2018 Manifesto

Welcome to 2018!  I’ve been thinking a lot about the year ahead and where I want to see Fresh Digs at the end of it. 

Long story short, my plan for 2018 is to make shopping at Fresh Digs the best shopping experience ever.  Dare, I say, even better than shopping online?    

Tall order, right?  I mean, how do you compete with shopping in your pajamas and getting exactly what you want delivered to your door in two days?  Not easy, but I feel like I have a shot.   

But before I do that, first I want to thank you.  Thank you for making it a point to come into Fresh Digs to see what’s new, to look for that special gift, to buy paint, to attend a class, to meet a friend, to find something unique for your home or just to get the heck out of your house!  I couldn’t do this without you.  We’re a team.

The Goods

There’s nothing better than someone asking if they can take a picture of an item to send to a friend or daughter.  Or when someone is standing alone at the Easy Tiger card display laughing out loud.  My absolute all-time favorites are when people bring in out-of-town guests and show them around or when someone walks in, I ask if they’re looking for anything in particular and they say, “no, this is just my happy place”.  There’s no better feeling.

So I’m not going to mess with that too much.  HOWEVER, I will focus more on my first love – vintage, which means the front room will have more of my favorite vintage finds worked in.  One of my personal goals this year is to release and re-home my many hoarded vintage finds.  Plus, I think you’re all afraid of the backroom, which I don’t blame you as I don’t take the time to make it awesome like it deserves.  That’ll need a re-work, too.  Just not sure into what yet. 

Don’t worry, cool new stuff and especially locally made items will still be here.  I found so many things at market that I can’t wait to show you!  And I’ll work harder to find functional, sustainably and (as often as I can) locally made pillows, quilts, wall hangings, candles, soaps, dish towels, jewelry, you name it to help simplify, organize and beautify your life.  Things you’re looking for and things you never knew you needed (like sweary pencils).  Basically, things that are lovely and hopefully solve some kind of problem. 

And they must be affordable.  I may be the only person who hates to go into Target.  There’s nothing more infuriating as a small business owner than to walk into Target and see their low retail prices on cool stuff that I can’t even buy wholesale at that price. 

BUT, what I can do is try to find a similar item that is close in price or was made locally.  Maybe it’ll cost more because it’s handmade but it’ll be available right here in town and will have been made by someone right here in town.  Win, win.

The Gettin’

For those of you who just don’t have time or who are just not shoppers, I’m looking at you.  I really want to keep it simple for everyone, so here’s my online sales plan.  Facebook.  For now, anyway.  Facebook will be my rolling online catalog.  The regular Facebook page with regular image posts and the closed “Tribe” page for more in-depth info and sales.  Join if you haven’t already.

If you see something you like, comment under the item or private message me and I’ll send you a payment link.  Pay within 24 hours and it’s yours.  Pick up in the shop or we can arrange shipping.  Kind of old school, but for now it fits in with one of my personal goals for 2018 which is to spend more time with my family.   Running an online shop is a whole other giant business.   

The Get-Togethers

Classes and events!  I want to offer more of those as a means for getting people together while learning a craft to unleash their inner creativity.  In the past few months I’ve increased my class offerings - watercolor, crochet, needle felting and string art so far.  I want to offer more! 

In fact I’d love to offer you a chance to learn all of the skills that your grandma used to have or that you had in your youth.   You know old-school crafts, like macramé, knitting, cross stitch, machine sewing, heck, just even learning to mend pants or sew on a button.  You with me?  If you can teach such a class or would love to attend one please let me know.

I also want to bring people together to help you live your best life.  Yeah, like Oprah.  Sounds cheesy, but also kind of great.  We’re here for a short time, let’s enjoy it and learn from each other.  You’ll see how I’m already working on that on the Classes and Events page of the website.  I’m talking a quarterly non-fiction book club and classes on meditation, to start.

