Friday Coffee: Cafe Firefly

So a couple weeks ago I said that some friends and I were going to try out different coffee shops and let you know what we find.

I realize this is (pretty much) useless information for anyone who doesn’t live in the Chicago area…but maybe you’ll be passing through someday. (And if you do, please let me know so I can meet you for coffee!)

And if you are from the area, consider it your own personal guide on where to find the best java by someone who loves the stuff.


So I need to set some criteria, otherwise my coffee house reviews will have no rhyme or reason…although I do tend to have a random brain, so maybe I should just fly by the seat of my pants on these reviews.

We’ll see.

So a little background before I get going on my first “official” coffee house review.

Every other Friday afternoon Maelie and I go to coffee with our friends Alison and Kirsten.

It’s more just social time than anything, but I always come away from our time feeling encouraged in some way, so it’s definitely good for us. And Maelie really likes coffee dates, even if she’s too young to k now it right

now. Haha :)

A couple weeks ago, Kirsten mentioned something about me blogging about the different places we have coffee…and I figured, hmmm…that could be fun. So let’s give it a try! I mean, I live in (or close to) the suburbs of Chicago…we definitely aren’t going to run out of places to have coffee!

So here we go… (and I apologize for not having pictures with this one…next time I will take my camera!)

Today was Cafe Firefly in Algonquin, which is just about a ten minute drive from my house in Carpentersville.

Atmosphere: We fell in love with the atmosphere of the place immediately.

It’s small…but cozy, and we were lucky enough to grab the two big couches in the back.

Coffee: I’d give it a 9 out of 10…and I’m a coffee snob, so that says something. I had a Mexican Mocha (made with spicy chocolate), decaf (of course…I want my daughter to sleep!), skim. I left the whip on it because it’s Friday. I don’t usually let myself have it, though, because so much of the bad-for-you fat comes from the whip.

It was really, really good…I think I will have a hard time going back to Cafe Firefly and NOT ordering that drink.

Food: I don’t always order food when we go for our Friday coffee, but I hadn’t had lunch today, so I had the chicken salad, and my two friends had the tuna. I think if I order food there again, I would go with

the tuna. It was good… but the drinks were better.

(But that IS why it’s a coffee shop. :))

Prices: About average for a coffee shop. For a sandwich and coffee I paid around $10, which is not extremely cheap, but not on the outrageous side, either. Since I have a (pretty) strict coffee budget, I probably won’t be eating lunch very often when we go for our Friday coffee, but it was okay today.

Extras: The owner is really friendly. I love small coffee shops for that reason…it’s more like a f

amily atmosphere. They have a lot of board games if you like that kind

of thing. Tonight they also had Open Mic…which was really tempting–I’ m hoping they have it again.

Now I just need a friend to go with me… :)

Recommended: Definitely. I’ll go back for the Mexican Mocha if

for nothing else. And if they have another Open Mic night

? I’m totally there.

So for our first “official” Friday Coffee, Cafe Firefly was a good choice.

Give it a try if you’re ever in the area!


And the Winner is…

Drumroll, please…

Sarah Sobbing!

Sarah, I’ll be sending you an e-mail to get

your mailing address.

Congrats! :)

So I seriously loved doing a giveaway just to hear the blessings going on in your lives.

So cool.

I would do one every day if

I could afford the postage. :)

Thanks for reading and entering my very first giveaway.

And from looking at my purse closet again today, I can almost assure you that there will be more giveaways in the future!

Blessings and have a great weekend!



Ever have one of those weeks?

Yeah, I’m in the middle of one.

It’s just been off…nothing completely horrible, just nothing really going right.

Maelie is sick…it’s just a cold, but I know she doesn’t feel well, and it hurts my heart that I can’t make it better.

The snow is melting.

Yay for warmer temperatures…but with everything so soggy and disgusting AND with no sun, the whole day just feels kind of blah.

Gray, gray, go away!

I feel like I haven’t been the best wife possible this week. I’m learning a lot about humility and extending mercy to my husband, leaving some room for him to be human. (I’m also thinking I need to revisit Micah 6:8 very soon…)

My dogs are driving me crazy. I love them…but sometimes their exuberance at ALL the wrong times (aka: Maelie’s naptime) makes me want to lock them in the bedroom. And Sammy fell through the ice on the river this morning…maybe Tobin can tell that story sometime.

:) Don’t worry, he’s fine. He just came home very, very WET!

And very, very happy…which is not exactly what we want…that dog has no fear.

Tobin and I are in the process of waiting on something huge. It’s something I want SO badly, and the reality is that there is nothing I can do about it right now. I need to just open up my hands… so please pray for us.

