Still The One

When Sir Beads was a young man, he met his future bride at work.
At first, Crystal had no idea they would eventually marry.
He claims he knew it from the start.

She adored his sense of humor and soon they began to spend lunch hours together.
Sometimes, he’d leave his desk to buy a snack and return with one for her, as well.
She loved his thoughtfulness.

One morning, when Crystal arrived at work, she found a gum wrapper on her desk.
It was actually the silver foil paper that is the inner liner on a stick of gum.
She was puzzled.
A closer glance revealed that there was something written inside the silver wrapper.
She unfolded it and read the words:

“Every office has its silver lining and you are ours.”

Needless to say, this deeply touched Crystal’s heart – the words, the clever presentation, the romantic idea of it all.

Fast-forward 4 decades.
Crystal had been thinking about getting an Ipad mini.
Sir Beads said: “I’ll order it for you for Valentine’s Day!”

It arrived a few days later.
When Crystal opened the box, she let out a little gasp.
The iPad was white… but the back was silver.
There was an inscription . . .

As she read it, she was immediately transported to a day long ago –
and her heart skipped a beat.



Timeless Treasures

It seems to me that when it comes to handmade items, there are 2 kinds of people:

1. Those who make things

2. Those who do not.

Within the “those who do not” category – there are also 2 kinds of people:

1. Those who do not make things but are enchanted with all things handmade.

2. Those who do not make things and find nothing special about handmade things.

I’m not judging anyone – everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion. I’d just like to offer mine. 😉

Alrighty, Crystal. Go right ahead!

What brings this up all of a sudden? Spill it!

Well, I’ve been doing some sorting/organizing and I came across a little bag of “test” pieces made by my mother-in law. She’s been gone for 15 years now and I’ve had them that long – just can’t part with them. You see, I’m one of those people who is touched by handmade things. (You probably knew that.)

There’s a bit of her spirit in these . . .

click photo to enlarge

It was probably an ordinary day when she worked on these sample pieces. (Maybe it was snowing; maybe she had a cake in the oven!) They were created in preparation of assorted projects she was about to begin. While doing a swatch – she’d be testing the yarn, or the size of the stitches, or even the colors. As I hold them now, I wonder… Did she and I talk on the phone on a day she worked on one of these? Could be.

Whenever I’m at a garage sale or flea market, I always feel a twinge of sadness when I see people’s handwork for sale by their heirs – for pennies! Those heirs are surely in the group who don’t see anything special about handmade things.

My mother-in-law was an avid knitter. She made countless sweaters for her family – from the time they were in the cradle until they were fully grown.

Here are the beginnings of a baby sweater. She made dozens of them.

Then there were the afghans she made for all of us. They were virtual hugs that warmed our hearts as well as our shoulders.

This next photo shows her favorite afghan pattern – an Aran knit with cables. So labor-intensive! It has long strips and miles of stitches to sew together afterward. She made many of these, too.

Not only an expert knitter, Sir Beads’ Mom could crochet, sew, embroider, and do tatting, as well. No matter how experienced she became, she was a firm believer in doing a practice piece before beginning a new project. I’m still a novice compared to her and yet I seldom have the patience to do a test swatch. I usually jump right into a pattern and then spend more time unwinding and re-doing than it would have taken to make that practice piece in the first place!

I recognize this motif as a test for an afghan she eventually made for my younger daughter – her youngest grandchild.

I should probably turn these pieces into pillows or something more permanent. She lives in them still – her laugh, her love, her talent.

I have them carefully tucked away with things I treasure. Just looking at them every now and then brings back so many memories.

With my own handcrafts, I’ve always thought that the act of making them was truly enough . . . I didn’t have to wonder what would become of them when I am gone. I thought the important thing was the experience of creating something.

But, as I look at Mom’s little yarn “doodles” here in front of me, I’ve changed my mind. I’ve decided that handmade items have even more value than just giving a sense of fulfillment to the artist . . .

To those who notice and cherish the message – they’re a connection to the past, to the soul of a person. It’s a joy, it’s intriguing, it can even be a comfort that in the middle of all the drama and change in life – some things live on.

I’d like to think the essence of a person remains in something she (or he) made with her own hands. If so, there are “heirlooms” all around us! 😀



An Irish Lass

By the time I knew her, she was no longer a young woman but she had the skin of a porcelain doll.

Her eyes were the most expressive I’ve ever seen. She could actually smile with those eyes!

Her name was Elizabeth and I was her granddaughter.

She taught me to sew, and to know my way around the kitchen. She told mesmerizing stories and loved to entertain my siblings and me with silly songs she made up on the spot.

Whenever I reach for lipstick – I think of her and grin. You see, she had a very specific method of putting it on, which was endearing and comical – all at the same time. She would painstakingly apply a bright rose shade to her lips, taking great care to have it perfectly even. Then, just at the moment I’d be sighing in admiration of her talent, she’d grab a Kleenex and blot her lips, not just a little, but so briskly that when she was finished – you could hardly tell she was wearing lipstick at all!

I was lucky enough to have her in my life until I was in my twenties. She’s been gone for decades now, but it doesn’t seem that long. To this day, I miss her – but the memories are sweet and vivid still . . .

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

You might also enjoy my previous St. Patrick’s Day posts:

Her Irish Eyes Were Smiling (with Irish Bread Recipe)

‘Tis a Great Day



A Valentine Story

On Crystal’s first Valentine’s Day as a wife . . .

She was twenty years old.

Still a kid in many ways – she was excited to imagine what Sir Beads would present to her for the occasion.

A satin heart with chocolates? A bouquet of flowers? A piece of costume jewelry? Her heart fluttered with anticipation.

