The General Store

Maybe your neighbors are not as great as mine. If that is the case, I am sorry for you. Mine, well…. they are my neighborhood general store, daycare, garden center, and lawn-mowing service. Do you need a lemon? A carrot? Or perhaps a stray can of beans? Can’t beat the traffic home? Need them to check on the teens? Or perhaps a place to hide the liquor? Don’t forget the lawn-mowing service and dog walking to boot! And why not? Don’t you have neighbors that mow your lawn and walk your dogs?

This is a teen that is up to no good.

If only everyone had a neighborhood like mine, where civility, jokes, and kindness rule. We have fires on their patio, drinks on our deck, and watch the flickering lights of the fireflies. We have stories and foot massages, gripe sessions and therapy.

I’ve always had good luck with neighbors, so I know this is not a one-off situation. Over the years, my neighbors and I have become the very best of friends. (Except for that one time when I suspect the neighbors had the Gimp tied up in their basement and ran a hospital for dolls.)

Find the dogs!

I challenge you to find a neighbor and chat them up. Try to connect with them as humans. That relationship may eventually prove to be your lifeline, and at the very least, may come in handy when you need a cup of sugar or a friend. It’s a little something we can do to invest in each other, and in our communities. To quote Mr. Rogers, “Won’t you be my neighbor?”

© 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.


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.



  • 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.


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.