The Giving

While I will continue to make donations to community fundraisers and events, I want to go deeper than that.  I’ve already begun.  I’ve got a partnership in the works with an awesome community member where we’ll uplift - through lifestyle and home design interventions - kids in our community who could greatly benefit from such things.  This is the work I am most excited about.  Stay tuned as I plan on sharing it with you and maybe even asking for your help from time to time.

Your Turn

I said that I can’t do this without you so here’s my request of you.  Make a pledge that in 2018 you’ll strive to shop locally first. 

Note the “first”.  I’m not asking everyone to buy everything in town.  I know that in this day and age no one wants to do that.  I’m simply asking you to try to make a point to shop locally FIRST. 

If you can’t find it here, then look elsewhere.  And for all you eco-minded folk out there, just think of all of the boxes and excess transport you’ll be saving.  (P.s. If you’re into recycling then check out the Effingham Recycles website and scroll down to sign up for the newsletter.  It’s a cause dear to my heart.)

Thank You

Lastly I’ve got to give a shout-out to everyone behind the scenes who makes it all possible!  My husband, Rob Davies, for feeding me and keeping me laughing and putting up with my hoarding ways.  My kids for putting up with my face in the phone or computer – this year will be different.  My parents for all kinds of support.  My mom for travelling with me, attending auctions for me, cleaning vintage hauls, manning the shop when I’m in a pinch or helping me organize.   My dad who’s babysitter and Mr. Fixit extraordinaire plus supplier of any manner of transport and storage.  Especially that storage bit. 

I’ve learned that as a small business one of your greatest assets is your employees.  Gotta give a shout-out to Anna for being there when I need her and for being able to fabulously execute my chicken scratch notes and do things I didn’t even know needed done.  And newbie Brigitte, who’s learning her way around this crazy place.

How could I forget the artisans who keep me going?  There are over 20 of them and counting.  They make Fresh Digs the unique shopping experience it is and I couldn't do it without them.  Whether making is their full-time gig or just a side hustle, their goods are what sets the shop apart from anywhere else.

I can’t forget Salina who started it all with me.  Creating something from nothing wasn’t easy and I never could have gotten here without her being willing to take the plunge with me three and a half years ago.  We parted ways in 2017 but her mark is still alive and well.

So that’s that.  I know it’s a bit late, but Happy New Year!!  Let’s make 2018 the best year yet!


~What’s next – the first What’s Inside edition of 2018.  This one features a cabin retreat outside of Newton and the woman who built it.  The life lessons she learned during the building of this family retreat will give you a new perspective on life.  The perfect way to start the year.

Here's to New Beginnings

Here's to New Beginnings

The times they are a changin'.  After three years of joint ownership of Fresh Digs, my partner in crime, Salina Vahling, has decided to leave and focus on her family and her thriving Etsy business.  I wish her much success and happiness as I move forward on my road towards making Fresh Digs my own.  Thank you, Blueghost Studio, for the picture of us.  

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The Recycling Lowdown in Effingham, IL

~Update 1/18/2018 ~ A committee made up of concerned citizens has been officially created by Sarah Ruholl Sehy.  Effingham Recycles has formed, held a few events, conducted a study and even has a website and Facebook page.  Follow along for updates!

~Update 11/30/2016~ Startup Effingham, a new legal service for small businesses, which is owned by Sarah Ruholl Sehy is spearheading a committee to tackle the recycling issue.  Read more about it here.  

~Update 09/2016~ The Mayor's blog post is on the city's website.  Very vague.  Like I said, I think regular contact with the city is going to be in order.  And we'll see if he answers the questions posed there. 

There was a great turnout last night (August 24, 2016) at the special town hall meeting on recycling in Effingham, IL.  Standing room only, in fact.

Mayor Bloemker opened the meeting by saying this is an issue he has repeatedly been asked to look into and City Administrator Jim Arndt invited people to speak freely but to please respect one another.   The crowd consisted mostly of people over the age of 60, with some of us youngsters standing in the back and in the hallway.  Representatives from Sanitation Service, Sutter Disposal and a couple of recycling centers (mostly of metals) from the area were also there to share their thoughts. 

