28 November 2008

Christmas spirit

I have to admit, sometimes it is really hard for me to get in the holiday spirit until just a few days before... But leave it to some wonderful dealers at Monticello to provide me with some needed inspiration!! I truly envy their display talent and their eye for detail....!! I took the camera to take pictures of my space, but was so taken by everything else that I forgot to do so! Make sure to click on the pictures to enlarge them, and enjoy the visit (I threw in some non-holiday displays for eye candy)!

26 November 2008

Trash AND treasures

My efforts to organize/declutter/clean the house are coming along slowly but steadily! When I impose myself high expectations about something, I seem to loose focus frequently... Or I want to do so many things at the same time that nothing seems to get finished... But I will make sure to share all my progress with you soon!! I am filling the car with Goodwill donations and I have also re-started listing items on Ebay (my computer is slow, so that alone has taken quite a bit of time), which you can view here.

As I go through closets and drawers, it is fun to rediscover things I had forgotten about...

A couple of years ago I found an intriguing little box at Goodwill... It is not something I would normally buy, but I loved the detail of the handpainting and I was also intrigued by the writing on the bottom...

I paid $2.99 and hurried home to google the name Duc d'Angouleme. This is what I found out:

The Duke of Angouleme (Louis-Antoine of France) was born in August of 1775, and was the eldest son of King Louis XVI of France's youngest brother, the Comte d'Artois and his wife Princess Marie Therese of Savoy. If you have seen the movie Marie Antoinette (who was married to King Louis XVI), you may remember the part where her nephew the Duc of Angouleme was born... When his father became the king in 1824 as Charles X, Louis-Antoine became the last Dauphin of France. He later married his cousin Marie-Therese-Charlotte, the eldest child of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. In 1830, he became King Louis XIX of France for a disputed reign of twenty minutes...

Quite interesting, don't you think? I do not know if this piece has any monetary value, but the history behind it is just fascinating!! I do not know what they would have used it for... I don't think they had pills at that time! Maybe for smelling salts? Jewelry? It is quite small, only 3 1/2 inches wide... What do you think?

This has given me an idea for a post, I will soon be sharing with you some of my favorite bargain finds!! Everyone has some! Like the lady on a blog who found a vintage dressform at a garage sale for $1.... Stay tuned!!

23 November 2008

On a mission!

My husband is taking the kids to California to visit his family. They leave today and will be back next Sunday. My father-in-law passed away last January, so I am very happy he can be there with his mother and siblings... I am staying home. Why, you may ask? Survival. Every busy mom needs a break once in a while. I love my kids to death and I know I will be missing them the moment they leave (or maybe the day after...), but this is a chance for me to get the things I have been wanting to do done!! Thanksgiving is an "inherited" holiday for me, so it really doesn't bother me to be alone... This has been a long and trying show season and I too am in what the Barn House boys call the post-season depression... I did manage to finish the guest bedroom, as you saw in the last post, but the rest of the house is still in need of some attention. We are so behind in laundry, I don't even remember what color the laundry room floor is... My closet is a mess, and I want to finish sewing some pillows for the living room sofa. I also would like to do some window treatments in our bedroom (a post on this later...), and steam cleam the carpets. My intentions for this week are very ambitious, so we will see what I can accomplish!!

I was talking to my mom, the other day (she lives in Lisbon), and she had just watched the Oprah show and said: "this woman was a pack rat and her house was a mess, she had clothes all over the floor in her bedroom"! That night I dreamed my mom showed up at my house unannounced...!! If you followed my posts during our visit to Portugal in June, you may remember that my mom IS the Queen of Clean. Here is a picture of her linen closet!! For more pictures, click here, or look at my Flickr pictures.

A few days ago I was seriously craving octopus... I know, it sounds gross to a lot of people, but it is one of my favorite things to eat (and, to my delight, my kids love it too!!). So, on a trip to the local asian market to buy my kids favorite snack, seasoned seaweed, I bought a piece of steamed octopus, so I could make a delightful octopus salad. I urge you to try it, I think you will be pleasantly surprised!! If you look in a portuguese cookbook, you will find all kinds of different octopus salad recipes, but this is by far my favorite, and very simple to make!!

