Thursday, November 28, 2019

The Story of Our Holiday Table Setting

The story of how I came to own crystal and china is a funny one. I really didn't want china or crystal on my wedding registry. I didn't see the point of asking others to pay for such expensive things that we would rarely use. My future mother-in-law and my boss at work saw it differently. They felt that I was marrying into the military, and an officer's wife would need china. We went around and around until one of them threatened to find the most hideous china set and put it on my registry. With that threat in mind, I went to the store and asked the clerk to show me the least expensive sets. I figured if I was going to have china, I wanted china that we could enjoy without fear of breaking it and guilt that someone paid an arm and a leg for it. She showed me three lovely sets that were all under $100 a place setting. I picked the Lenox Alyssa set. To my amazement, people did happily buy the china and crystal. We ended up with eight place settings and a few serving pieces. We also received a few goblets. As it turned out, I never needed china in the military. Lieutenant wives were not asked to entertain in that way. Lieutenant wives were in charge of bake sales, family style parties for the entire company and taking meals to families that were in stressful situations. The high ranking wives did have and use their china for parties...lots and lots of china. They threw the company Christmas party just for the spouses and glamorous adult only parties that required evening attire. We are talking about 50 place settings of china or more. Phew! I assume that they rented it, but who knows? Fortunately, I never needed to learn.

We have enjoyed our china in private life and I don't regret having it at all. My philosophy is to only have things that you love and use. We have always used our china and crystal. Even when our children were three and four they ate off of the china during the holidays. The use of crystal goblets followed within a year or two, once their little hands could grasp the cup. Remarkably, we have only lost one crystal goblet over the last 21 years. We have been careful with our china but certainly not perfect. Even careful children are bound to bang the plates with the goblets when they are trying to put things back down. Everything else has survived in excellent condition. I have a feeling that my choice of picking less expensive bone china also proved to be stronger bone china...Ha! The children love it when the china comes out. They love to help set the table and decide which pieces we will use this time.
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We went all out this year. We decided to use plain gold and white dinner plates instead of the Alyssa ones. A dear friend gave them to us years ago. Then we added the Alyssa salad plates, teacups and saucers. We had just enough fancy silverware to add dessert and teaspoons above the plates. After consulting lots of table settings on the Internet, the kids wanted those put out.

As the years have gone by, we have wanted to add serving pieces, but we were not willing to purchase from the Alyssa collection. The pieces are too expensive for our budget, even on eBay. So we have added neutral white pieces to the table, such as the butter dish and the bread bowl (with the brand new snowman towel). The candle sticks are a family heirloom that were my great grandmother's. I think mixing the old and the new, the formal and the casual together creates a more warm and comfortable atmosphere.

The counter holds the things that would not fit on the table. Everyone will go to the counter for their meat, vegetables, tea and soda. The little creamer dog adds whimsy and was picked up on our trip to Charleston. The teapot and water pitcher were gifts from my kids. A tiny teacup serves as the sugar bowl.

We have not pulled out so much china some years. The glamour and volume of china on the table has depended on our level of crisis in the family. Some holiday meals only had enough margin for teacups, saucers and dessert plates. Apparently, we are doing well this year, because we pulled out everything from the cupboards but the dinner and dessert plates.

A final note to make you chuckle ~ My son Dean has always had strong feelings about decorating the table. He loves it and wants everything just so-so. In another lifetime, he could have been a butler. I am surprised he doesn't make us measure the distance between plates. We only have enough matching cloth napkins in light pink. He absolutely hates the napkins, even though he picked them out years ago. He thinks they look to much like spring and can't be on a fall/winter table. So we put them on the chairs this year so as not to offend his sensibilities. LOL!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, November 22, 2019

A Wee Little Break

I need a small break. Nothing is wrong, I just feel a bit burned out after 12 years of blogging. It is definitely time for a break when Friday rolls around and you feel dread because you don't know what to post. I plan to still get around to my favorite blogs and comment on you all. I will be back to blogging in a few weeks (before Christmas for sure), but right now I just need to look inward and think about the direction I would like to take with this blog. Blessings to you all and have a lovely Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Opening of Our City's Renovated Art Museum