One after another attendees shared not only their desire to be able to recycle in Effingham, but also their frustration over the fact that it’s 2016 and the only place to take some household recyclables is the Centenary Methodist Church.  Many people, some with Chicago accents, shared that they’ve never lived in a place without a recycling program until they moved to Effingham.  Heck, even Mattoon and Charleston have curbside recycling.  And Altamont and Teutopolis have their own community-run programs.  Man, how did we get so far behind the eight ball on this one?

All in all the feeling is that we need to get up to speed and do something.  But what?  One of the contingent from the church, Mr. Elving, stated that his background is in recycling and we must understand that there is no money to be made in the collection of recyclable materials.  So basically, addressing this issue is going to have to fall into the hands of the city or county.  He generously offered to assist the city, for free, in getting something up and running.  Thank you, Mr. Elving.

The idea of curbside pickup was bandied about but in a town where trash pick-up is a private affair, asking the city to start such a program would not only take time but also a lot of money it doesn’t have.  However, there was a man with some interesting funding options, as well as a very well known (but not to me) Mrs. C. who gave out a website of a very avant garde recycling program funding scheme.  Perhaps this website will be on the mayor’s blog post about this meeting.

It was enlightening to hear about the program at the Methodist church.  A large contingent from the church was there and a very well-spoken representative among them explained how it all worked.  They have separate recycling bins in their parking lot and every couple of weeks Sanitation Service hauls them away to some recycling station.  The church pays Sanitation Service roughly $400 per month to do this.  According to the Sanitation Service owner, who later spoke, this doesn’t even begin to cover the real cost involved in doing that job, however they are happy to do it for them at a deeply discounted rate as a community service.   Go local business! 

Here’s a little noteworthy factoid - garbage trucks average 3 to 4 miles per gallon.  Just wrap your mind around that.  Nutso. 

But here’s the clincher and this is why I haven’t bothered to stop by the church to see what they accept.  The church spokeswoman acknowledged that the church is ready to stop offering this service.  Now that the Kluthe recycling program shut down they are more swamped than ever and bins fill up quickly.  And this really shouldn’t be their cross to bear.  Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

They did say that if another church or business could put a similar recycling bin elsewhere in the city that would help alleviate some of their burden.  This, to my layperson ears, seems like the best stop-gap approach.   That is if we don’t want to start a Kickstarter campaign to raise the $20,000+ needed to get the Kluthe recycling program up and running for another year, which would buy the city/county time to formulate and implement a more permanent plan.  I, for one, was a Kluthe frequenter as they did not require sorting of recyclables.  Yes, people need to be educated about recycling but I think we should also work to make it as simple as possible, if possible. 

So, long story short.  This meeting was a start.  Do we have a new place to take our recyclables?  No.  Is there a plan in sight.  Not really.  So what can we do in the meantime?

If you’re like me and my family you cringe every time you put a recyclable into the garbage bin.  And if you’re like me and my family the amount of recyclable materials you generate far outweighs your actual garbage. 

So here’s my plan.  As the owner of Sanitation Service pointed out the best way to recycle is to simply reduce your waste from the get-go.  Consider the packaging involved in the things you buy and reuse stuff.  Being an avid thrift store shopper and lover of vintage I feel like I have the reuse part down. 

I do need to make that mental shift in how I shop and how I choose what I buy.  For instance, I will try to haul myself out of bed and into town early enough on Saturday to buy what I can from the farmer’s market.  And I’ll see if instead of the plastic box of lettuce at Aldi maybe I can find the same amount in a bag.  Not the best fix, but it’s something.  Considering most of our recycling consists of glass bottles and plastic jugs I’d love to find a means to refill those items (milk, juice, etc.).  Or eliminate some of them altogether.  A girl can dream. 

Lastly, let me share with you a conversation I had with a fellow standing next to me at the meeting.  He overheard me lamenting the amount of paper that comes home with my kids from school.  He said paper is a commodity, like corn, and it is renewable.  And most likely a fair percentage of the fiber content of the paper the school uses is from recycled material.   Note to self: confirm this with the PTO. 

