to stay put and "settle," never risking anything for the betterment of the community was a huge disappointment. The movie made the farmers out to be fearful instead of strong and influential in their own community. For shame, Pixar. A big city officer is no better than a carrot farmer. Both are good and necessary, but again--who they are as bunnies is what matters and is the piece that will determine what legacy they leave in this world. A job title cannot do this.

Social // Oh dear, do I dare? I do. This movie made a great attempt at touching the heart of many a human struggle one might experience. If your battle is being a woman in a "man's field," if it's your socioeconomic status, cultural background, or job title, there is a beautiful message that says you can pursue your dreams, and if you persevere through the trials and the discouragement of others, there is a chance you just might make it. Awesome, yes. I greatly appreciated that this film told viewers that things don't always seem as they appear, and that you can rise above your situation, and that even that which seems impossible can be possible.

So, my pros for Zootopia are that through hard work and determination, you can pursue your dreams, and that not all is what it seems to be--even a bunny can overcome the scary big-city. But really, much of that message was hindered by putting down the farmers and by not sharing the message that who we are as humans outweighs what we do for a job. I haven't even started on how tired I am of Disney for starring strong willed, independent children who are never supported by their parents, and yet always end up being the "good guys" while the parents end up somehow changing their perspective, instead of the other way around (or both/and). In too many of these movies, the parents have either died or or are fear filled in their ways of parenting. To name a few, The Little Mermaid, Brave, and Finding Nemo. Don't get me wrong, I like these movies for other reasons, but I would find it refreshing to see more loving, supportive, and wise parental guidance. Some all time favorites include Meet the Robinsons, Monster's Inc., Cars, and Lilo and Stitch.

Have you seen the movie? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Today, I'm featuring a CA-based coffee roaster known for their commitment to Directly Traded, relational coffee buying practices. In their words:

"The Farmlevel Initiative is vital to the future of coffee. At Farmlevel, it shows farmers that their work matters, their attention to detail is noticed, and that we support them every step of the way. It supports paying our farmers premiums for quality coffees through direct trade relationships. Our direct trade practice allows us to exceed Fair Trade minimums every time, no exceptions."

You can find Verve coffee at several cafe locations around the Oakland area. In the meantime, check out their informative website to learn more about what it means to support Directly Traded Coffee, "Farmlevel" coffee.

(Please do not assume this post to be reflective of the thoughts or philosophies of the above featured shop. Thanks for joining me, friends!)

"And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
-Jesus replied with the Story of the Good Samaritan.

I'm not a Minimalist, but I Embrace Simple Living

I spent my whole life living in excess: owning clothes I never wore, having rooms and surfaces cluttered with stuff (read—“have surfaces"), and attics full of boxes. It wasn't until my husband and I experienced a house fire that I even began to embrace a simpler lifestyle. After losing some items we used and cherished while not losing a bunch of junk we'd (I'd) collected over the years, it suddenly all seemed really silly to hold onto. While I don't live a minimalist lifestyle, there are the three main reasons I value simplicity:

IMG_3555.JPG

1.     Love of God // Living with all my wants, needs, and desires is not life giving. I find that living in excess has a way of making me spiritually lazy (or maybe all-around lazy?). When I’m constantly trying to clean up, maintain, and reorganize a bunch of stuff, I have less time and energy to focus my heart and mind on what really matters most in my life. Along with that, the more stuff I own, the more distracted I am on a daily basis, having my focus pulled in a million directs. For similar reasons, we've never had cable (don't let me sound too snobbish--we do have Netflix...and ad-free Hulu, both of which we deactivate during summer months.)

2.     Love of Neighbor // I have a really hard time with this one because there aren’t any tangible, obvious solutions. But, living in excess when my neighbor is in want just doesn’t sit right. I certainly still have way more than I need in this regard, so over the years I’ve sought to live with less and less while also consuming less and less. The consuming less is the key piece. It’s liberating to go through a household purge, but keeping off the excess is no easy task. This is why I have to be intentional about where I spend my time—both around town and virtually. It’s too easy to get sucked into adorable baby gear on Instagram and antique goods at the flea market.

3.     Being a Good Steward // The more we consume, the more waste we produce; the more waste we produce, the more we fill up land and waterways with non-biodegradable materials that will long outlast my life here on earth. This also plays a major role in why we sacrifice eating more of the foods we love for choosing to eat food we believe to be morally-made/grown/raised. What I mean is food that is local, organic, and natural when possible, and containing real ingredients. This might include grass-fed or cage-free meat or milk from cows that were not pumped with growth hormones (ideally grass-fed as well because…Mmm Mmm, it. is. delish!)

While gradually embracing simplicity of living, I’ve read a lot of material on becoming a minimalist, and here are the two areas I usually get stuck // Home and Wardrobe

1.     I like my home to feel cozy // I have paintings and tapestries on the walls, and an excess of blankets for friends. I keep funky and unique, ceramic mugs for the mornings and for when friends visit. I have hand-woven baskets to keep things in, and plants in all the windows. Oh--and string lights; there will always be string lights.

I have an eclectic taste, and I just like it that way. It's what I would call an outdoorsy, vintage, international, grandmom-kind-of-cozy space. That totally makes sense, right? As my friend Jill once said, I put all different stuff together and it just works.