If He wants it for us, it will happen.

God is doing a lot in my heart right now, but I’m having a hard time finding the words to share that…and that scares me.

I’m a writer…and when I can’t find words, it just feels wrong.

I’m also a feeler and it’s easy for the drama queen tendencies to come out more often when my days aren’t bursting with joy.

I also think that feelers have more discouraging days because we have such high expectations for life…so really, there’s nothing wrong with life right now. (Although I could definitely use some more sun!)

A sweet blogger friend posted this passage a few days ago.

It’s one of my favorites, and reading it makes me feel like my Father wrote it just for me.

“But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you.'”

Isaiah 43:1-4a (ESV)

So cool…I love His promises.

I. Am. His.

No matter what.


My First Giveaway!

I am so excited to do a giveaway!

So, here’s the little story behind this first one.

I sort of came home from

Indonesia with A LOT of bags and purses. I didn’t know how many I actually had until I unpacked and hung them all in my purse closet.

Yes, I have a purse closet.

(You should come over and see it…it’ s very cool.

And very…ahem…full.)

Most of them I’ve never used…I just picked them up here and there whenever we went on

a trip or I found a cute one.

So, in an effort to help myself get rid of some things and to spread some Indo-love, I am giving away one of my bags.

Th is one

is a be

ach bag from Bali.

I love it…but don’t worry, I have more. :)

You can fit just about anything in it…I even have one like it that I’ve used for a diaper bag, and it actually holds everything I need!

(I’ve never found an actual diaper bag that can accomplish that feat.)

So, here’s how to enter…it’s simple.

Leave me a comment on this blog and tell me a blessing God has given you recently.

Big or small, just share a blessing!

(Oh, and for those of you commenting for the first time…don’t worry if your comment doesn’ t show up righ

t away. I have to approve it first…then, once you’ve been approved, you can comment anytime.)

On Friday I’ll randomly choose a winner!

Please enter! And selfishly, I’m curious how many people actually read my blog…so this might help give me an idea. :)

Happy commenting…and good luck!


Taking Myself Out of the Box

I accepted the realization the other day that I have a little rebellious streak.

(That’s why I said accepted…I’ve known it for awhile.


I think

the whole idea behind that rebellion is that I don’t like to be put in a box.

I don’t mean that I think it’s wrong to have boundaries…in fact, life without boundaries isn’ t very heal


I’m referring to being put into a box based on other’s expectations…or even my own, in this case.

A few weeks ago I set a goal to write here every single day for a year.

It is: 1) going ok…I’m not running out of ideas yet; 2) providing some good reflection and processing time that I believe is necessary in transition; 3) teaching me to evaluate the tone of things that I write; 4) giving me an outlet to be myself; and 5) giving me a pl

ace to share the things I am passionate about.

Overall, it’s good…and I get to write, which

I love.

But I also unofficially (aka: in my head) set a goal to make Mondays my day of the week to blog about what God is teaching me from His Word.

And there’s nothing wrong with that…It’s a very good thing.

I love it that I’ m learning again, because truthfully, I went a through long stretch when I felt like I was living in a desert.

But then I ran into a couple problems: 1) The Packers won the Super Bowl (that’s right, this is all the Pack’s fault!); and 2) Valentine’s Day.

I wanted to blog about those.

And I felt guilty that I blogged about them instead of the Bible…and I shouldn’t make myself feel that way.

So I need to get out of this box of expectations that I’ve already plopped myself into.

God is doing some cool stuff and when the time is right, I’ll share it with you. That may be five times a week, it may be once every three weeks. But limiting myself (and Him) in that way is stressing me out and making me worry about what other people think.

So I’m going to move away from the whole Mondays-I-will-do-this-Tuesdays-I-will-do-that thing and just write what’s on my heart.

I’m jumping out of the box today.

Thanks so much for reading…and for those of you who have left comments or just told me you love my blog…

Thank you.

It means a lot.


That Kind of Love

buy cheap antibiotics″>

We don’t have the kind of story that people write love

songs about.

We met when I was a senior in college, and he was already working a job he planned to stay with for awhile. I wasn’t planning on getting married and had big dreams of heading to the mission field alone.

But then he walked into my life… and I fell in love.

It wasn’t instant…it took a couple of d

ates. When he dropped me off at home after our second date, I knew this was the man I was going to marry.

It took him about another month to be sure.

A lot of people disagreed with us. We were young, we hardly knew each other.

But we didn’t care what other people thought…and still don’t. We knew.

And that was all that mattered.

We dated five months, were engaged for ten, and married on August 3, 2002.