He said what we should be much more concerned about is what goes into the cell phone we buy new every two years whether or not our old phone is still functional.  Cell phones contain rare earth metals.  Elements that are taken from the earth that can never be replaced.   Same for cars.  These items have a much larger impact on our environment and we need to stop looking at them as disposable items.

Long story short, watch the mayor’s blog for the way forward.  As interested citizens we all need to keep a close eye on this topic and make sure something happens soon.  That means exercise your duty as a citizen of this community and contact the city and see what’s up. 


// Next stop in this space will be a much-anticipated collaboration with internationally renowned local photographer, Tytia Habing, and the beginning of what will be a regular peek inside the homes of local people.  Stay tuned.

The Hobnob Market - The Lowdown

Sometimes you’re forced to pull the trigger on something that you thought would most likely remain a dream.  The story of how the locally beloved Hobnob Markets came to be unfolded just like that.  Holly and Scott Snelling, founders of the Hobnob stable of pop-up markets, allowed me to interrogate them while we were handing out fliers for the upcoming Hobnob Harvest Market (and eating a bunch of bad/good food) at the Effingham County Fair.  : )

Like way too many of us in the Midwest, they found themselves down one income.  Scott had lost his job as manager at a factory that makes pop bottle caps and selling at weekend shows wasn’t quite fulfilling their dreams.  But once they were handed lemons they decided to pull the trigger on a business idea Holly had been mulling over for a while.  That’s how the Hobnob Market lemonade was made.

For their very first market their idea was to pull together 20 vintage and handmade vendors, or as Holly laughingly said, “people we begged”, to set up temporary shop at the Beef House Restaurant in Covington, IN in November 2012.  With 800 attendees, it was a success.  Here they are four short years later expecting to draw 8,000+ people to their next market that’ll be right here in our backyard.  Great story, right? 

But for me, that’s not the best part of this story.  My favorite part of their story is how much they love Effingham, IL.  According to them we’ve been the most welcoming and supportive town with people going out of their way to ensure that their business succeeds here.  Holly actually said, “Effingham has itself figured out”.  And that’s the reason they chose to have both the Hobnob Harvest Market (September 9 and 10) and the Hobnob Spring Market (May 12 & 13, 2017) at the Effingham County Fairgrounds.  Although they LOVED having the previous two Harvest Markets at Tuscan Hills Winery, they’d outgrown that venue.  Wanda, owner of Tuscan Hills, recommended they look into the fairgrounds.  And we’re so glad she did.  Here’s what to expect this year. 


Hobnob @ the Effingham County Fairgrounds

This year we can expect more room, a holds station in the Schuetzenfest building, paved walkways, more food vendors, a p.a. system, porters, plenty of free on-site parking (no shuttles!) and rain.  Yeah guys, it most likely will rain.  It’s rained at their past nine shows.  That’s right, NINE. 

In spite of the rain, it’s still a great time.  The opening day/night is called the Prairie Moon Party and Holly and Scott pull together all the fixin’s of a great night out.  On Friday from 3 to 7 p.m. you’ll have the opportunity to listen to live music by The Wayfarers, enjoy delicious food, a cash bar by Tuscan Hills Winery and most importantly early bird shopping of the 150+ booths of vintage, creative and handmade awesomeness!  Shopping and drinking and live music and food and the chance to wear my rain boots in public and in bed by 9 p.m.?  What’s not to love?!

Did I mention that Fresh Digs will have a booth?  Yep.  Be sure to stop by and show us some local love and check out the fantastic new products we’ll be launching.  We’re also selling advance tickets.

You guys, if you haven’t been, plan to go.  Grab your mom, daughter, co-workers, girlfriends, mother-in-law (sure, why not) and plan to attend now. 

