What is Vintage?

There is slow fashion and slow design, so why not add slow aging? Something like being present in the now but with an appreciation for the past and lessons learned. The point is not to stop the process of aging, but to embrace the idea of an accumulated wisdom, and do it with style.

According to Google, vintage is defined as, “the year or place in which wine, especially wine of high quality, was produced.” I appreciate vintage-y things, and aging gracefully is on the agenda! Perhaps I can age like a vintage wine: wiser, better, and more sophisticated, with subtle notes of chocolate. All things to celebrate!

The story in the Washington Post of a thoughtful bride that splurged on her dream wedding dress is inspiring! Rather than keep the dress preserved in a box, she gifted it to another bride, paying it forward.

I pulled out the photos of my own wedding, thinking….. Would anyone want to wear this old dress? I adore it! Why let it just sit there in the box? 25 years later, it’s gone vintage. It’s not the dress that’s special, it’s the marriage.

Every day is a gift, so what not pay it forward?

An evening wedding portrait.

Yep, he’s a keeper.

Maybe it only takes a daily compliment or coffee for a stranger to lift their spirits. One little act at a time helps me stay present in the now and to slow down.

Speaking of which, is there a bride out there who wants this old dress?

Cheers!

© copyright Mariam d’Eustachio at Simply Turquoise 2022.

The Kulich Baby

There are some family traditions so lost in time, their survival rooted in a deep sense of nostalgia, that they leave a gaping, cavernous hole if you ignore them. Kulich is an insanely difficult-to-make Easter bread and represents this type of tradition for me. The recipe literally says, “Begin early in the day, and start with a prayer.” I am too stubborn to heed such warnings.

Kulich, a Slavic Easter bread.

Inevitably, I get to the week in lent where there is no time left to make the Kulich. It’s an all day affair! For the last several years, I have thrown in the towel, defeated by my own lack of planning, lack of 18 eggs stashed in the fridge, and the intimidating thought dogging me that it will fail to rise. Then it happens, as if by magic, I come home exhausted from Holy Saturday church services, and find a beautiful Kulich sitting in my foyer.

Growing up, my bestie and I would fight against all other siblings and perceived enemies (or just the neighborhood kids) over the iced top of the Kulich. She knows that this bread makes my Lenten struggles seem worthwhile, and she rescues me every year from my own depression and poor planning, by bringing it to me. I came home today and there it was in the foyer, waiting like a hug from the past, wrapped up in icing and sprinkles. A childhood memory of smells and treats, springtime and sleepovers, us against them. Her Greek husband thinks we’re both mad as hatters, and maybe we are.

A beautiful reminder of our childhood together.

This year as I was studying the recipe, and feeling a little bit Paul Hollywood-y, I felt I would be able to make a solid go of getting a successful batch of Kulich. In the past, my struggles have been intense and I’d wind up mid-day, mid-recipe, discouraged and slightly teary, ready to throw it out. My husband would perform some sort of rescue operation with fresh yeast, chest compressions, and set it to rise again. Much like Christ himself, it would! There have been construction light set ups, greenhouse victories, and engineering rigs worthy of a patent, that have coaxed the dough along into beautiful, yet temperamental loaves.

Early this morning I heard the door close softly and the rustle of grocery bags. I roused myself out of bed and saw 5 sticks of butter warming on the stove and I knew he was at it. I said, “How will we do all the steps? Neither of us will be home!” With a gleam in his eye he said, “I want you to be happy…. and I have a plan.”

Rising bread baby taking a nap in the sun.

He carried the batter like a baby with him in the car, strapped in, with the seat heat on, for his morning bike ride. He recruited his biking friends to work in the 12 cups of flour and knead it for 45 minutes. He then drove it back, seat heat still on, and set it to rise in a metal bowl to nap in the sun. I always wondered what we would be like as empty nesters and I think I’m beginning to find out.

Rising in the old 2 pound coffee cans.

This year’s Kulich is the best ever and there is no shortage of icing and sprinkles. It feels just right. Happy Pascha! Happy Easter! Christ is risen! And so has my bread.

All three loaves are perfect!

© copyright Mariam d’Eustachio at Simply Turquoise 2022.

Where Do Babies Come From?

I never enjoyed being pregnant, which felt like a betrayal of sorts. Maybe it was the RH Factor, discovered around the fifth month of my first pregnancy. My negative blood type was not compatible with the baby’s positive blood type. Catherine of Aragon, Henry’s VIII’s first wife, who only gave him one living child faced the same problem. It was NOT the son and heir Henry needed to ensure the royal line, and each subsequent child was stillborn, rejected by her own body. Fortunately for my children, they were born in the era of RhoGAM shots, delivered straight to my butt, a mixer that prevented my body from rejecting them as foreign invaders. This was my introduction to motherhood.