OCTOPUS SALAD (1-2 people)

1/2 lb steamed octopus, diced
2 roma tomatoes, diced or sliced
1/2 cucumber, diced or sliced
1/2 sweet onion, diced or sliced
chopped fresh cilantro, to taste (if you don't like cilantro you can use parsley)
olive oil and vinegar

mix all the ingredients and season with olive oil and vinegar directly in the bowl (it's all just eyeballed, so just keep trying for taste). Srinkle some salt and pepper, and it is ready to eat!! Let me know if you ever try it!!

I leave you with something that made me smile yesterday... My ten-year old daughter came to me and said:

Her: "Mom, I know it's kinda gross, but pretend you're a boy..."
Me: "Okay..."
Her: "If I ask you a question, you say "Ketchup and rubber buns""
Me: "Okay..."
Her: "What did you have for breakfast?"
Me: "Ketchup and rubber buns."
Her: "What did you have for lunch?"
Me: "Ketchup and rubber buns"
Her: "What did you have for dinner?"
Me: "Ketchup and rubber buns"
Her: "What do you do when a girl walks by?"
Me "Ketchup and rubber buns"
Her: (Loud Laughter!!!)

19 November 2008

Would you be my guest?

Our downstairs den/guest bedroom/sewing room has seen a few different lives, but this is by far my favorite!! I gave myself carte blanche to go crazy with all my pretties... It all started with an antique handpainted french bed that Lisa spotted for me on Craigslist... It set the tone for the entire room. The room, though small, houses some of my favorite items, including my wallpapered dressers and my large collection of vintage barkcloth.

I still have a few more changes I want to make... One of them is to hang this gorgeous vintage chandelier I found on Ebay, the other is to display my collection of vintage barkcloth knitting bags on the top part of the closet wall. No space will remain untouched!! Would you like to come for a visit?

16 November 2008

A Blog Award!!

I have received a blog award from Theresa at Time-Worn Interiors! It is such an honor to be the recipient of such an award, and I am very thankful for the recognition!!

I am supposed to tell you six things about myself, and then pass on this award to six bloggers I love:

1. I am absolutely a chocaholic... I cannot live without chocolate!! It is my ultimate comfort food. Take away my chocolate and you will see my ugliest side...!!

2. I do not like complete silence... When I am home I have to have a TV or radio on, even if I am not paying any attention to it. When I travel I prefer a room facing the busy and noisy road rathen than the quiet one in the back...

3. I love reality TV, my favorite shows are Project Runway and Top Chef, but my ultimate favorite is The Amazing Race! It feels like a true cultural "bath", and I (and my family) love it!

4. I love traveling (hence #3...). If I had the means I would travel often!! When I was growing up, I traveled a lot with my parents, when my dad went on business trips, and by the time I was a young teenager I had visited most countries in western Europe.

5. I am an incorrigible "unfinisher"... I always have several projects going at the same time and NEVER, ever, do I have the self-discipline to finish one before I start a new one. Therefore, I have plenty of UFO's (unfinished objects) laying around at all times!!

6. Even though I absolutely love the sun (after all, I grew up with plenty of it...), my favorite kind of day is a rainy day when I can just cuddle up on the sofa with a cup of Earl Grey tea and a good magazine. If there is thunder and lightning, even better!! As long as I don't have to go anywhere!!

Now, this is the hardest part... There are so many lovely and incredible blogs to choose from, that I just cannot bring myself to pick...!! So, I just pick you! Consider yourself awarded!! Have a great week!!

12 November 2008

A grandmother's legacy

A few days ago I received an email from my father... He had attached a scanned 21-page document hand-written by his mother a couple of years before she passed at age 95. In it, my grandmother, Matilde, recalls the numerous trips she took from the time she was a youngster traveling with her family to her travels as a married woman. A few pages before the end, she started writing about meeting my grandfather... We all knew the story, but seeing it in my grandmother's own writing struck deep into my core and brought back a flood of memories and emotions!!

