Giving Challenge–Countdown to 30!

During my years volunteering, I have noticed that everyone comes to AFSP for different reasons. The same was true as this year’s walk. While talking to one of the women who was assigned to my tent this year, I was immediately intrigued by reason for volunteering. Her friend had inspired her to do a giving a challenge, which she adapted so that she was volunteering at many nonprofit events throughout the year. I decided to do a twist on that concept. I am going to do a giving challenge in honor of turning 30 next October. I have come up with 12 organizations to donate to each month as I count down to the big 3 0!


In addition to my monthly giving to AFSP this year I will make contributions to the following organizations.

  1. Adoption Center of Illinois—Many important people in my life were adopted. My life is more complete because of each of them.
  2. IOCDF—Mental health is still considered a new science….OCD even more so. IOCDF works hard to research the most effective treatment for a most debilitating illness.
  3. National Self Defense Institute—Women’s rights are vitally important to me. We are still considered second class citizens. I have long been a champion on women’s safety and thought that NSDI would be a fabulous organization to support for this challenge.
  4. Equality House—Love conquers hate! Equality house works on LGBT rights and against the a hate filled organization.
  5. 95th Division Association—This organization hosts reunions and keeps alive the sacrifices made by my Opa’s army service in World War II.
  6. La Mica—A good friend of mine opened a research station in Panama. It survives solely off donations and brings many jobs to a very poor area of the country.
  7. National MS Society—This charity is important to a good friend of mine who sacrifices many hours a year to support my work with AFSP. This is my way of giving back to her.
  8. Gallery 37—I love the arts and think they are vital to the human experience. I chose a local organization to support for this month.
  9. Greater Food Depository of Chicago—Even during my scariest financial situation, I never had to worry about where my next meal was coming from. I want to help people who aren’t as lucky.
  10. LOMC—I wanted to find away to include my faith in this challenge. This camp in Illinois brought me great joy one summer, and I want to support it as it makes an impact on other kids.
  11. Autism Service Dogs of America—A close friend has done more than I can ever say for a cause dear to my heart. I wanted to support her by giving to cause of great importance to her.
  12. American Youth Literacy Foundation—My college degree is in English Literature and reading has always been very important to me.

Garden Lessons 2014

I want to begin by apologizing for the lack of posts. Since I started this blog I went from full time housewife to 2 part time jobs and an occasional curtain maker. While I love all that I do, it has required some prioritizing and unfortunately the blog writing hasn’t kept up as I had hoped. Please bare with me as I figure out how to balance it all!

A gardener learns something from their garden every year, and this year was no different. Here are some lessons from this growing season:

  1. Raised beds keep the plants above the flood, but not the flood out of the garden. I wish I would have thought this through and bought some rain boots earlier in the season. I didn’t spend a lot of money on these, just went to Menards and bought some unisex black boots to so I could work through the puddles.
  2. Organic Preen is a nice thought, but the regular stuff is more effective. This was disheartening for me to learn, but since I am always running around, I have to go make a choice that saves me time.
  3. When you build raised beds, you need a plan for what will happen between them. We didn’t have one this year, and it required lots of weed whacking and pulling. Next year we  will put down some gardeners fabric and cover with mulch to keep it tidy.
  4. I had the option of planting some of my plants at my parents house, but chose not to so I wouldn’t have to travel to care for them. Instead I planted my squash plants far too close together and they ended up dying. Won’t be making that mistake again.

What have you learned from growing this season?

Managing the Onslaught of Emails

My first look at my email this morning was this:


27 emails…on a Sunday morning! I do have a quick trick though to make sure nothing gets lost in the shuffle….I keep everything that still needs attention marked as unread. Sometimes this means reading an email, and the going back and marking it as unread. This way nothing gets lost in the interwebs. The point is, I don’t want to let anyone down by loosing their email or ignoring a request. I also get TONS of email between personal, volunteering and work. I needed a system that kept track of my responsibilities, but didn’t require unrealistic expectations of time or memory.

An email that needs a response I don’t have time to research or give adequate thought to….marked unread.

A work assignment for my next shift….marked unread.

A purchase that hasn’t arrived yet…marked unread.

A response that requires coordinating with a third party…marked unread.