I found out I was pregnant by falling down the stairs. Pregnancy does mess with your balance, it’s true. I was always thin and fairly athletic, so it felt like suddenly I was inhabiting an alien body, off-kilter and even hungrier the The Very Hungry Caterpillar. After the baby was born, a complicated delivery that was early and involved Toxemia, I still felt shock that my body didn’t seem to belong to me anymore. I had taken this agency over my body for granted. That beautiful baby, born looking like Snow White’s doppelgänger, is now almost 22. She recently texted me a picture of her dinner (roasted salmon and a beautiful salad) and my husband said to me….. “You are such a good momma.” and I said “Because she made a good dinner?” and he said “Yes! Do you know any other 22-year-olds who make healthy dinners from scratch and a salad as beautiful as that?” Nope, I don’t.

Motherhood has never been what I expected and maybe it was a bit romanticized in my head. But in my defense, waking up in a pile of every bodily fluid imaginable on a regular basis, was a shock to the system. Lately I’ve heard “Remember that time when we were out together and your clothes were soaked in breastmilk?” Yeah…. that’s a memory I had actually managed to forget. A moment where my brain did right by me. After having babies, my body never really felt like my body…. a condition that has the side effect of forgetting to close the bathroom door, causing your kids to scream. Eventually I realized that the flab that I didn’t recognize around my stomach was where the babies came from…. at least at first.

By the third baby I wised up. It was however, quite a lot of paperwork. She is a spunky 10-year-old that might feel like I didn’t work as hard to get her, or that she doesn’t belong to me because her skin is dark, and I am fair. I didn’t incubate her in my body, even though she is endlessly fascinated by it, probably because she didn’t live there and charge me rent demanding all the calcium and iron I could possibly manufacture.

She has a right to know her origin story. Mostly because it is uniquely hers and the question of “How was I born?” comes up a lot. She used to go around saying “I was born in an ambulance….!” which is true, and does appeal to this child, as if she has superhero beginnings. We called her Genie, The Magic Baby for a long time because we were ALL wondering where she came from, and how did she get here?

One day, my aunt called me and told me her daughter was pregnant. Eight months pregnant, and that daughter would not be able to raise the baby. My aunt was sick with lung cancer and in a wheelchair at that time. She simply said, “Will you take it? You have a good family.” I walked around in a shocked daze for a couple of weeks and the next thing I knew the baby had been born (in an ambulance!) and was in a hurry to be in this world. She was in the NICU because she was so tiny and went straight to emergency foster care.

It was not like the other babies that pillaged my vitamins and minerals and were incompatible with their host. This baby was already made! My husband said simply, “Babies need homes.” And that was it, the decision was made.

A few months later, with my mom by my side, and my aunt in her wheelchair, I showed up to a hearing room in Oakland, California. I sat in a room with so many people who had an interest in where this baby ended up: aunties and cousins, people I didn’t recognize, the foster mom who had cared for her for five months, social workers, and my husband dialed in conference on the phone. The one person who was not there, was the attorney who represented the interests of the baby. I don’t know what I expected to happen that day. The extended family argued that the baby would help the biological mother get her act together (they stated for the record they did not want the baby to be raised by a white family) and the biological mother would recover and care for it. They would take the baby, and pass her around inside the family, until that happened. The foster mom, who had provided the most loving home for the baby, also wanted to adopt, but the extended family was against that solution. The whole situation was chaotic.

It was not an easy day. I stood up in a room full of angry people and said, “Is it true that none of you will commit to adopting this baby permanently? If you think you can pass her around, and then call me when she is two or three years old, you are wrong. I will not take her after your failed experiment. I will not take her once she has an attachment disorder, has not bonded with anyone in particular, and is messed up for life. I will take her now, or I will take her never.”

The State of California decided to place the baby with me and my family. My cousin, the biological mother, told me later she was happy with the outcome of the hearing. That moment, when she leaned on my shoulder and cried and said she couldn’t do it, that was the moment when this baby was born to me, a moment of clarity and understanding between us mothers. The gift I could give my cousin was peace of mind and I would do my best.

Some babies require quite a lot of paperwork, some babies incubate, but the outcome is the same and ultimately they all just need a home. I think now I DO know where babies come from, and the next time she asks I’ll just say, “California.”

© copyright Mariam d’Eustachio at Simply Turquoise 2022.

Reflections & Change

I received the annual reminder from my mom to update my blog. She said, “And please, make it cheery!” So here goes….. Reflecting on 2021 which saw our foray into chicken ownership through. What an adventure! My dear readers, I have been remiss and have not properly updated you. We are the owners of five new Pandemic Pets. We pass around the coveted title of “Chicken Momma,” argue over who loves them best, and whether or not we can market chicken poop as dog treats. We have fresh eggs every day, and the dogs are taking their job of chasing the foxes away seriously, even the ridiculous littlest dog in the yellow sweater. While we are not experts, the chicken project saw only one fatality, and that is what success looks like in the realm of chickens.

