Archive | December 2012

A Vintage Tree

I challenge you, dear readers, to find a blogger who has put their Christmas tree up later than me. In fact, I challenge you to find ANY person (minus my Jewish friends) who has put their tree up later than me…. We put the tree up on Saturday, December 22nd.

A beautiful live Douglas Fur.

A beautiful live Douglas Fir.

I do deserve a little credit this year as one time we actually hauled a tree off of the Home Depot lot on December 26th and paid $.25 for it. Those were the years when I would eye the trees on the curb, looking for the one with the most tinsel on it.

A traditional Christmas tree.

A traditional Christmas tree.

This tree is full of glass ornaments that I have collected over the years. I love birds and there are a lot of glass birds on this tree. I have ornaments from the 1950’s given to me by my mother and vintage ornaments from my husband’s family as well. It is a true hodge-podge of all things pretty. Nothing matches. It is just a collection of wooden beads, glass ornaments, icicles, traditional angels, and stars.

A scene in toile.

A scene in toile.

A pretty pink glass ball.

A pretty pink glass ball.

A girl playing the flute in a red dress.

A girl playing the flute in a red dress.

The wooden beads are a nod to the German influence of my mother’s family. They are bright and cheerful and every year I drape them around the tree. There are quite a few flute players on this tree, but none so realistic as the one in the red dress, almost identical to a red dress I once wore in a recital years ago. This flute lady was a gift from my mother-in-law.

The tree itself is a live Douglas Fir that I got from the local farmer’s market. It is still very fresh and drinking daily. I love the way it smells.

The Angel.

The Angel.

The angel is similar to the one I had growing up and reminds me of family. For me, the Christmas tree has never been about how it is decorated, but about the history behind the things it is decorated with. Each ornament given as a gift, each hand-made, hand-carved or handed down piece brings back a memory as I hang it on the tree. The very act of decorating the tree is the point: the music, the carols, and the family, all together. It is a celebration.

In the window.

In the window.

Maybe next year I will do something crazy like decorate the tree with pink flamingos. But for now, I am satisfied with this one, decorated with memories.

© copyright 2012 Mariam d’Eustachio.

Christmas is When???

I know I am behind the eight ball when it comes to Christmas. However, I do have a good excuse. Much of the world, including the entire country of Armenia, celebrates Christmas later; on January 6th for the Armenians and on January 7th for the Orthodox Christians that adhere to the old calendar. Needless to say, being Armenian-American and Orthodox has caused me to be slightly confused about when Christmas actually takes place. However, I am pretty sure it involves baby Jesus.

I do not have a tree yet. I promise to show you my tree, after we put it up, probably around the time you are taking yours down. But I have started to spread some Christmas cheer around the house and I wanted to give you a peak.

My vine ball, lighted!

My vine ball, lighted!

The peacock feather wreath was a splurge this year from Pier1 Imports. The vine ball needed a touch of Christmas, so I added a string of lights to the inside.

Pomegranate centerpiece.

Pomegranate and greenery from the yard for a bright and easy centerpiece.

This pomegranate centerpiece will not last too long in my house, as Secondo will eat it in no time. But I have a few more in the kitchen to distract him.

Chandelier with greenery.

Chandelier with greenery.

 An easy way to bring Christmas inside: add a little greenery.

And the quirky, Jack the Guardfish gets a bow.

And the quirky: Jack the Guardfish gets a bow.

We rearranged a little in Paris, opening up the table and adding a bench to accommodate more people. It is now an actual Breakfast Nook. I added a little Christmas cactus to the middle.

Breakfast Nook.

Paris has had a makeover.

And the bread! I baked ten loaves of bread for the teachers and just the smell of it filling the house brings on Christmas cheer. This is an easy-to-make quick bread that is delicious and Christmas-y. It can be easily modified and made vegan as well.

Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.

Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, circa 1950.

Cranberry-Orange Bread

Cranberry-Orange Bread


Cranberry-Orange Bread Recipe (Can be made Vegan):

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a bread pan. Mix the dry ingredients   together in a bowl: 2 cups all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. baking soda. Toss in one cup of coarsely chopped cranberries, 1 tsp. grated orange zest, and 1/2 cup of coarsely chopped walnuts. In a small dish mix together 1 cup of orange juice, 1 egg (or egg replacer if you are vegan) and 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry just until moist and bake 55-60 minutes. You will love it!