An email with address or other information I will need…marked unread.


Photo Banner

My dear friend’s munchkin turn one last week and the sweet girl had quite the bash! As I was running around (trying to put my cooking and hosting skill to use) I noticed the cutest banner my friend had made to celebrate her daughter’s big day! Not only is this banner absolutely adorable, it is budget friendly and easily adaptable for any occasion—three of my favorite characteristics of any project!

I asked her she’d mind writing a guest post for us, and she happily agreed!

Full Banner


I began with choosing some of my favorite pictures of my daughter. I wanted some that covered her entire year of life, so I used her monthly photos as well as holiday pictures. I added some seasonal touches to anchor the banner and worked lovely for our fall themed birthday party for our pumpkin!

Pictures to showcase preferably 4×6 or 3×5.
Hole punch
Thin ribbon– needs to thread through a hole punched hole.
Another colored thin ribbon. You may use a slightly thicker ribbon if it’s sheer.
Close Up
1.  Make two hole punches near the top of each picture.
2. Arrange them in your preferred order and thread the thin ribbon through the holes you punched. Be sure to make sure the ribbon crosses the back of each picture instead of the front!
3. To keep the pictures in place, use your other ribbon to make a small knot around the threaded ribbon. Cut your knot tying ribbon into 2.5 inch strips. Tie each strip in a knot near the hole punches– this will keep pictures from sliding!

Fixed Pipes and Repaired Walls

As I’ve mentioned, we have had quite the struggle dealing with some plumbing problems that were FINALLY resolved a month ago. In true Graf fashion, the repairing of walls didn’t go smoothly either. The biggest problem is that during the process of repairing the plumbing and the walls the contents of all our counters, two bottom cabinets and stainless steal shelving full of my cookware, tools and appliances was in our dining room which rendered two rooms practically useless. We lived that way for a month and it was ridiculously frustrating and embarrassing (shout out to our guests who love us anyway!).

In what was supposed to the final day of wall repair and repaint we encountered another problem—this one we embraced. While out with a girlfriend, I received a call from our handyman. He was ready to paint over the drywall and couldn’t find any left over paint in our kitchen color. He laid out my options:

1. Did I remember the name of the color? (I can’t even remember to fill my gas tank before a light tells me to).
2. He could go to the Depot and try to color match. It doesn’t usually work and he’d have to give the entire kitchen a coat of paint.

I did some thinking. I wasn’t happy with how the yellow I chose turned out. It was too washed out and hospital looking. I also made the bad choice of painting the bottom of the soffit the wall color instead of ceiling white. Long story short…..I made bad choices and was too cheap to fix it.

I asked our sweet friend and handyman to fix these new-homeowner mistake. I decided to paint the kitchen the same gray as our dining room. This choice would both emphasize the Fiestaware and save some time and energy if I knock down the wall between our kitchen and dining room—an idea I am seriously considering. He, very kindly, agreed.

When I came home a few hours later, I was greeted by two incredible blessings. The first was we had enough leftover paint from the dining room we didn’t have to pay for more. The second was that the kitchen looked SO MUCH BETTER gray. I would seriously walk in every ten minutes and stare at the walls as our friend continued working.  Thank God he is a family friend, as a stranger may be concerned with my constant watchful eye and drooling over wall color.

And now for the great unveiling:







I have to be honest, I was quite nervous about I would like the gray walls next to the wooden cabinets…but I absolutely LOVE it!

The Chicagoland Out of the Darkness Community Walk and Why I Volunteer

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is VERY important to me. I have been volunteering with the them since 2009. Three years ago I became the Chairperson for the Outreach and Education Committee for the Illinois Chapter and two years ago I joined the Illinois Board of Directors.

What I have noticed since joining this organization is that everyone’s journey to the AFSP is different, and mine is no exception. Often people come to the organization because they have lost a loved one. I come to the organization because I know what that intense feeling of hopelessness and helplessness feels like. I have been to that dark place and I don’t want anyone else to suffer through that. The fact is that quality treatment for psychiatric illnesses is effective. I was blessed to have some of the best doctors in the country. I was blessed to have supportive friends and family who stood with me through my struggles and educated themselves on my illness and participated in my treatment. I have come to understand that this support is very rare.