Amelia working hard!
Ridiculous consumer of processed chicken feed.

In 2021 I recommitted to my flute. I recently completed Hilary Hahn’s #100daysofpractice and challenged myself to practice the flute for 100 days straight. (In the interest of full disclosure, I completed 94/100.) On a trip to Boston, I toured the William S. Haynes flute factory, the oldest flute makers in the United States. I geeked out on the physics of sound and tried gold vs. silver, handmade vs. modern production, and woke up a level of music I thought dormant. The need to connect with my roots as a musician and to find beauty and joy during the slog of the pandemic, to break up the daily grind that seemed lately a constant chore, was intense. I realize how great a gift music is, and how much I need it. In 2021, I walked the streets of DC with Basil, my college flute professor, while he casually talked about Lenny (Bernstein, of course!), Dorati, Rostropovich and other greats. If I had been playing a game of “Six Degrees of Separation,” I would have been close to winning, hanging out with the music greats of our time. The pull toward my art centered me in the last year and I am ever so grateful for that. I am in the best musical shape I have ever been in my life! (Kindly do not ask me about exercise.) My breathing is centered, I am acutely aware of my body while playing, silencing the inner critic, and returning to fundamentals which have helped me grow by leaps and bounds. I found old photos, old recordings, and pulled together a Soundcloud account, if you care to listen: https://soundcloud.com/user-765234673.

Playing in the orchestra, 2015.

In 2021 Secondo graduated from high school and went off to college. Can you imagine that littlest baby boy all grown up? Thank God I have the third one, only in fourth grade, preventing an empty nest. That is for the birds….!

Free range chicken time.

If 2021 was my mid-life crises, then I’ll take it, chickens and all. Just last week I resigned my job with Community Forklift and will walk through a door, new adventure waiting, and work for the Folger Shakespeare Library. I feel that pull toward art even more and am over the moon about this opportunity. I wonder what 2022 will bring? I know one thing, it will not be a slog, and I will choose to intentionally feel every day as a gift full of wonder (perhaps a few spelling tests and chicken poop) and more art. Always more art.

Happy New Year and I wish you all the very best in 2022!

©copyright Mariam d’Eustachio at Simply Turquoise 2022.

Fresh eggs!

Grief and Gardening Tips

I did not know it was possible to actually die of a broken heart, and yet my neighbor Kathleen has done just that. She just laid down in the bed and didn’t get up again. Her heart stopped.

Sometimes there is a moment in time, or an experience that will bond people together forever, like a lens peering into the emotions of another human, so real and vulnerable that their pain is your pain, a kind of empathy squared. One of those moments came the night Kathleen spent with my husband. That night, they drove my brother to rehab, and she swore the next time she would bring a toothbrush.

Kathleen knew a good place and could get my brother a spot, just as soon as he sobered up… Kathleen was in recovery herself and former addicts come with a streak of MUST GIVE BACK to society because they’ve pissed on too many lawns and done their fair share of wreaking havoc that there is an intense debt, a hole they have to fill, that only driving people to rehab and checking on your dog after an earthquake, can fill. And that brother of mine? 10 years later he has found sobriety.

I will never know the depths of sorrow that Kathleen felt after losing both of her sons to the opioid epidemic, but she never failed to make me laugh, ever. Damn she was funny.

For example, I made Spanikopita for her after a funeral and received a text a few weeks later….. “Just want you to know I refrained from sending you a picture of me rolling around naked in your spinach pie….” And I knew she was alright, at least for a moment.

When I first moved back to Maryland my new puppy chose her feet to pee on, and so she wore Crocs. Drawn together by toddlers and obligations, plants and old junk, she was the one who introduced me to Community Forklift. Kathleen said, “You will never believe this place…. follow me over the railroad tracks and down to the river….” and I thought, “This is it. She’s lost her mind.” But there it was, the place where I would work for the next seven years (and counting).

Recently Kathleen sent me some gardening tips, which I felt I should share, being as it’s springtime and this is a home sort of blog:

  • If you have greased your shepherd’s hooks with Vaseline to keep the squirrels off the suet cakes, it is important to remember you have done this. That way, you don’t grab it, pull and have your hand fly off and hit you in the face. It can cause a nosebleed.
  • When custom mixing soils for a particular plant in high winds, do not stand downwind and put the lightest soil in first. This will keep you from becoming covered in peat moss.
  • If you decide to just plop your butt on the ground while weeding, it is important to notice if it’s a holly tree. Self explanatory.

The tears sliding down my cheeks when I found out she had passed away made me feel guilty and a little bit selfish. Kathleen was suffering, and there was no amount of Spanikopita or cookies that would take it away. Even Regina smiled and said, “Well mom, she is with her boys now.” For once, I didn’t correct her, because maybe Regina is right. Who am I to say?

©copyright Mariam d’Eustachio at Simply Turquoise 2021.