Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Garden Decorations (and Special Visitors!)

Seeing as how June is traditionally dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus (and why it is, of course, such such a special month for us Catholics), we just got a new little flag to hang in the garden on the side of our house, near the patio.  Isn't it a beauty?

Wait…did I just hear someone say, “But what’s with the Bigfoot statue?”  Do you mean to tell me that during June (or anytime, really) every Catholic doesn’t have one of THOSE in their garden, too?!

(Just kidding.  If that hadn’t been my late father’s nickname, I can assure you that we wouldn’t either! LOL!)

I also put a little garden sign out front this morning, because later today our oldest son, his wife, and their seven children will be arriving to spend the week with us.  (They are traveling all the way from WI in their new-to-them 15-seater van!)

Before their move to the Midwest in 2021, this sweet family lived less than 20 minutes away from us here in VA for over four years.  Our daughter-in-law and the four children they had at the time even lived in our house with us for a few months when they first got here, while our son was away in training for his job and they were looking for a house of their own.  So this will be like a homecoming!  

And then after their week here, reconnecting with family and old friends, ALL of us Pearls will be heading to New York for our annual Oyster Haven vacation week at the lake.

Life is good today.  Life is very good.  And our gardens are decorated to show it.

I will not be blogging the next few weeks, because we will be busy with travels and family.  But I have a few drafts ready to publish (someone's been in a writing mood lately!), and I can post those in the meantime. After the kids all head back home from the lake, I'll be sure to report how it went.   (And there will be pictures, I'm sure.  Lots of pictures!)

Saturday, June 15, 2024

The Gift of Hospitality

I get such joy from opening up my house up to others.  I think that's actually one of my favorite things in the world to do--to play hostess.

Showing hospitality to others is kind of what I live for...well, that's mostly true, but not totally.  [Gulp.] Time for a reality check.

Opening up my home when I'm just being "Mom" and "Grammy"-- that's what I live for, and that's easy. Playing the more demanding role of plain old "Hostess" is a tad harder for me.

When it comes to hosting family events, I am all in, all the time.  Even when it's our whole gang--five married sons and the 22 kids they have between them--I am never daunted by the idea of having them all descend upon us, though it is undoubtedly chaotic.  I love to cook for them.  I love making pre-party menu lists, setting up the buffet and/or dining table, putting up party decorations if the occasion calls for it, and the whole nine yards.  My husband and I seriously can't ever get enough of watching our grown-up boys interacting with each other, hearing their laughter in the house again (our favorite sound); it's wonderful seeing our girls, who get along so beautifully, swapping mom stories; it's a hoot seeing the little cousins chasing each other around the house or the yard, or playing together in our basement playroom.  It's loud and crazy and so much fun for us.  Being down here in VA, where we live near three of our sons and 14 of our grandkids (and we're actually centrally located, almost exactly midway between the two boys who live south of us and the one who lives north), our house is often the meeting place for Pearl holidays and family get-togethers.

But since moving here in 2017, we haven't played host and hostess to too many non-family members.  We had the pastor of our sweet little parish over once for lunch--and a house blessing--a few years ago.  We had our good friends (whom we met at church--natch!), T and R, over for a nice steak dinner a few months ago.  But as I said, when we're playing host and hostess, the guests are usually named Pearl.

Last week, on a whim one day we decided to invite a nice woman whom we see at daily Mass to come to our house for coffee afterward on Friday.  We chat with her often on our way out of church, but we never see her anywhere else.  This darling lady, who is about 20 years older than we are, has been widowed for many years and lives alone.  We just thought it would be nice to have the opportunity to really get to know her and to make her feel special.  On Thursday night, I was already getting excited about having company the next morning, so of course I got the table all set up in anticipation.  This was going to be a very casual affair, but I still wanted it to be nice.

My initial menu plan was simple: coffee, a bowl of mixed fruit, and some pastries (store-bought mini-muffins, some delectable little caramel-iced cakes from our town's popular local bakery, and some leftover banana bread I'd made for my hubby).

My husband and I drove to church in separate cars, because although we usually stay after Mass to do the Divine Office prayers with some of the other parishioners, I knew I was going to want to go right back home and get things prepared.  Plus, he was the sacristan that day and was going to have to stay to clean up, and our guest had to do some work involving the altar flowers as well. So I went home ahead of them--to fill the cream and sugar dishes, to brew a fresh pot of coffee, to pour a lemon-sugar glaze over the fruit, and to slice the cakes and put out the goodies.   