Advance tickets are available for $10 in person at Fresh Digs and KT Boutique in Altamont or online at https://hobnobmarket.com.  This $10 ticket will get you into both Friday’s Prairie Moon Party and Market Saturday.  Otherwise tickets are $15 at the door.  Saturday only tickets are $5.

Start planning your rainy day wardrobe and prepare to watch Holly achieve her goal of making this THE BEST pop-up market around.

See you there!

P.S. We’re giving away four tickets to the Prairie Moon Party!  Simply find our FB post about this interview and tell us your favorite thing about the Hobnob Market.  We’ll draw the lucky winner Friday, August 19, 2016.  

Upcoming Events!

Plan to join us for one of our upcoming events...

  • Saturday, August 13 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. - Fresh Digs Anniversary Flea Market Party!  Join us for an outdoor flea market, live music by The Greyhounds, food and more!
  • Sunday, August 21 from 2 to 4 p.m. - DIY 101 Paint Class; $30
  • Friday & Saturday, September 9 & 10 - Hobnob Market @ Effingham County Fairgrounds
  • Saturday, September 17 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. - Bridget Jones Library Fundraiser!
  • Monday, September 26; 6 p.m. at Fresh Digs - Fresh Digs Book Club! - The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner
  • Friday, October 14  - ChiliFest in Downtown Effingham!
  • Saturday & Sunday, November 5 & 6 - Boutique Blvd at The Pavilion in Marion, IL
  • Friday & Saturday, November 11 & 12 - LuLaRoe Pop-Up Boutique @ Fresh Digs!



South African Vacation Here I Come!

May 24, 2016

Hello!  Joanna here.  Let's start with a little about me.  The vintage stuff is my jam, I work with the artisans, do most of the social media, the boring accounting stuff, some painting and whatever else needs to be done.  That’s my Fresh Digs life in a nutshell.

Here's a little of my backstory and how my vacation to South Africa to visit family came to be.

My husband, Rob Davies, hails from Hartbeespoort Dam, South Africa.  We met in Polokwane (near the Zimbabwean border) when I was a Peace Corps volunteer.  After I finished my two-year service we married, had two boys and lived there for the next few years.  In 2014 he was kind enough to relocate with me and the kids to the Midwest where we live right next door to my parents on a farm in rural Effingham, Illinois. 

The Peace Corps years.  As Peace Corps volunteers we weren't allowed to drive, however the owner of this fine ride had terrible cataracts and we were on a tedious drive so he asked me to. And yes this is a manual BMW with red fur and a red wheel.    : )

I'm struggling to find many pics of us during the date year.  This pretty much sums up how he wooed me.  Doesn't that bird look amazing?  And yes, that is Rob Davies.  

And then we got married.  One of my favorite pics.  The first time he came to the US he met my parents and got married.  He's just a little relieved in this photo.  Thanks, Andi Gelsthorpe. for capturing it.

And then we had kids.  This was taken in Ouma's (Rob's mom's) scullery.  The scullery is a wonderful room off of the kitchen where you hide the sink and the washer and dryer.  Check out the dutch door in the background.

That is how we’ve gotten to the cusp of our leaving for a month-long vacation in South Africa.  Yeah, a month.  Since plane tickets aren’t cheap and the flights are LONG, we’ve got to make the very most of our trip over.  Thank you Salina for holding down the fort while I’m gone.  And I need to give a shout-out to my mom for all of the work she has and will do for us both at the shop and in my house (the plants and animals thank you, too).  And Dad, thanks for letting Rosie (our dog) move in.  THANK YOU ALL VERY MUCH!

My wonderful parents during their layover in London on their 2008 trip.


So how long is long?  Well, it’s a ten hour overnight flight from Chicago to London, a nine hour layover and another ten hour flight to Johannesburg.  Ugh.  Although I must say I am pretty excited about the layover in London.  My plan is to leave the airport and do a bit of touring with the kids.  Free mini vaca!  

In total, I lived in SA for almost seven years and since moving home I’ve been back for a visit only once.  I am missing it terribly.  Here’s a little bit of what I’m excited about as I’m ticking things off of my to-do list while slowly getting more and more excited about our impending departure.

