The Community Garden

I write this post with an infection in my hand, a splinter that took two days and a fly-by-night surgical operation to remove, and even poison ivy.

The Community Garden!

The Garden was planted by a well-known horticulturalist and somehow I inherited this potential…. thing of beauty. I have wrestled with it over the years, referred to it as “The Wild Kingdom” and been fired by Pedro, my gardener. Pedro finally wised up and left me.

 The path.

But this time, I had help! My friends came from as far away as New Jersey and California and from as close as next door, somehow always as I was just finishing up. Demanding a little bit more and a few more hours. Prima said to me, “Mom he (the horticulturalist designer) is going to make a gardener of you yet!” Stewart said, “other people would have paid Pedro to rip it out and put in grass, but not you…. you have restored it.”

The climbing hydrangea in full bloom!

The climbing hydrangea in full bloom!

And it’s true. I finally feel like it’s becoming mine, morphing into a cottage garden like the one of my dreams, admittedly with a bit more elbow grease. I can sit outside and watch the fireflies and appreciate the work, like a runner’s high, but with more pollen.

 The swing came with the Garden.

In spite of all the injured body parts and sore muscles, I’m proud of it. It’s finally become My Wild Kingdom. Thank you my friends for helping me see what it could be and coming to the rescue.

The fig tree, still alive and well.

© Mariam d’Eustachio at Simply Turquoise 2019.

This Couch is Stalking Me!

It’s true. I surf for sofas. I know exactly what I want…. and so does my phone. Let this be a warning to you.

Even if I lost my brain, my phone might serve as a decent substitute.

The couch I have zeroed in on pops up in my fitness app. (I know, you’re shocked I use a fitness app. Don’t worry, this is how I communicate with my mother.) That gorgeous sofa is the first thing I see when I log my coffee calories every morning, right under the person SLEEPING on the fitness app. Seriously, how do they know?

My Fitness Pal!

My Fitness Pal!

Who knew that an incognito browser was now required for online shopping, among other things? If you want your heart’s desires to be constantly flaunted, but still unattainable because you can’t afford them, then please continue browsing for stuff online while sipping your coffee. It’s fun, and will drive you to delete your Facebook app, once and for all.

This is it! Again!

What would happen if I actually bought that couch? (Or TWO because I want a matching pair to satisfy my increasing desire for order through symmetry.) I never should have searched “How to clean velvet.” For that matter, I should never search how to clean anything.

Would the ads stop? Would my phone leap out of my hands in a suicidal dive for the floor, taking my brain along with it? I wonder.

Cocoa on the couch

Cocoa on the couch opposite me and my coffee.

In the meantime I am sitting on my old couch, as comfy as Bilbo Baggins in his hobbit hole, still sipping my coffee.

Maybe it’s time for new pillows.

© Mariam d’Eustachio at Simply Turquoise 2019.

#shutdownstories

It’s hard to explain how the recent government shutdown impacted our family. It happened suddenly. In the few days leading up to it, it looked like a deal had been made, and by the King of the Deal himself.

Christmas is a time when we spend money. I love it. A more disciplined person, or wealthy person, might save up for Christmas, but we do the opposite. We buy with credit cards and then pay it back over the next few months. We’d planned to take the kids skiing for their present this year, and so we went. Shutdown or not. We all had cabin fever.

Our oldest was visiting home after her first semester of college, and we were anxious to see her, and not be bogged down with worry.

As the shutdown dragged on and the tone deaf statements coming from the wealthy cabinet members of the current administration dripped out, I started to feel angry. Angry because the timing was bad for our family with multiple tuition bills due, and angry because we were being subjected to repeated attacks by the government that we have chosen to serve. The articles I read about “entitled government workers” and how they make so much more money than the average other worker do not tell the whole story. The federal government workforce is represented by highly skilled engineers, atmospheric scientists, lawyers, and economists. My husband is one of only two lawyer/pilots in the Coast Guard and we had the student loans to prove it! If you compare those jobs to the private sector, the federal workers are paid less. This is a fact.

Anyone running a business knows the value of keeping your employees, especially those that are highly skilled. Federal government employees have been repeatedly demoralized and used as pawns. I have witnessed this over the last twenty years. It is a fun game to cancel out the raises of the federal workforce. It happens almost every year.

This does not even address the Coast Guard. I remember when I was a young Coast Guard officer’s wife. I remember going to the grocery store with my toddler in tow, not sure how I was going to pay for it. I got to the checkout that day, and was told I had won my groceries for free. I was astonished and went home with the organic milk I could not afford plus $100 in free groceries. That summer, I won my groceries at Harris Teeter twice. I still shop there in gratitude.

Every month the mortgage ate up the whole first paycheck. The paycheck that came in the middle of the month was for everything else. I generally tried to avoid the commissary on pay day because the line stretched passed the milk. It was so crowded. That second paycheck paid utilities, food, gas and diapers. My mom paid our student loans. We could not afford to miss even one paycheck.

This time was different for us because I was working. The backpay we will get will help. But the contractors will not get backpay. The restaurants and lost business revenue will not be paid. The mental anguish and hardship will not be erased. And we will dig out again, probably just in time for Christmas.

©Mariam d’Eustachio at Simply Turquoise

2017 Year in Review

The college application process is revealing. Not just for the applicant, who has spent hours navel-gazing in order to answer their curious questions, but for her parents too. It revealed the administrative headache that is applying for college, the lack of patience I have in general, and the burning and eternal question on a 5-year-old’s mind: “Can I play Mario Kart?” “How about now?”