It was a treat to use my three-tiered dessert tray, a gift from son #2 and his wife, Ginger.  She found the blue-and-white plates (my weakness!) at the thrift, and he drilled the holes in them and added the hardware.  I would love this piece if it was store-bought, but it means so much more to me that it was designed and homemade by two of my favorite people.  Such a thoughtful gift!

I decided at the last minute to make some mini-quiches, stopping on the way home to get some scallions at the grocery store because we were out.  To make these quiches, I flattened slices of white bread with a rolling pin, cut out little circles with a biscuit cutter, buttered the bottoms, and put them in a muffin pan to make the "crusts." Then I added diced scallions and grated Swiss cheese, and finally poured an egg and cream mixture into the muffin cups until they were almost full, and baked at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Luckily I had plenty of time to get them made before my husband and our sweet guest got to the house.

I was able to use another gift from son #2 and his wife for our little after-Mass get-together: a handy thermos coffee pot.  Now that I have a Chemex pour-over coffee maker, I use it pretty much every day.  I used to rely on a Keurig and brew my cups one at a time; now I make a six-cup pot first thing in the morning and transfer the coffee from the glass Chemex carafe to the thermos, where it stays hot for hours. (I don't know about you, but for me, just about any time of day is a good time for a cup of coffee!  #addictedtocoffee)

Our church friend stayed for about two hours, and we just sat at the dining room table talking that whole time. There was not one lull in the conversation!  It was so enjoyable, and I'm now inspired to invite some of the other nice folks we see every day at Mass over for coffee.

I'm a rather shy person--an introvert, a homebody, a reader, a lover of peace and quiet and solitude--and I'm not naturally gifted at making friends.  Being open to sharing my home with others outside my comfortable circle of Pearls (or should I say string of Pearls?!) is not really one of my charisms--that is to say, gifts given to us from God that enable us to live out the Gospel.  If all I had for friends were the members of my beloved family, I would be perfectly content.  But I'm determined to work at developing this charism of hospitality.  

The wonderful book Theology of Homehas a whole chapter devoted to hospitality.  This quote in that chapter spoke to me: "In opening our homes to others, we allow ourselves to detach from our relatively comfortable, safe, orderly ways so that love, which by its nature is not confining or insular, can spread out beyond these walls and these inhabitants."  Also this: "Hospitality is rooted in kindness--not a kindness that is mere politeness (though that is important) but a kindness that actively seeks to fulfill a need of another unprompted."  What lovely sentiments, so eloquently expressed!  And I'm taking them to heart. I'll let you know how it goes!

Have a wonderful weekend, dear readers.  One filled with faith and family--and friends, too.

*I actually have a copy of this book signed by one of the authors, Carrie Gress.  She gave a talk to a group of women at a church hall here in VA a few years back, and I attended the event with my daughter-in-law, Ginger.  (Gress is a phenomenal speaker!)

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Grandma's Chair (Before and After)

I've blogged before about my paternal grandmother's Victorian mansion in a small Upstate NY town, where my family lived for about a year-and-a-half when I was a young girl.  The seven of us made a temporary home in one of the upstairs apartments that she rented out.  (We used to joke that our place had once been the servants' quarters; I'm not really even sure if that's true, but it made a good story!)

When Grandma and her second husband (my father's dad died when he was very young) took possession of the mansion, they found and rescued many pieces of antique furniture original to the house and had them refurbished.  There was a giant dining table and matching chairs that took center stage in the extraordinarily beautiful, wood-paneled dining room in the mansion.  When she eventually sold the place, my grandmother kept a few of her favorite items, among which were some marble-topped end tables and coffee tables and several of the ornately carved dining room chairs.  My youngest sister had been given two of the chairs after Grandma died and recently asked all of her siblings if any of us would like to take them, as she no longer had a place for them.  One of my sisters-in-law and I were immediately interested, so we each got one.  I just brought mine home from NY about a few weeks ago after a trip up there to get our VRBO rental house ready for the summer season.

While I was in NY, I "shopped" in my mother-in-law's attic for fabric to recover the chair.  (I've blogged about this before as well--about the treasure trove of fabrics and laces and sewing notions my seamstress M-I-L amassed in her lifetime, which I have been given the green light by her generous daughters to plunder at will!) I not only found some lovely upholstery material for my DIY project, but also some coordinating gimp trim.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let me show you what the chair looked like after years of use, including when my sister used to strap a portable high chair seat onto it and her sweet granddaughter would kick away at the front of the cushion with her little feet.