(in no particular order)

·         Fresh fruit.  Living in rural Illinois does not afford me the opportunity to get fresh fruits such as mangoes, papaya, avocado and litchis.  I’m kind of bummed that we won’t be there for fresh mangoes but I will get fresh avocados, naartjies (Cuties), oranges by the giant bag-full and pears.   

My very cool coworker, Eden.  She had and still does have the best style.  Check out this locally made twist on a traditional dress.  

My very cool coworker, Eden.  She had and still does have the best style.  Check out this locally made twist on a traditional dress.  

·         Shopping at Woolworths.  It’s such a great department store.  They’ve got well-made classic pieces as well as an awesome grocery store.  And it’s not overwhelming.  Plus they have really cool market bags.  My plan is to stock up on their market bags and bring them back for the shop.  : )

·         Fabric – Oh the fabric.  African wax fabric is so awesome.  I had a stash when I lived there and it’s starting to get low even though I don’t really do anything with it except look at it and smell it from time to time.  That smell is so powerfully tied to South Africa for me.  It’s amazing how strong those associations can be.  I have big plans to return to my favorite fabric shops in Polowkane and replenish my stash and bring some back for the shop. 

·         Handicrafts – I’m super-excited to revisit all of my favorite places to find cool, handmade stuff.  I’m talking beaded wiener dogs, woven bowls, carved wooden crocodiles eating a man with large testicles (man I wish I could find that picture), and other random things.  

Man, I wish I knew when this pic of my mom was taken.  : )  I LOVE these birds.  


My friend and co-worker, Naledi (which means Star).  She's helping with "catering" for a BIG event.  Hence the giant pot.  

·         Catering – Having worked in local government I frequently attended meetings that included “catering”.  Catering is a lady and a crew of helpers who have prepared at home chicken, beef stew, mashed pumpkin, beetroot, coleslaw, pap (ground corn) and rice and brought it in tubs to the meeting.  We ate off of real plates and washed it all down with a groovy (can of pop, my choice was always Fanta Orange).  Man, that food is THE BEST.  And you can’t get it in restaurants, although there are stands alongside the road.  I’m either going to have to crash a catered meeting or find a roadside stand.  I can taste it already.

·         Ocean Basket – Ok, yeah, more food.  Ocean Basket is a seafood restaurant chain.  I’m usually not a chain gal but this one holds a lot of good memories for me/us.  And, ok, I love the butter-drenched prawns, the Greek salad with large squares of feta cheese and the ice in my white wine.  The Ocean Basket near my parents is located in a mall and has outdoor seating and a kids' play area, plus another restaurant down the way has an indoor trampoline.  Boom and boom.

·         House & Leisure magazine.  My favorite home décor mag ever.  There are some amazing homes in SA - unique, fantastically decorated and they always have a way of seamlessly merging the indoors and outdoors.  Rob went home last year and he was there so long that he could have brought me back THREE different H&Ls.  Which, by the way, were the only things I asked for.  How many did he bring me?  Zero.  None.  Not even one.  Let’s just say that I’m still using the Branches gift certificate he gave me when he got home. 

Lastly and mostly, I am most excited to see my family and friends.  Rob’s family hasn’t seen the kids in a few years and they have changed so much.  I am so excited for them to get to know each other again.  My in-laws, my brothers-in-law, friends, my former co-workers, NGOs I used to work with.  I can’t wait to catch up with them all. 

Oupa and Ouma with baby Roscoe.  : )


AH!  I’m so excited!  I wish my keyboard had emojis.  There would be a few dancing ladies (with blonde hair), a fist bump, the rock hand, the girl raising the roof, the Champagne bottle, a bunch of hearts and the heart eyes.  Yeah, that would almost sum it up.  Almost.

You can follow along (or not, luckily social media is a CHOICE) as I’ll be posting pics to Facebook, here and Instagram (technology-willing) during the trip. 

I’ll see you “that side”!