It was a simple wedding. I’m not a froo-froo girl. I picked out my wedding dress (and bought it) in 45 minutes. I went barefoot. (One less thing to trip over :)) The decorations were simple…daisies, blue, and silver. My bridesmaids were five of my closest friends. From the beginning of the wedding to the end of the reception, it was maybe three hours. Oh, and we ate pie…it was really good. :)

That was just us.

And it was perfect.

We spent a week in Jamaica…so. much. love.

And then we returned to normal life.

And that life has brought many, many things.

Unemployment, searching, praying, obedience, goodbyes, adventures, adjustments, tears, waiting, hoping, trusting, seeing God’s provision, perseverance, acceptance, joy…and love.

Not always the jump-on-top-of-each-other or make-out-for-hours kind of love.

..but true love.

The kind that hangs on when things get rough and promises to be there no matter what. The kind that can survive the biggest arguments, the most unkind words, the really terrible days.

When he walked into my life ten years ago, I had no idea what the next decade would hold…but I’ m so thankful.

Thankful for the man who sees all of my imperfections and flaws and still chooses to love me. Thankful for the guy who calls me “Honeypie” and teases me endlessly with a certain word I despise…and then gives me a wink, just to let me know that it’s all in love. Thankful for a guy who was willing to stay with a girl when life seemed so upside-down and unfair…and love her through the many ugly and awful days.

It’s been just about ten years now since I fell in love.

And although life hasn’t turned out like what we first pictured, I would do it all again…every single moment…for that kind of love.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Tobin. I love you.



Controlling the Urge to Chop

Warning: Stop reading now.

Why are you still reading?!

Ok, so today’s pos t

is slightly indulgent and more-than-

slightly ridiculous.

But, really…when I plan to blog every day for a year, there

are bound to be a few like this. Maybe it will even make you laugh. (And laughter is meaningful…so there ya go. :))

Basically, I am learning huge amounts of self-control right now. Probably not the way God intended for me to learn it, but nevertheless, I’m learning!

Why, you ask?

Because of my hair.

That’s right…my hair.

The long and short of it (HAHA! Please tell me you laughed?!) is that I am completely addicted to cutting my hair…and I change my hairstyle often. It is actually quite amazing that I’ve had the same haircut for more than a year right now…

I’m a spontaneous person, and I like change, so I think that has a lot to do with it.

No, let’s back up. I like change when it doesn’t involve transcontinental relocation. :)

Anyway, a few weeks ago I decided that I was tired of my hair…and because it is so short already, that means only one thing…no more haircuts allowed.

Oh, here we go.

Much self-control needed.

A little (but not short) story:

So, when we went to Indonesia, I had pretty short hair.

That was mostly to give myself some time

to find the courage to get a haircut there. Well, that courage never came, and I just let it grow. By Christmas, it was long enough for a ponytail.

But what I hadn’t counted on was what the humidity in Indo would do to my hair.

It wasn’t cute. AT ALL.

It was this crazy mix of waves and curls, and it drove me crazy.

So I decided to chemically straighten it.

Yeah…it’s pretty much like it sounds and pretty much horrible for anyone’s hair. (You can read my mildly horrifying but oh-so-entertaining account of it here. And, ok…after re-reading this post, I have to put in a disclaimer here: I was even more of a drama queen five years ago. But hey, enjoy the drama. :))

And that worked for awhile…until my hair started to grow out. Then I had a mix of crazy curly and straight. Hello ponytail for five months.

So when we headed back to the States for the summer I decided, what the heck? Let’s go curly.

Oh, horrors.

Once again, I hadn’t counted on the humidity factor…my hair started out fine in the mornings. But after about 30 minutes, it would be crazy. Again, we say hello to the ponytail. I’m pretty sure I didn’t leave my hair down for one day the entire semester.

So once again, around Christmas, I decided to try straightening it.

Really, Mel, did we NOT learn the first time?!

Apparently not.

This time I went with a friend, and we both got our hair wrecked straightened.

The only good thing that came out of this is that my hair was longer than it had been since, like 3rd grade.

But again…humidity kicked in.

Really, why did I even try?

I made it another semester, but my hair never made it past 9:00 am before I put it up.

I just couldn’t take it and knew what I needed to do.

The problem was, we had decided to stay in Indonesia that summer, and so I needed to find the guts and just get it cut. I ended up chopping about ten inches off, and it was the best thing ever.

I loved that haircut (even though I still had to cut it every four to six weeks or so). :)

And then…last Christmas…I had a moment of weakness. Maybe it had something to do with being pregnant and puking all day long while living in the boiling tropics? I totally chopped it…it was so short that when I looked in the mirror, I almost cried. But then I went home and smiled when I figured out it only took me five minutes to do my hair. For a pregnant, puking girl, that is priceless.