The fabric on the top of the chair, front and back, had held up fairly well.  But the seat was in bad shape.

I could hardly wait to restore this chair to its former glory! To get started, I removed the gimp binding, which is used to cover up the raw edges of the fabric and the nails (and it's attached with glue, so it's easy to pull off).

Then I removed the fabric pieces, which I used as patterns for the new pieces.  (I was able to remove the upholstery nails, which are short and curved at the tips, and then reuse them).

I almost ordered some new blue gimp to match the lovely fabric I’d chosen, because I wasn't sure if I'd like the shiny gold stuff I'd found in Mom's attic stash...

Out with the old, in with the new!

...but I did like it.  A lot!

Oh wow, heart-eye emojis all over the place!!  I LOVE this look!

I didn't refinish the wood, but I cleaned it, and I also touched up the nicks and scratches with some wood stain I had on hand.  There were small traces of orange-red paint here and there, signs that perhaps some misguided soul had at one time painted over that glorious wood--AAAGGGHHH!  But I didn't remove them.  (I've decided that the flaws in the finish add to the character of the chair.  Yeah, character: that's it!  Ha ha!)

The most challenging part to fix was, of course, the seat.  My biggest roadblock to getting that done was finding the appropriate size and type of foam cushion to replace the old one, which was damaged and disintegrating.  I ordered one from Amazon, but it was 5” high—which was a bit much for this chair.  I ended up finding the perfect thing at our local JoAnn’s.  (There was probably some foam in my M-I-L’s attic, now that I think of it!  But I was too focused on finding fabric to notice!)

I put a new 2" foam cushion on top of the seat's interwoven support bands (or whatever they're called!).  I didn't take a picture, but you probably don't want to see that step anyway.  Just imagine a piece of green foam sitting on top of those strips of burlap.

Once the foam was in place, I set out to cover it with the fabric I'd cut out, using the worn-out old seat cover as a pattern.  I started by anchoring the fabric in place with a nail in the center of the back, the center of the front, and the center of each side, and then I proceeded to stretch the fabric as tightly over the foam as I could as I continued to nail it down all the way around.

The last step was gluing down the gimp trim all around the raw edges of the upholstered seat.

Within about four days of getting the chair home to VA, Grandma's chair was ready to be sat upon. I am thrilled with how it came out.  And I love having this piece that is such an endearing reminder of my grandmother and the wonderful old house she lived in for many years.

I have a lot of colors and patterns going on in my living room: a black and tan Oriental rug; a pink and green floral couch and matching loveseat; and now this chair covered in a blue and white floral print.  (Not mention another antique chair that I rescued and reupholstered many moons ago, using gorgeous brocade fabric in a red and green—strawberries and leaves—pattern.  So there's that, too!)  A professional home decorator would probably shudder to see what I’ve got going on here. Nonetheless, this room makes me very happy.

And in the end, that's all that matters, right?  A house should be a home that makes its owners happy; it need not be a designer’s showcase.

But boy-oh-boy, my grandmother's beautiful chair is a bit of a show-stopper, IMHO...

(So many photos!  Can you tell how excited I am about this chair?!  Moving forward here at the blog, I'll try to keep the photo-sharing under control.)

Saturday, June 8, 2024

The Many Blessings of Our Life in VA

I have gotten to the point where I can't imagine not having made our big move to VA.  Back in 2016, when we were celebrating our last Christmas in the NH house where we'd raised our boys, it was somewhat heartbreaking imagining a different sort of home.  How could we be as happy anywhere else?  How could another house ever mean the same to us?  After all, we'd been in that one for 26 years and we'd put so much sweat equity (and love) into making it just right for us.  It was filled with wonderful memories.

But when we moved in early 2017, we knew that eventually, we would make many new memories down here.  And that this would become our home.

Well, that definitely happened.  Hoo boy, did it happen! I can no longer imagine what our life would be like if we didn't live here, near three of our five sons and their families.  Just this past week, look at all we would have missed.

On Tuesday, we went to the kindergarten graduation of four of our grandchildren.  Son #3's daughter (the middle child of his five) and son #4's triplets (two boys and a girl) had their end-of-year ceremony at their Catholic grade school, and my husband and I were there in attendance.

The kids were adorable, needless to say.  But I thought MY kids (the doting dads taking videos of their kids singing) were equally adorable.

