The short of it:
Favorite item in home: Kuba cloth runner from Fresh Digs brought back from South Africa by Joanna. I haven't had it that long but I'm so glad I bought it. Normally I hate runners. I hate tablecloths too because I love the wood of my table and I want to be able to see it. This runner though just has so much character, with the contrast in colors and textures and the bold graphic. I love offsetting the natural wood, against the bold runner and then the gold tabletop candelabra. There's quite a lot going on with these three pieces but it just works for me.
What I am reading: I’m reading Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger, it’s for a book discussion at the library. It’s set in Minnesota in 1961. I won’t say much more because we haven’t had the discussion yet. I usually lead 2 book discussions a month at the library. It’s one of the favorite parts of my job. I get to meet such interesting people at the book discussions. Some have lived here all their lives; some like me are blow-ins. I love hearing other people’s perspectives not only on the books but the topics and social and moral dilemmas that they raise.
What I am listening to: It’s a big old mix, with 3 boys aged 8-15 I get to hear a lot of chart music and Hamilton!!! My own personal favourites are tunes from my teens, by people like the Housemartins, and The Undertones. If I want to chill it’s Tom Waits.
Best food in town: That’s a toss-up between Don Pedro’s and Firefly Grill and both do amazing Fish Tacos (yes I’m a Fish Taco fan too!). I like my food light and I love small portions so you can mix and match so to speak. That’s probably why I love tapas so much. I’m definitely a foodie, but being 5ft 1 I’ve had to accept I will never be able to eat as much food as I would love to! I love food from all round the world, I’ve tried most things, least favourite were sheep’s brains which tasted like yukky mush!
Favorite thing about Effingham: The people, maybe it’s the mid-west maybe it’s the small town, but everyone is so kind and helpful and interested. I remember when my middle son was three he developed a stutter which got to be quite bad. As a family we resisted the urge to finish words and sentences for him, so he wouldn’t become more self-conscious about it. When we went out though we never knew how people would react to it. I’ll always remember the staff at Martin's IGA; every week they would talk to him, ask him questions and not once did anybody interrupt him or finish a word for him or try to hurry him up. I was so grateful for their patience and kindness. After nine months the stutter disappeared as quickly as it started. And I know the fact he was treated so kindly played a big part in that.
The long of it:
It all started in January 1999 when an Illinois man wearing a set of Billy Bob teeth walked into an Irish Bar in Scotland. No, this is not a joke. Catherine Knowles, as she was known at that time was working at O’Neill’s Bar in Edinburgh City Center when John Bailey walked in wearing overalls and the redneck-looking set of false teeth known as Billy Bob Teeth. And she was hooked.
The two corresponded as friends for six months and then after a romantic courtship involving quick flights between Scotland and the US they married in 2000. Their married life began in Scotland and son Aidan was born there in 2001. Two years later son Sean was born in England. Side note: Ask Catherine about her overseas natural birthing experiences. The next year they moved to the States where they initially set up residence in John’s grandparents’ old house. And this is where in 2008 third son Ronan was born.
They recently moved yet again, however it was a local move from country life in Watson to a beautiful house in a tree-filled neighborhood on the eastern side of the city in Effingham.
If you frequent Effingham Public Library you may recognize Catherine. She’s the little blonde-headed whip darting to and fro, usually in killer heels and a cute dress from Millenium, readying the monthly newsletter, sorting out fundraising events or planning for her Uncorked! (held at the Village Wine Shop – yes you should check it out) and daytime book clubs. Catherine, Marketing and Adult Programming Coordinator, is the reason the library’s marketing materials have gone from your typical small-town printouts to the sleek modern affairs that have led her to receive this year’s Illinois Library Marketing Award. That’s right, her work was chosen as THE BEST for the entire state of Illinois. No small feat for a small-town library competing with libraries with much bigger budgets and staff.
Clothing-wise Catherine is always impeccably dressed, so we were anxious to get in her house and take a peek. Now, she is a regular shopper at Fresh Digs and we love seeing her walk in. We know she’s going to choose those bold items that other people may shy away from. Her taste is more modern and fearless and she buys things she likes and she’ll make a plan with it as she goes along.
Prior to moving into their new home in Effingham, the Bailey family lived in what was the retirement home of John’s grandparents in Watson, IL - complete with green shag pile carpet. Their big white home with the red door is a bit of a style departure from that Watson home and Catherine has slowly been acquiring pieces that best express her style.
We all have it and we all need to manage it, so I’m always curious to see how other families manage entryway shoe and bag clutter. Catherine just so happened to win this gorgeous entryway organizer from Lustig Custom Cabinets at the Sacred Heart Parish Picnic this summer. And those bags hanging up… About once a year Catherine and family head to the UK to visit family and friends. On this summer’s trip is when she bought the M&S bag. Get this - In England since 2015 nearly all stores charge for plastic bags. This policy has been in effect in Ireland for a number of years which has resulted in the drastic increase of the use of reusable bags and a decrease on the negative impact of plastic bags on the environment. So she bought reusable ones while there. I like.
Meet Catherine in person on Saturday, September 17, at Fresh Digs when the Effingham Public Library and Fresh Digs join hands to hold a Bridget Jones Library Fundraiser Party. We’ll be donating 20% of proceeds to the library fundraising campaign (you know, to help pay for that awesome new library we have) plus the library will be selling books from its book sale room. Yummy Bridget themed cupcakes, and cocktails will be served AND (here’s the fun part) we’ll have a British accent contest. And you know who will be the judge. : )
Speaking of reading, we’ve also started a quarterly nonfiction book club at Fresh Digs. And we’re not talking about stuffy, boring nonfiction books. We’re talking about cool nonfiction books. Check out a copy of The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner from the library and plan to join us at 6 p.m. on Monday, September 26.
Watch this space as we plan to return soon to see what new furnishings and decor Catherine has acquired.
//Next issue: Tytia Habing and Trevor Arsenault
All photos: Tytia Habing Photography