I kept it short after Maelie was born, but lately have been kind of getting the itch for something new. Or at least longer.

It has now been almost seven weeks since I’ve cut my hair.

And it. is. killing. me.

I so want to grab scissors and just start hacking away.

Self-control, self-control, self-control.

Be patient, be patient,

be patient.

I can do this, I can do this, I can do this.

Wait, wait, wait.

And while I wait and practice patience and self-control, I’m trying to be thankful. Thankful that my hair grows faster than the average person’s hair. Thankful that I’m still taking prenatal vitamins so it’s growing even faster. (My hairstylist says it’s about an inch a month–I think it’s even more.) That’s just crazy. And even more thankful that there’s something called a flat iron.

I’m even thankful that I have this blog for moments such as this. Instead of thinking about chopping my hair or running around the house looking for scissors, I can just write about it instead. :)

So, there you go…what’s going on in the land of Mel’s hair. (Probably more than you ever wanted to know!)

When my hair is long enough for a ponytail, I’m throwing a party. Stay tuned. :)



So yesterday was hard…and honestly, it got more difficult even after I posted.

But that was yesterday.

Today His mercies are new, and I have seen them all over my day.

I love how things that seem so small turn into such blessings.

Like three hours spent with a friend helping her do some “mindless-but-necessary-and-important teacher stuff”. (And it really was important, so it’ s ok for me to

say that. :)) We h ad

some good conversations that were convicting for me…things that I really need to think ab out.

So I’m thankful.

Or like a comment from a new blogging friend who is going through some of the same things I am.

Or linking to an absolutely phenomenal post that so connected with me exactly where I am right now.

I wanted to copy and paste the entire thing here, but my husband informed me that it’s not a good idea in the blogging world to do that. So I’ll have to trust you, my wonderful readers, to head on over here and check it out. It is worth your time and will leave you smiling really, really BIG. 😀

Although Mela’s entire writing was great, there was one thing that just stuck with me.

And that? Is worth repeating.

“My fears could have counted me out.

I felt the enemy telling me to keep my head down, go through the motions and keep my mouth shut. But, as I pushed through, God’s plans, and the faith He provides, kicked in.”

Sometimes I feel like that.

Like so many aspects of life would be easier if I just gave into fear and didn’t share the things going on in my heart.

That’s why it was so hard to start my own blog…because I know myself.

I know the Mel inside who has so many passions and strong beliefs that have been kept silent because of fear. And I want to scream them all out at once, but I know that’s not practical at all, either.


And anyway, some of you would probably run screaming.

So I’ll refrain, for now.

But I have so many hopes for this blog…not just because I want a ton of readers and hits. That’s not the point, although I would definitely take more blog traffic. :)

It’s because I believe I have a story…a lot of them, in fact. God is doing some big things in the middle of some crazy life changes.

I got one of the biggest compliments ever yesterday in an e-mail. A friend told me I had a true gift for writing.

I’m not sure anyone has ever told me that before.

And it meant so much to my heart. In a non-prideful way, it was exactly what I needed to hear to keep going.

So yesterday I was drained, but today I am filled.

And ready, once again, to write from the places in my heart that most people haven’t seen yet.

Thanks for reading.



Do you ever have days

when you just feel drained?

Today was one of those days.

It wasn’t a bad day…I think I’m just feeling the effects of a late night, a busy morning/early afternoon, a nasty headache, and honestly…writing yesterday’s post exhausted me emotionally.

So today will be short and sweet, which isn’t always bad. :)

I’ve been trying to read through some of the Psalms

this week. On Monday I read Psalms 16 & 17 and found so many promises that connected with exactly where my heart is right now.

(Here are a few… you get my paraphrased versions.


He is my Lord; I have no good thing apart from him.

The Lord is my portion.

I have a beautiful inheritance.

I have set him before me; because he is at my right hand, I won’ t be shaken.

He hides me in the shadow of his wings.

I will behold his face in righteousness; when I awake I will be satisfied with his likeness.

Love those two Psalms.

And I love how, even though I’m feeling drained, His precious promises fill me up.



What I Miss

I had an interesting conversation today with a few people about Indonesia. The question, “What do you miss?” came up, and I almost wasn’t sure how to answer it. If you asked me that question every day for a week, you’d probably get a different answer every time.

I listed a few things…and then I thought about it for the rest of the day.

What exactly do I miss?

