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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.

Serendipity

Sometimes serendipity smacks you in the face and there is no explanation for it. That is what happened to me tonight. I had dinner with two perfect strangers… Serendipitous strangers. 
I checked into a hotel in Connecticut. In fact, the best hotel I’ve ever stayed in. It was a beautiful room with the feel of a retreat. I was in this hotel because it was near to the place I needed to be at the time. Near my stepmother as she was dying.

Stepmother is such a loaded term. A term filled with cultural uncertainty. A word that can span the spectrum of meaning: an evil stepmother? A Cinderella-esque situation? Or all the way to the opposite side: the almost unimaginable kind person who cared for a child/children not her own. I mean, who does that? And in real life? Maybe this is why it is so easy to embrace the evil stepmother image, because kind stepmother is too hard to imagine.

But I was lucky. Actually we were lucky to have her. She was an amazing stepmother and she cared for us part-time from about age 8 on. I fully admit this is the unimaginable scenario that is almost boring.

She passed away this morning, but I have no regrets. I told her I loved her and what she meant to me. I spent time with her while she was ill and saw her in these last days. She had suffered a lot.

Back at the inn I had stepped out for a breath of fresh air. The innkeeper saw me outside and asked how things had gone. After I explained, she invited me to join her and her friend for dinner- even if I just needed a good cry. Oh my was I surprised and I decided to join them. 

It was a beautiful evening I will never forget with two intelligent, empathetic, accomplished women who were full of life, laughter and sound advice. My faith in this world was renewed and it was the perfect medicine. 

So… Because this is a decorating blog and not the writer’s forum, grief counseling or parenting blog it has morphed into, I’m attaching some grainy iPhone photos of the inn. You should stay here. You should go to Connecticut and see the scenery and say hello to Pam the innkeeper who made Connecticut feel more like North Carolina because…

It. Is. Spectacular. Full stop.

Simsbury 1820 House.

The Simsbury 1820 House.

The resevoir.

The nearby resevoir view.

Old garage doors.

A little architectural salvage.

The writer's desk.

The writer’s desk.

Old garage doors

Old garage doors.

 
© copyright 2015 Mariam d’Eustachio 2015.

Only Mostly Dead

This was a harsh winter. The only plants that seemed to survive were the weeds. My bay plant, rumored to be more than 50 years old, died. We cut it down and this is all that’s left.

The Bay Stump.

The Bay Stump.

It was fragrant as we burned the old bay branches, in a funeral pyre sort of way. As we were chopping down and burning up the old bay plant, my mind was wandering and worrying about the nearby fig trees. I would go outside and snap a branch and hold my breath and hope that it was just late to leaf out and that these two fig trees were sleepy and taking their time to unfold after this extreme winter.

Just "mostly dead."

Just “mostly dead.”

Then I saw a little green! Turns out, the fig trees are only “mostly dead.” In the movie The Princess Bride, Miracle Max declares Wesley “mostly dead.” The trees are leafing out from the base of the trunk and I am going to need Miracle Max to come and help me coax them back to life. I will call my uncle, a botanist, and ask him for help: he’s a little like Miracle Max for trees.

There is hope!

There is hope!

Perhaps their intentions are noble and the fact that I love them will be enough. The fig trees know that I bought this house just for them. They have listened to me play my flute outside the window for the last couple of months. Together we have suffered through hours of practicing as I prepared to play principal flute in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Then again, maybe this has contributed to their demise.

This clip is from a recent concert, taken on the sly from my friend’s lap. Her skirt is lovely isn’t it? This  bit of the third movement is a piece of what the trees have been listening to from outside the window. Have a listen if you want to know what I’ve been up to lately and let me know how your plants fared this winter!

© copyright 2014 Mariam d’Eustachio at Simply Turquoise.

“Afternoon Delight”

On Day 2 of the Furlough/Shutdown/Political Clustermess that the United States government was inflicting on us all, Stuart embraced his status as temporarily unemployed. Think pajamas all day and “Anchorman” playing on continuous loop on the tele:

Ron Burgundy

Ron Burgundy

This was his favorite clip.

However, we did accomplish a few things around the house, but none of them so exciting as the day he spent on the roof. It was a beautiful day with blue skies and perfect weather. It would have been glorious if I was not so anxious he was going to plummet to his early demise below. I have always had an amazing imagination.

Stuart and the blue sky.

Stuart and the blue sky.

But he did not fall to his death. Instead he fixed the roof, damaged during Hurricane Sandy, and cleaned the gutters. Best of all, he removed an antenna that was attached to the roof.

An Eyesore that was seemingly impossible to remove. I hated this antenna. I think it was used to signal the aliens when they were trying to contact us back in the 1950’s, somewhere near Roswell.

The hideous antenna.