Two of the triplets were classmates this past year (one of the boys and the girl); and one of the triplet boys was his cousin's classmate.  He excitedly pointed at her once, at pick-up time, and told his mom, "That's [her name]! I know her from school!"  True story.  They've been playmates and practically neighbors since infancy. Hilarious.


The Kindergarten Crew.

If we still lived in NH, I doubt we would have flown down for this occasion.  We would probably save those sorts of travels for major events, like First Holy Communions.  But being here, we can easily attend all the grandkids' special events, big and small.

Two days after the graduation, my husband and I started some home improvement projects for son #4 and his wife Braveheart.  They just bought a new house, and before they move their things in, they wanted to get some painting done.  My husband even got up on some super-high and quite terrifying scaffolding (while I took care of some things down low, where I could keep my feet firmly planted on terra firma.  #fearofheights).

Braveheart came by with all the kids while we were working, and I got this selfie with the youngest of their four (who calls herself an "honorary triplet").  People say she looks like me...but I'm not sure.  She does definitely look like her daddy at that age.

It's such a joy to see our boys living near enough to each other to be an integral part of each other's lives.
Son #3's hard-working wife Preciosa was the real estate agent who found this dream house for son #4's family and helped them negotiate the deal.  And she and son #3 decided to give son #4's family a generous housewarming gift: a trampoline for their awesome new back yard.  Because we live nearby, my husband was able to help his boy assemble it on Wednesday, and he and I were able to be there when the kids first discovered this amazing surprise gift from their aunt and uncle the next day.

I love this big-hearted boy.  And his dad.

Last night, after an exhausting day of painting, my best guy and I came home to our little VA doll house (although smaller than our NH house, it's really not all that small; but it's a sweet little place and I often think of it in those terms) and headed out to the patio on the side of our house.  We sat together on one of the bench gliders by the fire pit, sipping cocktails.  (You can have a date at your own house!  It's relaxing...and cheaper than going out!) We were sitting there talking about how as long as we were together, we could live pretty much anywhere; and how great it was that we could live here, where we can help some of our boys out and enjoy lots of time with them and their families. (We'd like to have all five living nearby; but we'll take what we can get!)

Today, I'm going to watch son #4's kiddos, so he and Braveheart can get a lot of packing done at their old house.  Again, this is something I probably wouldn't have been able to do if we hadn't made our big move.

Leaving that NH house was quite painful at first, and a real exercise in detachment from the things of this world; but we have been so extraordinarily blessed since the move.  Life is so good here.  

I give Mary, and the daily Rosaries we say to Her, all the credit.

Thank you, Mother!

Have a wonderful weekend, dear readers!

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Twin Teens

Our firstborn son's identical twins girls turned 13 a couple of days ago.  I can hardly believe that these two sweet young ladies, the oldest of our 22 grandchildren, are teenagers.  They're taller than I am now, but I can still vividly remember them as precious newborns.  My husband and I were so excited to become grandparents, and what a bonus it was that we got to start with twins: neither of us ever had had to wait impatiently for our turn to hold the baby, because we could each have one!  (Twins might be a doubly exhausting way to experience first-time parenthood; but it's the most glorious situation imaginable for first-time grandparents.)

These beloved granddaughters are simply wonderful girls, and I'm not saying that as a biased and doting Grammy.  It's objectively true, and anyone who knows them would agree.  They are mature in the best possible ways, but also innocent in the best possibly ways.  This mixture of maturity and innocence it a beautiful thing to behold.

The twins have always been doll lovers, and they've never seen a living, breathing baby they didn't want to hold. (Their mom and dad have given them five siblings, the youngest of whom is 6 months old, and they are the best mother’s helpers you could ask for.)  They are voracious readers, always with a stack of the books they are currently devouring resting on the table closest to where they're sitting.  (And they are big fans of their Grammy’s books. #luckiestwriterever)

Both of them play musical instruments and sing in the choir at their church, where they attend the TLM Mass in modest dresses with their heads veiled.  Their devotion to their Catholic Faith is inspiring.  They love to sew and craft and draw and write stories.  They don’t have phones.  They’re not on social media. They have lots of  friends, whom they’ve met through church and homeschool co-ops.  They are wonderfully un-worldly.

I love these two precious granddaughters to the moon and back.  They made me a grandmother and changed my life forever, in the best possible way.

Happy Birthday, girls!  I can't wait to see you later this month! XOXO

(P.S.: That second photo was taken in 2021, when I was still taller than they were!)

Friday, May 31, 2024

A House with a Heart (and a View!)

My husband and I took a road trip north this past Monday to check on our Oyster Haven VRBO lake house in Upstate NY. He put in the dock and the boats (we have four kayaks and a canoe available to renters, along with a couple of stand-up paddle boards).  He also got our pontoon boat out of winter storage at the marina and anchored it in front of his childhood home by the lake, which is where we spend our summers. Oyster Haven is only about 3.5 miles down the road, so it's easy for us to go back and forth.

We bought this incredible house (built circa 1830, with a later addition) in the fall of 2015 and opened it up for rentals the summer of 2016, originally thinking that we might eventually retire there and have it be our home base for traveling to see our far-flung offspring.  But when it became obvious that three of our five boys were settling down for the foreseeable future not far from each other in VA, we moved south to be near them in 2017, but continued to spend our summers up north by the lake.

We were encouraged by the real estate agent who worked with us on the purchase of Oyster Haven to make sure that it had some personal touches.  A VRBO owner himself, he said that it seemed that renters were more likely to treat a house with respect when they remembered that it actually belonged to someone.  If it was too sterile and impersonal, like a hotel, they might feel comfortable leaving it a mess.  We took that advice to heart, and I made sure to decorate the walls with some personal items so that it would look like a family home.

One of my favorite gallery walls is in the large eat-in kitchen.

The great thing about giving our rental those personal touches is that when we DO get to spend our week there with our kids and grandkids, it feels like HOME.  Oyster Haven is anything but cold and sterile; truly, it's a house with a heart.

Along with all the family pictures on that kitchen wall, I hung a vintage print by Jesse Willkox Smith, one of my favorite artists.  I thought the image of a curly-headed little girl eating a slice of watermelon was adorable, and that it just screamed "summertime!"

Years later, when I had a little granddaughter with similar blond curls, I made her pose for me with a slice of watermelon so that I could hang her picture next to that sweet drawing.  Unfortunately, this little gal hates watermelon.  So this was as close as I could get to having her look like she was eating it!

Anyway, I've gone off on a tangent--now back to the reason for our trip north: our first renters of the 2024 summer season will arrive in the coming weeks, and we wanted everything to be ready for them. Fortunately, all was well with the house and we didn't find any problems that needed taking care of.  We got everything on our to-do lists done and still had enough free time to enjoy an evening visiting with two of my husband's sisters who live up there.  My 88-year-old mother was also having same-day surgery across the lake in VT during our stay, and I was able to be with her and my sister (the one with whom she lives) during her time at the hospital.  So all in all, it was a good trip.

Before we left yesterday morning to head back to VA, we stopped at Oyster Haven one last time to drop off some freshly-laundered linens and organize them in the locked storage closets, so they'll be there for the cleaners to use on turnover day.  (We have a cleaning service, and they take care of everything when we're down in VA; but when we're living up there during the summer, my husband and I handle the laundry and bed-making.) The sun was just beginning to rise, and when I looked out the kitchen window I realized that I needed to take some pictures, pronto.  I grabbed my phone and ran outside.   

This was the backyard view from our deck that morning.

I couldn't decide which photo one was the most spectacular, so I decided to show you all of them.  Isn't that the most glorious view?!

I can hardly wait for the first week in July, when our entire family--five sons, five daughters-in-law, and 22 grandchildren!--will be there with us.  My whole heart will be in that house.  Enjoying that view.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Happy Homemaking (and a Little Project)

There are few things I enjoy more than puttering around my house, tidying it up here, hanging something new on the wall there.  Aside from wife and mother (and grandmother!), I think homemaker is the vocation that speaks to my heart the loudest.  I love working on any kind of project that will make my home more beautiful, orderly, functional, warm, cozy, and inviting.

I was talking to my daughter-in-law Regina (wife of son #1) a few years ago ago about minimalism, which is a home decor style that has become rather popular, and how we both agree that there are definitely things about living more simply that appeal to us...but that we really don't think the minimalist mindset works for the way we like to live and the homes we like to make for our families.  (Full disclosure: I only remember this long-ago conversation because I just found a rough draft in my archives, which I never published; and what I had started to write about back then fits in with what I want to say now...so I copied and pasted, then edited, some of that old never-seen post right here.  #cheating)

Anyway, Regina mentioned a blog post she'd read that addressed this topic: that is, how having lots of things about you that have special meaning, that remind you of loved ones who gave them to you or of memorable trips or events, or having furnishings that are family heirlooms that have been handed down to you, can bring so much joy to your everyday life and create a warm and inviting oasis for you and your family.  Not that a minimalist approach can't work, too; but as this blog post explained, it isn't for everybody.  (And if you like knickknacks, that doesn’t mean you’re a bad person! LOL )

Wow, I thought: there I go again, getting lazy about my blogging--because I'd had this very topic in mind for a few months as well, but now I worried that if I finally wrote my post, I might seem like a copy-cat. (But then again, it's not very likely that anyone other than my daughter-in-law would read both posts, so I doubt I'd have been accused of plagiarism!)

