Simply Beautiful

Simply beautiful. Those are really the best words I know to use indescribing the place where true conference was held third past week.

Of course, you know I can’t stop with only two words to describe a place!


Rick and Mary Beth Holladay are a couple whose lives just ooze with creativity and hospitality. You get a glimpse of this the moment you set foot in The Art Factory in Kandern, Germany.


But the initial impression does not do justice to what we ultimately experienced. The pair has transformed an old abandoned tile factory in a small German village into a place of beauty. They have done and continue to do numerous renovations and improvements.


The building is home to several apartments that are rented out. The Holladays live there as well, and have a number of bedrooms that can be reserved.


Think of the coziest shabby-chic B&B possible. Add to that endless antiques, projects that make what I see on Pinterest look like child’s play, beautiful art, and the opportunity for art courses, small events, and open mic evenings, and you might get a slight idea of what lies within this monstrous yet cozy building.
And I didn’t even mention the incredible meals that Mary Beth prepared for us.
Of course, with a kitchen like this, I think I would want to cook


I would be remiss to neglect the town of Kandern. Quaint and simple, it has all you need and not a lot more.


Local shops bring beauty. The town eiscafe (ice cream shop) can’t be missed.


And there also a number of nice walking trails to explore.

You can read more about The Art Factory and the Holladays at

Kaffetur 5 / Coffee Tour #5: Daily at Sissy Boy – Haarlem

I knew nothing of scones, until I discovered Daily at Sissy Boy.

It all started with a short train ride in the Netherlands from Amsterdam to Haarlem* to fulfill a bucket list item. Excited would be an understatement as we approached the city that was once the home to Corrie ten Boom (you can read about her here).

We arrived ahead of our scheduled appointment to tour the Hiding Place Museum, so we found ourselves wandering a bit. And just down the street from the museum and the Ten Boom Juwelier, we stumbled upon a charming boutique.

Sissy Boy offers a nice selection clothing and home decor, a pairing that seems increasingly common in northern and western European shops. And while its merchandise looked quite nice, it was the cafe that drew us in.

Daily is Sissy Boy’s in-house cafe. It showcases the simple and clean design we’ve come to find so many places in Europe, as well as an assortment of pastries and breads, and a menu of breakfast and lunch items.

We all ordered scones with cream and jam.

I highly recommend this. Highly.

And we found their coffee and espresso very good as well. Nothing hand crafted, but they obviously were using fresh, high quality beans.

If you have the opportunity to visit the Netherlands, by all means you should see the Ten Boom Museum in Haarlem. And while you’re there, stop by Daily at Sissy Boy for a nice little treat!

*Be sure to schedule a few extra hours in Haarlem. A beautiful place to simply walk up and down the streets and along the canals. More picturesque and quieter than Amsterdam!

Mothers Day… isn’t always so happy

Several years ago, I served as a writer for Examiner. One article I shared in 2010 expressed my thoughts on Mother’s Day. At the time I was mom to one little cutie.
Since American Mother’s Day is this Sunday, I thought I would share the [slightly modified] text of the article below. You can read the original post HERE.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
For a number of years, I avoided Mother’s Day like a plague. I was perfectly content to remain holed up in my house, blinds closed, eating chocolate and waiting for the day to be over.
I so wanted to be a mother. But for me, Mother’s Day served as a harsh reality check.

You see, my dream wasn’t to be pregnant. My vision had nothing to do with maternity clothes. I battle my weight enough as it is, thank you very much.

I wasn’t one to “ooh” and “aah” over newborn garments. I never longed to go through the birth process.

No, my dream was to wear the hat of cheerleader, chef, housekeeper, chauffer, referee, nurse, and general multi-tasker. I longed to put our child to bed, read him a story, sing him a song, say prayers together, and tuck him in.

On a day like this, extra attention in the form of hugs or conversation might be the opposite of what she desires. But you could take the time to buy a card, write a thoughtful note, send some flowers, or give her a give certificate for a spa service. Find a way to let her know you care!


I found myself skipping church almost every Mother’s Day. I couldn’t bear another year where I remained in my seat while the pastor asked all of the mothers in the congregation to stand and be recognized.


I looked forward to nights of being frazzled and exhausted, realizing that I didn’t get half the things done that I intended to… but happy knowing that I spent time with him instead.
I dreamt of teaching him new things, watching him learn, and taking him new places. I longed to fix his boo-boos, calm his fears, and wipe away tears. I couldn’t wait to tickle him and hug him, and remind him over and over that I love him.
Our firsts weren’t about teeth or steps. Instead, we beamed the first time he called us Mommy & Daddy, the first time he saw the ocean, the first time he told us what he learned in Sunday School, the first time he sincerely said ‘I love you’.
My dream wasn’t tied around the idea of a baby. My dream was to be a mom. And in late 2007, that dream came true. Mother’s Day 2010 will be the third I celebrate as my son’s mother.
I look back to just a few years ago, and remember how hard Mother’s Day was. I look at it now with delight and excitement. God allowed me to become a mother in HIS timing. We arrived in our son’s birth country at the exact time we needed to in order to add him to our family.
As we approach Mother’s Day, consider those ladies close to you that might be struggling. Perhaps infertility haunts her. Or it could be she’s lost a child. Maybe she is stuck in the seemingly endless paperwork of adoption. Or maybe she gave a child up for adoption. Whatever their struggle, it’s likely not an easy day for her. 


On a day like this, extra attention in the form of hugs or conversation might be the opposite of what she desires. But you could take the time to buy a card, write a thoughtful note, send some flowers, or give her a give certificate for a spa service. Find a way to let her know you care!

Kaffetur 4/ Coffee Tour #4: Johan och Nyström Coffee, Stockholm

There is a word in Swedish that I so wish we would adopt in Norwegian:

fika [FEE-kah]

As I’ve come to understand it, fika is a pause/break involving coffee (though sometimes people replace that for another beverage, particularly for children), and generally would also include sandwiches or pastries.

We’ve heard fika used as both a noun and a verb. A brilliant word, a brilliant concept. Maybe it should go beyond Norwegian adaptation. Perhaps every language should adopt fika!

Last summer while visiting our supervisors in Stockholm, we checked out two cafès that seem to be prime spots for fika – or maybe to fika! I’m highlighting one of those spots today for the kaffetur.

Johan och Nyström‘s Concept Store is located in Södermalm, one of our favorite areas of Stockholm. Not far from a train station, J&N sits prominently on a corner, just begging for you to stop in.

And once inside, if you’re anything like me, you will certainly fall in love with the look and feel of the cafe. It’s not that large, although there is additional seating outside and in the loft. But it boasts beautiful colors, and is incredibly organized, clean, modern, and just an overall delightful place.

As we typically do, Zack and I each picked a different coffee. It gives us a chance to try more than one. We tried the Picknick blend, as well as their selection from Nicaragua. Both were prepared as a pourer, and they were quite good.

If you look closely here, you can see both
AeroPress and pour-over

I love shops that really take their time with coffee. It is so much more than beans and brewing. It truly is an art.


And so it is with J&N. They offered pour-over and AeroPress. Processes that take time, but processes that are certainly worth the wait.

I highly recommend a visit to this shop if you’re ever in Stockholm. While we did have coffee at one other place in Stockholm that I found to be slightly better, you just can’t beat the combination of quality coffee and ambiance.

A perfect spot for fika! (In fact, they actually offer a Fika blend: