Friday, 7 June 2013

I declare a National Sun Holiday...

For the past 15 years of my life I have lived in states and countries that have less than desirable weather conditions for the majority of the year. Living in Northern Ireland has consumed nearly the last 9 years of pretty shocking weather. A day in Northern Ireland can possess at times snow, hail, rain and crazy winds with the occasional burst of sunshine. Today however, is not one of those days. 

Today the sun is shining, vitamin D is lavishly being thrown down to our corner of the world and I am thankful. Every person wears a smile, chats casually about the glorious weather and even seems to walk a little bit lighter. On a day like today I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. 

Instead of complaining about the fact that I am indoors for the third sunny day in a row, I decided that The Press needed to be taken outdoors. We set up two pop-up tables, placed some flowers on them and let others enjoy the pleasure of al fresco dining. I hope to enjoy a coffee out there before the day is over but for now I take delight in seeing our customers soak up the sun for me. 

I also have a sad announcement to make...this month is the last month that The Press Coffee Shop will be open. We will be closing our doors at the end of June, saying thank you to our lovely customers, loyal followers and incredibly sweet town after 3 incredible years. Bryan and I will then be heading back to the states for a period of time. We will be moving back to Dungannon about January/February time but the future is a little unknown, unplanned and exciting! We are adventure seekers and we are ready to embark once again with new dreams and hopes for the future. I will most likely update the blog again before it's all said and done but I figured our followers deserved to know sooner rather than later. Now get outside and enjoy this weather instead of reading this blog! 

Monday, 18 March 2013

Bread & Wine

Let me take the opportunity to tell you about one of my favourite authors and her newest book. Shauna Niequist is the daughter of Bill Hybels and is a rare talent when it comes to writing. A friend of mine bought me one of her books a few years ago called Bittersweet. I instantly fell in love with the book as well as Shauna's tell all, not too fluffy, but descriptive and genuine writing style; so much so that I even went onto her blog and told her how much she had inspired me to start writing! Yeah, I am one of those people! Now you may be asking how does this tie into a blog about our wee coffee shop The Press? Well I will tell you.

Another friend of mine gave me a tip that Shauna's long awaited next book Bread & Wine could be received for free with an early release addition if I agreed to write about it on my own blog. I sent the email requesting an early copy on the last day that it was offered with my fingers crossed that I wasn't too late and thankfully I wasn't because about a week and a half ago my copy arrived! So that's exactly what I am doing here. I am writing about her new book and my first experience using it.  p.s. here's a link to her website, go check her out!

I have flipped through her new book and have of course fallen in love with the short stories that are held within it's pages. I haven't had a chance to read all of it yet but have read the stories attached to the recipes I have decided to try first. My initial thought was to try out a soup recipe in The Press. Then I realized testing it at home first might be a better option and this is what happened and how it happened.

It was a Friday night. I already had a full day of work behind me, teen girls small group, came home and showered, then went back into Lava (our youth club) to work on plans for our first teen girls conference. I wrapped that meeting up, went to Tesco to get groceries before the weekend so we could enjoy the extra day off on Monday thanks to St. Patrick and then came home. We arrived home and unpacked the groceries and that was the moment I decided I would try out one of Shauna's recipes, the clock showed it was 11:45pm, seemed like a sensible time to start cooking right?

I opened up the book, picked out Magical White Bean Soup and started chopping. First the shallots, then the celery. I moved onto peeling the carrots while the shallots slowly softened in my huge wok. As I was chopping up the carrots I heard skype ringing on our laptop. Normally I would ignore a call that  late at night because I'd usually be in bed, but on this occasion I was hoping it was our good friends Will and Leanne who have recently moved to Canada. Sure enough it was them calling so I quickly accepted the call and fell into the easy rhythm of chatting that comes when you have known people for quite a long time and done a lot of life together. All sorts of questions were being asked to fill in the gaps of the past month since they have moved and we quickly shared our hearts and where we are at in life. And while the conversation flowed I poured myself a glass of wine and kept chopping, adding the ingredients as they were needed, mashing the beans once they had cooked for long enough, tasting as I went and my husband joined the conversation and the taste testing.

So my first Bread & Wine cooking experience felt like one of the chapters in the book. Cooking at midnight, talking with great friends, being with my hubby and tasting the goods I had just produced. Overall the soup is tasty and that's before the extra dressing and toppings were even added. But more than the soup were the little events surrounding the soup. I think I will be trying this in The Press one of these days and hopefully our faithful customers will enjoy the soup but also enjoy the experience of coming into our little coffee shop in our lovely town and feel nourished and loved while they eat.

Thanks Shauna for the opportunity to get your book early and for free but also for the stories that it will help me tell! I have also tried the Dark Chocolate Sea Salted Toffee and it is exquisite however slightly dangerous too but great for sharing at a dinner party as suggested!

Thursday, 7 March 2013

A safe place...

I needed a few days before I wrote this blog to gather my thoughts and feelings and try to express them in a way that could be sensitive to the situation that I am writing about.

A week ago a young man that I had personally never met, but that my husband Bryan had and that numerous teens we work with were friends with, committed suicide. He was 17, the son of a Baptist pastor, well liked, fun-loving and by the way people have described him this list could continue.

My husband is the youth pastor at Vineyard Church in Dungannon and as soon as the news of this tragedy broke his mobile was buzzing and ringing non-stop with texts and calls from devastated teens. There seemingly perfect and beautiful worlds had just experienced their first 'earthquake'. The ground felt like it was sinking beneath them, their minds and hearts full of questions, their spirits breaking.

So Friday came as it always does, I went to work, tears filling my eyes as I worked along side of my volunteers to open for the day. My heart was overwhelmed with grief for this family who had just lost one of their most precious possessions, their son. My heart was breaking for the teens who were left reeling from this horrific death. Still we were opening and life in many ways was the same as always.

When I first had the dream to open this coffee shop ages ago, it was filled with happy thoughts and all the happy things that would take place. I couldn't have foreseen what this past Friday would look like, and to be honest I didn't want to. I want life to be full of just that, life. For the sun to always shine, for people to always walk in wearing a smile. But last Friday something different happened. Teens, many whom I have known for a good number of years, walked in with faces melting in deep felt emotion. They walked in with tears streaming down their cheeks. They walked in and immediately were embracing each other in their joined sorrow and confusion as to how this could happen. In those moments I saw The Press as something I have said it was before, but in a new way...The Press was a safe place. These teens felt safe here, they felt they could open up and express their raw emotions no matter who walked in the door. The Press had maybe even become a little like the way I think church should be, where you come as you are, all your crap and faults, hurts and brokenness on display, not trying to hide it from the world. And those moments last Friday were precious. Precious because I was able to hug some of those teens, cry with some of those teens, share in their grief. I am still sharing in their grief as I imagine what the family must be experiencing each day that their son is not with them.

The Press is an extension of our church and I am delighted with that fact. In the past we have shown that we can rejoice with those who rejoice. This last Friday however, showed me that The Press can also mourn with those who mourn. That is a priceless treasure. I am thankful for the privilege to be a part of The Press, to have been there for these teens as a person but also as a safe place for them to come and be real. Last Friday, I think we did what Jesus talked about in the Beatitudes Matthew 5:4: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." That was the beautiful picture I saw last Friday amidst the sorrow. Those who were mourning found comfort and they found it in the safe place of The Press Coffee Shop.

Thank you Jesus for the privilege to be there for these teens who are grieving the loss of their dear friend Matthew. May You be their comfort and may You use us to help. Thank you that You are present in the midst of our troubles. You are acquainted with grief. Our thoughts and prayers are going out to Matthew's family as they move forward from this tragedy. Be with them Jesus. Amen.

Friday, 15 February 2013

One journey ends and another begins...

The Press has been open for 2 1/2 years and during those years we have accumulated our faithful customers. I would like to take a few minutes and share with you about a few of those regulars who have just left to begin their own new adventure. 
Will, Leanne, Eden and Malia MacLaughlin. The MacLaughlin family have been a part of my life since I started my time here in Northern Ireland. It started out even before Will and Leanne were married and over the years it has grown into the kind of friendship that is what I call your 'Chosen Family'. My husband and I moved over from America and Leanne was also an import from Canada so we all had to start from scratch here. With no family surrounding us we had to make our own version of family here. And family is what we became. We shared meals together, laughter, tears, births, deaths, all of the facets of life. As one of my favourite authors puts it they are a part of my 'Home Team'. 
As Will and Leanne invested in our town and community they also invested in our wee coffee shop, The Press. Each Friday Will would come to his 'office' at one of our tables and invite his clients to our coffee shop for meetings, or simply do his work in The Press. Leanne volunteered faithfully with our Jolly Tots ministry that provides a Friday morning session for parents and toddlers. 
So each Friday they became a part of my routine in The Press. I generally arrive at work on a Friday about 8:45am and start getting things prepped for the day with my amazing volunteers. Each Friday between 9-9:30am I would wait to hear the front door open and hear the voice of either Eden (before she started nursery) or Malia fill up the space where Jolly Tots is set up. I would then wait for my dear, precious friend Leanne (whom I call the Raven-haired goddess) walk through the double doors to place an order for her carmel latte and order Will whatever coffee he was in the mood for that day. 
After Jolly Tots finished Leanne would make her way in, these days usually with Malia in tow as Eden is in nursery, to place her lunch order and sometimes order for Will. Leanne has a special order that consists of a toasted bagel with chicken, cheese, peppers, sweet chili sauce that has all been melted in a bowl ahead of time and served with either crisps or side salad. Will usually orders a bacon and cream cheese bagel. Malia is like her big sister and always gravitates to our crisp display and tries to get away with stealing the crisps close to the bottom and running as fast she can before her Mom or Dad catch her and put them back. 
This little routine that a young family had made part of their weekly diary quickly became part of my routine. Part of what I would look forward to each week as I came into The Press. There were always moments of chat and sweet times with the girls. I came to expect it each week and almost anticipate them arriving. Well, that part of my routine has just changed drastically this week. My good friends the MacLaughlins have just began their plane journey that will move them to Hamilton, Canada. They are pioneering Christians Against Poverty in Canada, if you can look it up! It's one heck of an amazing organisation bringing people financial freedom and sharing Jesus with them too. This move is not a surprise in some ways. Will is so creative and is a visionary, gatherer, motivational speaker, etc. Leanne is a strong, confident, capable, no-nonsense kind of woman who also possesses the biggest heart of compassion. It has been a privilege to have had the opportunity to do so much life with them over the last 8 1/2 years. 
So this is my way of saying goodbye to 4 of our favourite customers. Every time I make a carmel latte I will think of you Leanne, every time someone orders a bacon and cream cheese bagel I will think of you Will, and girls, every time a child reaches for that bottom shelf on the crisp rack I will think of you too! You are loved, you will be missed but you will not be replaced. Other customers will come I know that, but you will always be some of my favourites. 

Thank you for supporting my dream by your faithful routine and visits to The Press!! I love you guys! The Press loves you guys! Shoot, Dungannon loves you guys!! All the best for your future routines, the future places who get to call you their regulars. I will still wish it was here with us, but we release you and know you will multiply God's Kingdom in Hamilton and beyond! 

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The New Year Rolls In...

As a new year rolls in I find myself reflecting on the past year like most people do. The past year saw The Press grow in so many sheer numbers of people coming through the door, in reputation among our community and in finding our groove. Let me explain each in a bit more detail.

When we first opened The Press I remember a good day being about 20 people and believe it or not that was encouraging to me. Most Friday's now see us serving anywhere on average between 35-55 people! That may not seem like a huge jump to some but to us it has been a stamp of approval that people like what we are doing, that we are being simple yet effective in our approach and it's working. 