I never wrote/published the post.  But I guess I’m writing it now!

As I get older and closer to that time when I won't be able to take anything with me where I'm going, I sometimes have an urge to purge myself of all the excess: all the pretty dishes and serving pieces that don't get used on a daily basis; all the figurines and porcelain dolls and knickknacks that aren't really useful--but even if they are, aren't really necessary, because like most 21st century Americans, I simply have too much.  Way more than I need to live a comfortable life.

But every time I look around my house at all the lovely things that fill it, I am reminded of the people who gave them to us or where we were when we bought them. Everywhere I look--really, everywhere--the story of our blessed life, our history as a family, unfolds around me, and it's as if the house envelops me in a giant hug.

I am not really a huge "decorative throw pillows on the bed" person  (too
much to take off and put back every time you make the bed!).  But I just 
found this lovely lacy crocheted sham in my late M-I-L's things, and I decided to use it on one of our guest beds.

I could never become a minimalist, I'm afraid.  I do worry that I'm too attached to material things, but I can't imagine clearing away all of the stuff that adorns my walls and tabletops.  There are too many memories and emotions associated with just about each and every item that surrounds me, and that's why I'm never quite as happy anywhere as I am when I'm in my own home.

I go overboard on some home goods, I admit it.  I have a weakness for blue-and-white transferware dishes, for instance.  Exhibit A--my dining room table at Thanksgiving:

I love to decorate the walls of my house with plates.  I drool over pictures like these in magazine spreads Internet searches: 

I think blue-and-white plates on the wall look fabulous. But something stops me from going completely overboard.

Maybe I am a minimalist?!  It looks like I’m not even trying, 
compared to those Internet images!

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned projects. Recently, I worked on one that was so much fun and so satisfying.

Very early in our marriage, more than 40 years ago, my younger brother gave me a small wooden wall shelf he'd made in his high school shop class.  It was for holding tea cups and saucers; there were hooks for the cups and grooves for the plates.  At some point--between all of our various moves, I can't remember exactly when--the top piece broke off and got lost.  So when we were living in NH, I decided to hang it upside down, remove the hooks, and use it to display small knickknacks.  Since our move to VA in 2017, it's been out of commission, hiding in a storage area under the stairs in our basement.

For some reason, I thought of that little handcrafted shelf a few weeks ago, and I decided to get it out and refurbish it, and then put it to use in our "new" house in VA.

Using the bottom as a guide, I was able to trace a new decorative top piece on a scrap of wood I found in the garage (left over from some other house project); then my handy husband attached it for me.  I added a wooden floral embellishment to it and gave the whole thing a dark stain (as it would have been next to impossible to make the new pieces of wood I'd added match the original stain on the rest of the shelf).  Finally, I screwed the cup hooks back in place.

When it was finished, I thought it was so beautiful--that it looked almost like some Colonial antique!  I couldn't wait to get it up on the wall.

This one-of-a-kind gifted shelf that reminds me of my brother adds such a nice touch to a dining room that already makes me ridiculously happy.  (And it's possible that I am ridiculous!  But I have such a fondness for dining rooms.  I know for the most part, the "open concept/living and dining areas combined" thing is more popular among modern homemakers; but I am a sucker for a formal dining room.)

I do realize that at my age, I should be working on detachment from all things material.  I have watched my mother lose her home, after my dad died and we knew that she wouldn't be able to live alone anymore.  Almost everything she owned was either taken by one of her children, given away to charity, or sold in a garage sale.  I know it won't be all that long, relatively speaking, before that will be the fate of all my treasured household goods.

In the meantime, however, I'm just going to enjoy having my things about me, as Mary Kate Danaher would say (in the best movie ever, The Quiet Man). 

If you've seen the movie, you know that Mary Kate's precious heirloom china is blue-and-white.  Naturally!

And I suppose that's as good a way as any to end this post!