So here’s my top 10 11…enjoy. :)

11. The climate. That’ s a given on a day a

s frigid as this one is. I don’t just mean the weather, though…because truthfully, it was always a little on the hot side for me there. I miss the mountains I saw every single day when I looked out the upstairs window. I miss the palm trees in our yard. I miss the smell of rain and the fun of riding a motorbike when it was so completely pouring. I miss the beaches and the many vacation nights that Tobin and I would sit out on the sand in the dark, stargazing and listening to the waves crash.

10. Starbucks. There is something about Starbucks in a country such as Indonesia. To me it represented more than coffee…it was my little slice of America in a place so different from my “home”. It was there that I often found my sanity, there that I spent hours with friends as we laughed, poured our hearts out to each other, and bonded over similar circumstances that no one else quite understood.

9. Outlet Shopping. It would be so very wrong if I wrote this post and didn’t include outlet shopping on the list. It isn’t because I am was a shopaholic. (I’m getting A LOT better, I promise. :)) Outlet shopping to me was therapy. It was a chance to go look for a bargain and take a friend and just explore. And while I almost always found a good deal, we had far more fun laughing at some of the crazy T-shirts we found made by someone who didn’t have his/her English quite right. If you ever get a chance, ask Tobin to tell

you about the T-shirt we found all about meatballs. :) Dude, really?! Yep, we bought it and gave it to a friend.

8. Tempe Goreng & Pisang Goreng. Easily my two favorite Indonesian foods.

Tempe goreng is fried soybean cakes and p

isang goreng is fried banana. I loved eating tempe goreng and craved it a lot when I was pregnant…it’s best with lots of kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) and rice. Pisang goreng…so yummy. I actually loved it the Indonesian way, with brown sugar and shredded cheese…but throw a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top and I’m just as happy. :)

7. Crazy Adventures. Whether riding a motorbike in a downpour, getting completely lost for hours, swinging from a vine, or tromping through a jungle, I miss the adventures from our time in Indo.

One of my favorite quotes is “Attitude is the difference between ordeal and adventure.” So although our Indonesian adventures are over, I’ m looking forward to

many, many more of them, wherever we are!

6. My Pembantu (Housekeeper). I don’t just miss the fact that Ibu Sari did all of those things that I despise… cleaning bathrooms and the floors, laundry, dusting.

We so appreciated everything she did for us.

But I miss her…my friend. I miss laughing with her and practicing my Bahasa Indonesia with her. I miss our daily conversations. I really, really just miss her.


5. Students. I could say I miss the school we taught at, but really, the students are what made BAIS. I spent a LOT of time with some of those students, and they know far more about me than most people.

(Scary, I know.) Really, teaching them changed my life…I gained so much appreciation for different cultures and ideas because of the students I taught. I could list individuals and what I miss about each of them, but that’s for a different day…I so look forward to Heaven and the absolutely incredible reunion that will happen there. :)

4. Friends. Friends come and go in a place as transitory as BAIS…and so we made a lot of friends and lost a lot. Some of those friendships are/were strong enough to make it through living on separate continents, but a lot are/were not. I say that to point out that God gives us people in each phase of life to bless us, to teach us, to encourage us, to help us grow. So I appreciate the relationships we had there even if not all of them were close…and even if not all of them lasted forever. But I can honestly say that each person I knew impacted me in some way, and for that reason, I am thankful.

3. Appreciating the Small Things. Not that I don’t do it now…but I realized not too long ago how much Tobin and I found joy in small things. Like the day Setiabudi (the expat grocery store) had orange cheddar cheese for the first time in about a year. Or the day we spent $8 on a package of frozen bagels and a (very small) block of Philly Cream Cheese. Or the day smack dab in the middle of rainy season that we drove up to Lembang on the bike…and it didn’t rain. Or when someone was visiting from the States and would bring us American chocolate. :)

2. The Indonesian People. I didn’t have as many relationships with the local people as a lot of teachers/ friends I knew did.

But the ones I did meet and know… they were wonderful.

I am so thankful that I was able to live among people from a different religion…because it changed the way I viewed that religion.

I still don’t see it as Truth, but I did come to respect their way of life and tradition. Most of what you hear in the media…well, I just think most people could benefit from living in Indonesia for awhile.

I’m thankful for how much bigger my world became through the opportunity to live among the people of Indonesia. They’re amazing.

1. Maelie experiencing Indonesia. I so wish my daughter could have lived in Indonesia for awhile. (Well, other than in my belly :)) She will hear us talking about it her whole life but never really know what it was like. Of course, we plan on taking her there to visit someday…and that will be fun. :) No matter what she does with her life, though, I hope Mae has the opportunity to spend some time in another culture. It’s life-changing.

This list could have been a lot longer…but here you go.

Maybe there will be a Part 2 later.


I’m glad I miss it…because it means I loved it.