The hideous antenna.

It was a glorious day. It is amazing how satisfying removing something like this from the roof can be. We have removed them from three houses, so you may want to have a look outside and see if there is an old TV antenna attached to your roof. The trashmen hate us.

After.

After.

The antenna was attached over by the chimney and the house looks clean now. I love it! We also did four days of yard clean up, which is why the trash cans are hanging out in the front yard. The baby was very helpful through the whole furlough. We are all so glad it is over now and things are back to normal again.

© copyright 2013 Mariam d’Eustachio at Simply Turquoise.

Shutdown Fail

We are in desperate need of some cheer around here. The shutdown and the rain together make for a gloomy environment. Early this morning, I braved the elements and dragged back a load of dry firewood from the shed. The goal was simple: to warm up and drive the rain out.

In the process, I caused billows of smoke to pour out of the chimney, set off every smoke detector in the house, and made a desperate phone call to my neighbor: “How do you open this darn flue again?” Funny, I don’t have any pictures of this part.

And it was only 8 o’clock in the morning.

We hung in there as I listened to my niece chant, “Firetruck!” over and over again, which caused me to glance shiftily around thinking they were going to pull up at any moment. I was making up random excuses to tell the firemen as to why I was wearing pajamas and a raincoat, still bra-less and playing with matches all at the same time.

Yet, I still managed to find joy in this first fire of the season.

First fire of the season.

First fire of the season.

For most people, having a fire in the fireplace requires only the flick of a switch, but I ask you, “where is the adventure in that?” This fire did just the trick, and it was awesome.

© copyright 2013 Mariam d’Eustachio at Simply Turquoise.

Ode to Coffee

Coffee, sweet nectar of life, you rise out of the chaos of my morning, hot and steamy. You fill me with joy at each sip, even as the baby throws her cereal across the room and the dog chases the cat through the house, toppling everything in their wake.

Coffee!

Coffee!

You provide the mystery to my day, as I wander through the house wondering where I last left you. The thrill at discovering you once again lifts my spirit, only to discover you’ve gone cold.

Coffee!

Coffee!

You give me exercise as I trot back and forth to the microwave to warm you up, alert with anticipation. Coffee, sweet nectar of life, I savor your rich and roasted flavor….

A really good wine.

Wine!

Wait, is that a glass of wine for me?

© copyright 2013 Mariam d’Eustachio at Simply Turquoise.

“The Midnight Jammer”

My kids have started calling me “The Midnight Jammer.”

"Drunken Fig Jam"

“Drunken Fig Jam”

August around here means figs. I don’t know if these figs are just happy because they know I bought two fig trees… oh and a house to go along with them, but they are expressing their appreciation in abundance, and these trees are producing 4-5 pounds of fruit every day.

My Happy Fig Trees.

My Happy Fig Trees.

I have been up three nights, just this week, canning. The jam I have chosen to make is called “Drunken Fig Jam.” It is made with brandy and lemon and it is delicious. Here is the link to the recipe and I tweaked it a little:

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Drunken-Fig-Jam-350120

I love canning things you can’t really get at the store. Canning is relatively easy if you invest in a few essential tools and it is like summer in a jar. If you have ever opened a quart of homemade applesauce in January, you know what I mean. Or tomato soup. Or apple butter. There is truly nothing like it.

Summer in a jar.

Summer in a jar.

One side effect of canning is learning a little science along the way. Don’t worry, it isn’t that much. But you may learn how to create a vacuum seal, how to sterilize with heat, and how to keep a good acidic balance to your ingredients in order to safely preserve them. This is science in a nutshell, and useful science at that.

Fig-Brandy Jam

Fig-Brandy Jam

It is addictive. Of course, if you’re anything like me, just about anything is addictive. However, there is some thrilling danger involved in canning and one is likely to get hooked.

Boiling Pot.

Boiling Pot.

I am already thinking about the next item on my canning agenda: Basil Jelly.

Basil Jelly.

Basil Jelly.

This recipe for Basil Jelly is from the blog Sweet Domesticity.

http://sweetdomesticity.blogspot.com/2013/07/basil-jelly.html

The fall apples will be here soon and… Yum!

Epilogue

Here is a list of ESSENTIAL canning tools:

  • Canning pot
  • Jar lifter
  • A basket do-hickey thing-a ma-jig that comes with the pot
  • Funnel
  • Food Mill
  • Pectin or Sure Jell (You can buy this in bulk from an Amish Market.)
  • Always use new lids and don’t forget to sterilize your jars and lids and rings in boiling water before you fill and process them.
  • The freshest, most amazing home-grown or farmer’s market fruit and veggies you can get your hands on, including zucchini. It makes great pickles, I promise.

© copyright 2013 Mariam d’Eustachio at Simply Turquoise.