Sir Beads was a very thoughtful gentleman – right from the start – but I think he would definitely agree he guessed wrong that first year. He did have the best of intentions. But as most men who are honest will admit, he was feeling a little stressed about finding the right gift.

He decided to go to a large department store in downtown Boston to search. Within a few moments, he spied a colorful display of kitchen gadgets and, somehow, they mesmerized him! They seemed so practical for a young bride. He was sure she would be thrilled with a selection of kitchen helpers! He spent considerable time looking at all of them and choosing three that he liked best.

Fast forward to evening. After dinner, he joyfully, and with a bit of a flourish, offered his assortment of household treasures to her. As she unwrapped them one by one, she became wide-eyed . . . speechless actually!
He sensed she was not delighted. She tried her best not to pout . . . to be appreciative. It was no use. She couldn’t help but exclaim:

“A pot holder, a can opener, and a one-egg frying pan – for Valentine’s Day?”

Tears followed, briefly. (Remember, I said she was still a kid!) Sir Beads was stunned. Within minutes, all was well, however. She dried her tears and tried to explain . . .

“It’s just that a girl dreams of a romantic gift on a romantic holiday . . .”

Forty years later, Crystal would tell you that ever since that day, she has been spoiled beyond belief by Sir Beads on every occasion and also on days that are no occasion.

She and Sir Beads look back on that first Valentine’s Day and can’t help but laugh. Since then, he has realized that women don’t necessarily want practical gifts, and she has learned that, to him, buying a practical gift meant he was trying to make things easier for her.

The most ironic thing of all is that she actually grew to LOVE that little pan. It’s the one she would use to melt butter for popcorn during the years her children were growing up! She now thinks of it as a family heirloom. She truly does.

Happy Valentine’s Day! 🙂



Report Card for Crystal

Yep! That’s right!

A report card for – me. (Oh-oh!)

This time last year, I wrote a post listing things I wanted to try and accomplish in 2011. I explained that they were not exactly “resolutions” but were more in the vein of “readjusting my focus”.

Let’s see how well I did, ok? 😉


7 Things Crystal Wants Wanted To Do in the New Year 2011

1. Read More!
Reading is the first thing that suffers when I’m short on time. But, I love to read. When the Kindle first came out, Sir Beads surprised me with one for my birthday. I need to get back to using it more.

Grade: C+ I am reading a little more these days but still no where near as much as I would like – so little time!

2. Eat Breakfast On Weekdays!
Ever since I was a kid, I have been unenthusiastic about breakfast – except on the weekends. I’m just not hungry when I jump out of bed. If I have a busy day planned – the last thing I want to do is sit down and have a meal. I like to grab a cup of tea and start working. I know this isn’t good for me. They say that you need “fuel” to start a fire of energy to get your body cranking on all cylinders. They also say that people who eat breakfast are thinner. Hmmm, now that got my attention! 😉

Grade: A+ LOL! Ok, you’re probably wondering how on earth I accomplished this???
Four words – Sir Beads has retired! That boy does not like to miss a meal – so breakfast is now an everyday event around here. (We also began a breakfast-out ritual (once a week), which we enjoy tremendously!)

3. Simplify, Simplify, Simplify!
Lately, my lists have lists. I have to develop some real shortcuts to accomplish the things I need to do . . . or maybe I should decide if anything I’m doing could be eliminated entirely.

Grade: B- I’ve eliminated several things but having you-know-who home has added new tasks to my list! I’m going to have to continue to work on this.

4. Cook Something New!
We all have our favorite meals and our stash of “go-to” recipes but it’s easy to get into a rut. I want to test new dinner ideas in 2011 to add a little more variety to suppertime!

Grade: A One unanticipated result of spending more time with hubby is that we find ourselves experimenting with new recipes… and HE is making some of them!! Woo hoo! 😀
We often cook together and are having a great time adding some new favorites to spice up mealtime. By the way, do you watch or tape “The Chew“? It’s an entertaining TV show with several chefs as hosts and various celebrity guests. We love it!

5. Pare Down the Clothes Closet!
Boy, am I ever the poster girl for the old saying: We wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time! This is the year to face the fact that some of what I’ve been saving would get much more use if it were donated.

Grade: D I must admit I have not done much on this front, at all. Boo me! It goes to the top of the list for 2012.

6. Cull Out the Collections!
I love pretty things (Who doesn’t?), but I’ve come to the conclusion that too much energy is expended on dusting, cleaning, and caring for them. I’m going to keep my absolute favorites and the rest will have to go.

Grade: B- I (we) have spent a fair amount of time sorting through things. We’ve done the 4-pile thing: Keep, Donate, Sell, Trash. Not finished, but definite progress has been made.

7. Create A Studio – Finally!
This is the big one! I haven’t ever had a large space dedicated to my creative endeavors. Oh, I had a little craft area in our basement when my kids were growing up. It was clean and bright with pegboard and shelves installed by Sir Beads for my supplies, and a pretty rug to make it cozy. The problem? There was no heat, which was ok in the summer but in winter I felt like Bob Cratchit working by the heat of a candle (not exactly, but you get the idea!). Eventually, I decided that working in the living quarters was more comfortable, even if I did have to continually take all the supplies out and then put them all away again – daily! Talk about time-consuming. My kids are in their own homes now and there’s no reason why we can’t turn one of the bedrooms into a wonderful workspace.

Grade: C- I still do not have a formally designated art studio, but I have been buying the shelving and lighting, which will be used for it. That along with the general sorting and donating we’ve accomplished have put me closer to the day I can move into a space I call my own! Won’t that be wonderful!!!??!!

So . . . I didn’t make the Honor Roll. Hope I don’t get in trouble when my parents see this report card. 😉


How about you?

Did you stick to the plan for 2011?

Have you given any thought to the things you hope to do in 2012?