My grandfather, Heinz Feist, was a young jewish salesman from Solingen, Germany. His father, Alfred, owned a cutlery manufacturing company called Omega, and my grandfather would travel all over Europe as a company salesman. Twice a year he would visit Lisbon and Porto, in Portugal.

My grandfather Heinz and his father Alfred

In 1930, while on a three-week stay in Lisbon, he attended a Mardi-Gras dance at the German Club, and my grandmother happened to be there, too. She recalls that, at that time, it wasn't proper for ladies to dance with gentlemen they hadn't been formally introduced to, but that night, the club director, wanting the party to be a bit more informal and fun, announced that everyone should consider themselves introduced to each other!!! Heinz went over to Matilde and asked her to dance... They danced all night, song after song!! She said in her long letter that my grandfather announced to her that night his interest in pursuing her...

It was late, and as Matilde was getting ready to go home, she realized she had misplaced her handbag. There was confetti everywhere, which made it harder to find... Heinz offered to look for it and bring it to her house the next day, which he did. This is where both of their stories differ: she said he hid the handbag on purpose so he would have a pretext to see her again, and he said she left if behind intentionally so he would come to her house and see her again!! This sweet argument was still going on well into their late years!! After a few years of long distance courtship, they were married in August of 1934.

My grandparents on their wedding day

Because of Hitler's rise to power, they decided, after a short stay in Germany, to settle in Lisbon. Heinz was an only child, and eventually his parents left Germany and followed him. Some of his family members had a tragic end, and I still recall stories told about cousins and uncles and aunts hiding from the Nazis. If it wasn't for his decision to settle in Lisbon, I wouldn't be here talking to you... Portugal was considered a neutral country during WWII, and a safe haven for many Jewish people (it was also, due to our window to the Atlantic Ocean, a fairly secret port of departure for many jews who eventually settled in America)

Rosel and Alfred Feist, my great grandparents

My father was their firstborn. He would be followed by a girl and a set of twin boys. I have very fond memories of my grandparents, as I would often stay with them when my parents traveled. I grew up eating sauerkraut and rote grutze, playing in their piano, and learning cross stitch from my grandmother. Even after almost 60 years of living in Portugal, my grandfather still had a very strong german accent, and, when I worked for the family business, to which he was the patriarch, I still remember him following us around the office turning off all the lights in empty rooms...!! I still have a memo we got from him asking us to utilize used envelopes for internal comunications, and proudly announcing that he had NEVER purchased a paper clip in his life, but simply re-used the ones he had received!!! These life lessons still echo through me to this very day...!!

My father, Pedro

On the last day of this diary, my grandmother revealed that, even thought she was a devoted Catholic, she had decided, already in her eighties (and with much pressure from her husband), to convert to Judaism, for the sole purpose of being allowed to be buried together with the love of her life in the Israeli Cemetery in Lisbon. She asked that her tomstone read "Jewish for Love".

In 2003, the year my son was born (on her birthday!!), she passed, quietly sitting on a chair, after a Mother's Day lunch with her loved ones. She now lays side by side with my grandfather, who had died 9 years earlier. As she said in her last written lines: "I converted so we could stay together forever, so that no one could touch us, after we died... After all, it is the only religion, I believe, where gravesites are eternal."

Addendum: on a different note, but in the issue of preserving memories, have you heard of a website called Snapfish? It creates books out of you favorite pictures... Well, today, while I was folding clothes in my bedroom, I had the Oprah show on (pertinently about de-cluttering your home...) and I couldn't believe it when she said that her viewers could log on to and get a FREE personalized book, valued at $30!!! But you have to act fast, you have to claim your coupon before Friday night (then you have until Sunday to complete your book)!! Isn't that an amazing offer? My mind kept going, trying to decide what kind of book to create... In the end, I decided to create a book for my mom with some great pictures of her grandchildren... I think she will love it!!
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