So I volunteer for two reasons.

  1. I was incredibly lucky and blessed and EVERYONE deserves that.
  2. I want something good to come from my suffering. It was an awful experience and I want to turn it into a blessing for others.


Our chapter hosts the largest suicide prevention event in the country in the form our of Community Walk. This year’s walk is in 5 days on September 20. If you are able, please consider donating to this great cause! The Illinois Chapter is able to offer all of AFSP’s programming and provide most of it to the community for FREE because of our generous donations. No amount is too small. Every penny adds up and helps the Chapter reach and help more people.


Click HERE for my donation link.

Click HERE to sign up for the Chicago Walk.


A Quick Update!

There has been SO much going on right now! I just started a second job—hence making the name of the blog a lie. Yet it is important to note that my role as housewife will always be my most important.  Other things going on: it is “Walk Season” for a charity I am on the Board of Directors for, my first job, health issues and the fact that we are still working on getting our walls repaired. The holes in the wall are throwing a HUGE kink in ability to get any fun or creative projects done. Since two of the holes are in the kitchen, the contents of the kitchen our in dining room, making both cooking and crafting (I like to use the large table) difficult. Furthermore, funds are going to repairing the walls as opposed to some fun projects we have planned…..curtains for the guest room, a new address sign and one day some dining room updates.


I hope to be back next week with more fun projects! I really miss posting here, but life has been busier than usual!!!

Necessary But Ugly Projects

Our latest house project is ridiculously frustrating. All function, not pretty and a COMPLETE money suck. For the past year and a half we were chasing a cracked vent pipe. It wasn’t easy to find, only caused intermittent problems and our first plumber gave up on finding it. You read that right….he stopped trying to help us. We were happy to give our money to someone who wants the job. After many visits from plumbers, many attempts at easy fixes we had a crew of three plumbers spending the entire day with us, cutting (three) holes in our walls. The end result left us with several replaced pipes. We are going to wait two weeks to make sure the cracked pipes that they found were the ONLY cracked ones and then repair our walls. Until then, we taped them so the kitties wouldn’t go exploring. This project took up too much time, money and space (the contents of my kitchen are currently in dining room) for us to do anything fun around here. I hope to get my dining room table back soon and finish the guest curtains so I can show off my new favorite room!!!

 Necessary But Ugly Projects

Guest Room —- Refinishing a Bed Frame

As I have mentioned before, our guest room is a work in process. While we had intended to finish by the time my God-daughter and brother stayed with us last month, that didn’t happen. Don’t get me wrong, we got most of it done and was able to provide them with a comfortable place to stay, but the room is not in the ideal state of finished quite yet.

Today I wanted to share with you how we refinished a bed frame to go with our gender neutral gray/yellow theme. When we purchased our house we were gifted a free twin size bed and frame. It has been very useful over the past two years when guests have spent the night at our house. Yet, it wasn’t until this summer when we started designing our guest room, so everything in there was a hodge podge. Once I had settled on the “theme” of the room, I knew I had to refinish the bed frame. It would be silly to get rid of a perfectly good bed frame just because the coloring didn’t fit, so I headed to my local hardware store and spoke to an associate about my spray paint options. I came home with a can of gray paint and primer that was made for metal. The hubs took apart the bed and painted the headboard and footboard. We were left with a perfectly gray bed frame that fit our vision!


More updates coming soon!

My Cats Like to Swim

My cats are weird. They both like water. Both routinely have jumped in the bathtub after we shower just to hang out in the water. Totally normal….not. Back when we brought home our first two kittens we left our toilet lid up. Then one day our Tiger decided to go for a dip. We quickly changed our routine and now always keep our toilet covered.

Here is the thing….we have people over all the time. I have never felt comfortable reminding people that we keep the lid down for the kitty’s sake. However, I am even LESS comfortable with chasing a soaking cat to give it a bath. I spent many months trying to come up with some art that we could keep in the bathroom and avoid awkward conversations, and then I finally found this on Etsy! I LOVE that she sold me the pattern (which allows me to replace as needed), I was able to do colors that work with our bathroom and most importantly I no longer need to verbally remind people to keep the cat swimming pool closed!

My Cats Like to Swim