I can’t believe I survived 2017 because I am pretty sure it tried to do me in.

However the home improvement front was more productive. Spurts of activity driven by sheer agitation and desire for distraction led to projects getting done that have been on the back burner for years. We hired a contractor! Yes indeed!

  • My kitchen window was cut and made bigger. The masons that did the brick work were artists and it looks beautiful.
The new window by Marvin.

The new window by Marvin.

The view!

  • We (by which I mean said contractor) replaced the window sashes on our glass porch. Custom wood windows made by Marvin that are energy efficient and true to the 1941 style of the house.
My vintage tree.

My vintage tree.

The porch revealed!

The porch revealed!

  • I painted the upstairs bathroom, which was desperately needed. Take my word for it, it looks nice and I was too tired for pictures.
  • The chair in my kitchen was recovered. It belonged to my grandmother. New window+new chair=still un-renovated kitchen. But progress is good!
Kitchen wall and cozy chair.

Kitchen wall and cozy chair.

Humphrey!

Humphrey!

  • In a gravity-defying performance that was inspired by Cirque du Soleil, I whitewashed the ceiling over my stairs.
Whitewashed ceiling in blue: Benjamin Moore's Picnic Basket.

Whitewashed ceiling in blue.

Defying gravity.

Defying gravity.

The space on the porch is livable now. The view of the yard is seeable now. The house is quietly changing into the house I knew it could be. And 2018? I say bring it on. Here’s to wishing all of you, my dear readers, a joyous and happy New Year!

© copyright 2017 Mariam d’Eustachio at Simply Turquoise.

An Unusual Gift

The other day, in the midst of swirling teenage angst and drama, I was sitting in a chair. The chair is in Prima’s room, and belonged to my grandmother. It’s tucked away in a corner on purpose. Prima uses it as a hide-away spot. As I sat, I felt myself withdrawing further from the conflict and pondering the chair. It had a wild blue and white print on it, one that I remember from my grandmother’s bedroom growing up. Now that the chair belonged to my teenager, it gets hard use and had deteriorated. I felt the tug at my heartstrings as I was reminded of Grandma’s deteriorating condition, much like the chair.

I poked my finger through the large holes and I saw something…. a blue fabric, peaking out from underneath the printed fabric with the holes.

My grandmother would be the type to have a perfectly good chair recovered. I pondered this as I poked my finger through the hole. More focused now I jumped up. I pulled the cushions off and saw the outlines of a well-made slip cover. I undressed the chair, unzipping the cushions as if opening a present. I felt the building excitement as I discovered the subtle blue printed fabric underneath, in perfect condition.

The rush of happiness at this unexpected surprise brought tears to my eyes. How is it that I have had this chair for five years and never noticed? It is a much better fit for the room.

I am grateful for the gift she has given me, that even now in her condition, she can bring me such joy. How amazing is that?

© copyright 2017 Mariam d’Eustachio at Simply Turquoise.

My Trash Story

Since working at Community Forklift for three years now, I’ve taken to a different view of dumpster diving. It’s a sort of rescue mission, a diversionary tactic for landfill-headed junk. I am not a dumpster diver…. I AM SAVING THE EARTH! This is an empowering feeling, even if the skeptics call it spin. I never exactly felt bad about dumpster diving before, but now it holds an elevated sense of purpose bordering my morality.

You would not believe the stuff people throw away. It is true that trash tells a story. I often wonder why someone would get rid of this…. or that. Things that are fabulous among the rubble, no matter your sense of style. Trash is an exercise in diversity.

Working in a reuse store gives you a birds-eye view of the excess of American culture. Imagine creating 30-40 jobs just sorting out and selling old stuff: the cast-offs, dirty and dusty, waiting to be claimed and given a little TLC. That is what we do every day.

Just yesterday I dragged this chair home with me. While on our evening walk, the dog and I examined it with our cellphone flashlight and carried it at least half a mile. Juggling the poo bag, the found rocking chair, and the leash was a workout rivaling Crossfit. We did make it all the way home in tact.

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A rocking chair story.

Behold this beauty! I have only one question for you all: why are we wasting our time shopping for anything new? Let your trash tell its’ story.

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Found rocking chair.

© copyright Mariam d’Eustachio 2017 at Simply Turquoise.

Nighttime in New York

Inspiration. Where does it come from? 

That depends on you. Right now, life is too full. I am grasping at inspiration like a drowning victim reaching for air. Buried beneath a barrage of deadlines and yet still able to find hours to waste online. Craving a moment of beauty, no matter how insignificant. Reaching for hope.

Brooklyn Bridge walk to clear your mind!

Inspiration is for those that are alert, tuned in and ready to catch it when it comes, for it is fleeting. 

Inspiration is the glimmer in that homeless man’s eyes when you’ve just given him your gloves. Inspiration is a moment by the fire, laughing with friends. Inspiration is quiet and reflective, when you are worried about the well-being of your people. Inspiration is the grief that makes us carry on, in spite of ourselves.

Fountain in New York City!

Seek that which inspires you. Maybe it is the comfort of the holidays or your family. Maybe it is solace in your work or a walk in the woods. Maybe it is just curled up with a book. Pay attention, because as the philosopher Hannah Arendt says, “it is our duty to understand” and through inspiration comes understanding.

Love and friendship!

© Mariam d’Eustachio at Simply Turquoise 2016.