Once again we hosted Creative Expressions Art Exhibition for the third year running and we also hosted our second Star of Christmas Craft Fair. These events give us an open door into our community as a way of offering something for people of all ages, backgrounds and interests. The artwork this year was of such a high caliber that it will be hard to top and we had more schools participate than the past two years! We also had about 4 more stalls this year at the Craft Fair. These two events are such good fun and are ways that we can serve the community by offering them something different, creative and local. We are so proud of the results of these events and love giving back to Dungannon. I cannot fail to mention within this though how much work it takes to pull these events off and it would not happen without the help of so many incredibly energetic volunteers!! So thank you to each of you for helping see the dream come into reality!

Over the years we have added small bits to our menu but mainly kept it the same, serving simple yet tasty food made fresh to order. At first I questioned if it would work but as we persevered I was delighted to see that if you do something and do it well it usually works out well. That is what we have found at The Press. Our menu isn't big but we make some lovely, good and healthy-ish food that seems to satisfy most palates that come into our coffee shop. 

Rounding up the year I have to say I am thankful for so many special moments or snapshots that live on in my memory. Conversations had, incredible coffee served, times where I saw people relax and breathe in the space that we provided, laughter filling the room, kids running around and the list could go on and on. We are always going to be in the business of serving and loving people, we just happen to be a coffee shop too! Thank you to our loyal customers, those who stumble upon us, young people and the Council members who support us. Without you we would be non-existent! Happy New Year! May God bless you this year, may You see Him in every area of your life and may you see and experience Him as you come and visit us in The Press! 
(This is a side note: My brother Brent told me about an amazing coffee shop that is also a church. As we are part of Vineyard Church Dungannon, I thought it was great to see a similar vision being played out in another part of the world. Check it out at:

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Arts and Crafts...

We recently held our 3rd Creative Expressions Art Exhibition and once again it was a great success!!! We had more artwork submitted than ever before with a wider base of expressions than in the past which proved to be an artists heaven. So a huge thank you to each and every person who helped to make the event such a success. There were numerous local schools displaying work as well as individual artists, so thank you for being willing to share some of your personal work in such an open arena as our Art Exhibition. We also want to send a shout out to the Dungannon Arts Forum for their support of our event this year and if you haven't heard already, we now have a legit Arts and Heritage Centre at the top of our town centre which I believe will release more creativity and encourage the arts to once again flourish in our quaint town. 

Here are a few pics so you can get an idea and feel for the event. Enjoy!!

Friday, 7 September 2012

Autumn is in the air!!!

You can almost smell the change of seasons in the air. It's the 7th of September, schools are back in session, summer never really arrived in Dungannon or most parts of Northern Ireland and I can feel the routine of the year starting to poke its head up from the covers it had hid under through the summer months. During this summer I was in a season of running which was good for my body, mind and spirit. To see this intensive training come to a close I went to Dingle, Ireland last week to run my first marathon and I was privileged to be accompanied by my wonderful Husband, mother-in-law and many good friends. It was an experience that I will never forget and may repeat someday. But it was the last weekend of the summer so here we are, moving towards our annual events of this time of year and connecting people once again to our lovely wee coffee shop.

The first event will be Creative Expressions 3 Art Exhibition. The last two years we have organized an Art Exhibition for local artists and local schools to display their work in. This year is no different, we still love the arts, believe in the arts and want them to be free to experience to everyone in our small community here. So we are hosting again and I have a really good feeling about this year. I think it may end up being quite a bit bigger than the previous two. I think we may have a broader spectrum of art exhibited. I also think that it will be a blessing to our community to provide an event of inspiration for all ages, genders, nationalities and backgrounds. We hope that these kind of events will make our town a good place to grow up in and grow old in. 
A side note, art is not a luxury in my opinion, it is a vital necessity to growth, coping, change and learning to love the one life we have been given. Hopefully through this event someone who is struggling in life may see a painting that expresses that for them, someone who is in a great place and loving what life is offering to them will see a picture that captures their satisfaction with where they are. Art is a way of either escaping to a place of peace or of helping us navigate the dark, murky waters of life that most of us experience at some stage. Whatever art means to you, please come out and support our event. I don't think you will be sorry and that is a guarantee!