For me, this Christmas will be extra special. We have a new baby and have so many things to be grateful for. The recent tragedy in Connecticut reminds me to hug my kids and not to take anything for granted.

 © copyright 2012 Mariam d’Eustachio.

Make Yourself at Home

Drumroll please…. 

Introducing Fellow Coastie, Ultimate Frisbee player, and friend, Bill Putnam. He takes incredible pictures and agreed to write a post for me. He is one of those people you feel a little bit jealous of, always jet-setting around and just enjoying life to the fullest. This post is pure blog candy.

And Now….

Hello fellow Simply Turquoise readers! I’m thrilled to contribute to one of my favorite spots to come when I want to sit down with a cup of tea, coffee, glass of wine or pint of beer and find another idea for making friends feel at home in the places and spaces I live in.

This is, after all, what Simply Turquoise is for me. Mariam is someone who seemingly knows no strangers and always has the right advice for making a space more welcoming. Perhaps that is why she was interested in having me share with you some words and photos from a city I recently visited again but have been to several times: Charleston, South Carolina.  It is a place where I’ve never felt like a stranger or visitor, a place where just walking around you feel invited down every street, around every corner, and into each café, restaurant, or store front.

Charleston, South Carolina

City Street in Charleston, South Carolina.

This essay won’t be a history lesson on Charleston. I’m not that well read. It’s old and new, it’s Southern yet somehow cosmopolitan, and it’s coastal and colonial. Most of all, to me Charleston whispers “hospitality”.  If you’re a regular reader of Simply Turquoise you’ll remember perhaps that Mariam has written about a symbol of hospitality, the pineapple. You’ll find it throughout this city: from bed post finials to flags on storefronts, and even as a fountain found down on the waterfront near Charleston’s own French Quarter (yes the city even has a slight ’Nawlins feel to it in places).

Pineapple Fountain in Charleston, South Carolina.

Pineapple Fountain in Charleston, South Carolina.

I’m not Southern by birth unless you use the Mason-Dixon as your line of demarcation for that. Born in Fairfax, Virginia and raised in Northern Virginia, those residents typically like to call themselves D.C. suburbanites. But my time in the Coast Guard has taken me all over, and it is how I came to be introduced to Charleston. So I’m a reluctantly adopted southerner, granted probationary belonging by my grandparents’ being North Carolinians, my love of sweet tea, and my ability to use the word “reckon” comfortably and in proper context.

Charleston, South Carolina cobblestones.

Charleston, South Carolina cobblestones.

It’s difficult to feel out of place in Charleston, unless you don’t like comfort-able.  You can wander seamlessly from the university district of the College of Charleston, where I tried mightily to sell my son on when he was shopping for schools and where there is that hip, edgy and creative personality everywhere between Coming and King Streets. Then as you cross south over Wentworth and find yourself on King in a shopping district mixed with high-end antique stores and the usual suspects of clothiers littered in all the new “town center” type developments you find everywhere, but which even here seem to have a unique charm, to the extent that’s possible.

Cemetery gates.

Cemetery gates.

One of the city’s nicknames is the “Holy City”. As you wander the streets around South of Broad you’ll see many church spires and wrought iron gates around cemeteries, with seemingly as many Spanish moss covered trees as headstones, all giving testimony to this well-earned moniker. And in keeping with the underlying theme of Charleston, even these places are not the cold intimidating off limits site of only those righteous or known enough to enter, they have their gates and doors open, inviting the passerby to come stay for a while.

Charleston Church Spire.

Charleston Church Spire.

And stay for a while is exactly what I want to do each time I visit this exquisitely contented city. There are still so many doors to explore and menus to try. Who knows, perhaps the name Putnam will fit as comfortably as Calhoun and Pinckney and I might also spend my day trying to decide which bronze door knocker looks best on one of the marigold-colored row houses, with pine grove green shutters and door. Or perhaps I already do fit in…that is after all how this city wants you to feel.

© copyright Bill Putnam and Mariam d’Eustachio 2012.