2.     I like a little sunshine in my closet // I’ve looked on Pinterest endlessly for inspo on having what is known as a “capsule” or minimalist wardrobe. Maybe I just have yet to find the right source (and have considered becoming the source on the topic for this reason), but all the whites and blacks and tans just don’t cut it. I’m still figuring out what my goal should be on this one, but keeping some fun colors in the closet feels necessary for my style.

I've only ever been in one minimalist home, and when I say it was stunning--I mean, stunning! It was clean and there was nothing to trip over as I walked through and nothing to move when I set down my cup. The closets were so simple that there was no need for a dresser. There were no dishes in the sink because when home life is that effortless, and there aren't a million things to juggle, doing dishes isn't such a big deal. Because of this home, I will continue to seek to live a simple, and maybe even someday--minimalist, life.

Featuring a Philly Coffee Roaster this week, the ReAnimator Coffee space is the kind you want to go to get stuff done. There's no distraction and the decor is minimal--perfect for focusing on your work or a good read. Clean, simple, and beautiful. Click the link below for locations and more info:

ReAnimator Coffee // 310 W. MASTER STREET // Philadelphia // 19122

(Please do not assume that this post reflects the thoughts or philosophies of the above featured shop. Thanks for joining me!)

"As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments..." And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property."

On Being Human

It’s so easy to fall into the temptation of wanting to “have it all together.” I literally cannot count how many times I’ve wanted to be in a different stage of life, a different place geographically, to have a career that I loved, or to have more time with friends because I felt lonely. I can’t count how many days I spent wishing I was just…happier.

The reality however, is that we’re not meant to be happy all the time. There are times of struggling, wrestling, and scrapping just to get through the day. This reality is part of what makes us fully human. Accepting where we are, and seeking to be fully present in our trials instead and fighting to do anything we can to move past them is what makes us present—it’s what gives us contentment in life. Trusting that where we are is where we’re meant to be, that no one else could take our place, is part of the pilgrimage.

The difficult days and months and years are part of the beauty of being human.

When I look into the past, I don’t regret the poor decisions I made because of course, they are a part of what made me who I am now and who I will be in the future. The only things I regret are the times I wasted any energy on wishing I was somewhere else, which quite honestly takes up a good portion of my history.

It was so important for me to learn to accept when it was time to hustle and when it was time to surrender. It can be so good and necessary to persevere to reach our dreams and goals, but it can also be terribly detrimental when those goals were never meant for us. For five years, I applied for hundreds of dream jobs and masters programs, wanting desperately to be more valuable than I believed I was at the time. Though my fight was fruitless, it wasn’t fruitless because I didn’t get one of those jobs or funding to go back to school. It was fruitless because it’s not where I was meant to bear fruit. I’m grateful now to know that even if I’m in a place and space that doesn’t meet all my desires, it’s more fruitful to surrender than to do whatever I can to be somewhere else--in an ideal land I’ve imagined should be my reality.

I'm so excited for this Oakland Coffee Roaster to setup their cafe at their roasting site in Fruitvale. Being fully present for their employees, those they are mentoring in other ways than in being baristas, is incredibly inspiring and their presence in the Oakland community is a sweet gift and blessing. Check out their site for all the locations you can get their beans.

Red Bay Coffee Roasters // 3098 E 10th St // Oakland

Also, check out their Facebook Page

(Please do not assume that this post reflects the thoughts or philosophies of the above featured shop. Thanks for joining me!)

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
-A letter from Paul to the Roman followers of Jesus

There's No Such Thing As Cheap

A photo posted by BG Cook (@brittanygcook) on

An idea I wrestle with constantly is that there's no such thing as "cheap". In some way or another, everything has a cost. When we as consumers buy cheaper versions of products, there are several ways that this lower cost is made up. The sad and unfortunate reality is that the cost is usually made up in what is considered to be unimaginable conditions for the people producing the products. The other alternative, though not mutually exclusive from the first, is that a consumer is paying for their product by giving up quality and longevity.

By being "cheap," both human ethic and quality are sacrificed.

Nothing is cheap. Somebody is paying the price for our purchases and for the lifestyles we chose to live. When it comes to food and drinks, the same realities apply. As consumers, we choose where we compromise:

Farmers' Living Conditions | Land & Waterways Pumped with Chemicals | Animals Raised Unnaturally

Everything has a cost. Just because we as consumers think we're saving money and therefore doing a good thing by being frugal, we're actually being fooled into letting others pay the cost. And yet, in small and BIG ways, change is taking place everyday.

I had a friend in Philly who owned a coffee shop--actually two.

Blew is a coffee shop owner committed to using ethically sourced goods: coffees, teas, pastries, art...Her commitment to sourcing ethical and when possible, local goods for her shop, she is setting an example for us all that living a little less selflessly isn't so impossible after all. In her words,

"Everything in the store follows our 4 values: local, organic, relational trade, and made with love. We want to encourage that it is possible to live simply, healthy, and aware lives. "

It's my tendency to think on a global level, to think in terms of how everyone and everything is connected. Because of this, I'm especially drawn to coffee shops like Frannie Lou's that hold to the same values. It's all too easy for us humans to think that our actions don't cause ripples that effect others around the world. That just isn't true. In fact, I'm starting to think that our individual actions and choices are perhaps the only way to make a difference worldwide.

Personal sacrifice in our daily lives is necessary for the sake of compassion and justice, and for the sake of our neighbors--near and far alike.

Featured Shop: Franny Lou's Porch
2400 Coral St // Philadelphia, PA