We had a pretty long week filled with lots of small hiccups (freezing temps caused issues, fraud that rendered my debit card useless, illness aplenty, lots of changes to the schedule and a lonely teen). We just seem to be in a season of little misfortunes, but there are tons of blessings at every turn, too. We were blessed by the completion of the repairs on the back house; Anne attended a birthday party; Dean completed testing and the results will be in on Monday; and everyone is very much on the mend.

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The outside of our new art museum
The highlight of our week was the grand opening of our freshly renovated city's art museum. It has been closed for renovations for about three years. It was exciting to finally get to see all of the changes. Half of the building was our city's original library years ago. They have kept the architecture mostly original in that part of the building, which is lovely. In the new expanded part, they did many changes. It is filled with giant widows and skylights that let in streams of beautiful light. The windows look out on beautiful mountain and downtown views that showcase our beautiful city, so the windows feel like looking at a stunning piece of art themselves.
The museum feels like a modern, large city museum now, although on a smaller scale. They did a lovely job. It is still smaller than most city museums, but we are a small city just shy of 100,000 people. On the weekends, it feels like there are more tourists here than citizens.
The majority of the inaugural artwork currently on display is modern. There are many nationally-acclaimed local artists represented, too. That is fitting, because many people visit this city for the art and music culture. 
Dean loved the face jugs.
There was a floor to ceiling window that looked like a hole in the wall. It was really impressive, and we enjoyed getting very close to the "edge" and looking out.

The museum also added a cafe and a rooftop statue garden. The views from the rooftop are spectacular. Although in all honesty, I should say it is a rooftop balcony with one statue and a few benches on it. 
Overall, the improvements are excellent, and our art museum is ready to go forward into the future in style.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, November 8, 2019

I Can't Complain ...

There were some hard moments in our week. The furnace went out and we were without heat for a few days. Getting someone to come out who knows how to deal with a furnace that has been converted from an oil to a biofuel furnace takes awhile. It was an easy fix and didn't break the bank. Thank goodness!

The great tree calamity is slowly working out. Insurance will cover it, but we have a really high deductible, so it is going to cost us $1,100 to clean up the mess and fix the back house. We are going to need the entire roof and some supports replaced. Still, it could have been so much worse.

Lastly, we had a grease fire in the kitchen this week. My dear husband was home alone and luckily right there. He grabbed the fire extinguisher and put out the fire before any real harm was done. The burner is ruined, but otherwise, it was just a big mess of foam that needed cleaning up.

Dean had the roughest week of all of us. He started the week being consumed by anxiety and negative anticipation about his Neurological, Psychological and Educational testing. He is having a very complete assessment over the next week that will take the better part of seven hours of testing. He turns 18 in the spring; and I want to make sure that we have all of the testing he needs to finish high school, launch into adulthood and get whatever supports are necessary. By mid-week, he was showing signs of a cold and woke up the night before the test with an extreme headache and all the symptoms of a sinus infection. I dosed him with medications, started up the vaporizer in his room and rubbed his back until he went back to sleep. Fortunately, he felt better in the morning and made it through the first four hours of testing. He even had a positive experience, since he liked the man who ran the testing. It took a lot out of him, though, and he crashed when he got home. He was in bed for the night by 8:30 pm. Hopefully, he will feel all better by the next day of testing next Tuesday.

Anne's Nutcracker schedule could make a person nutty. On top of it, there is an audition video to prepare with a late November deadline and Grade 6 Cecchetti ballet lessons to attend. She basically is in a whirlwind of dance, sleep, eat, work, dance, schoolwork and back to dance again. This Sunday is her only day off from the dance studio until Thanksgiving day. WHIRLWIND!

In my spare time, I have been embracing my love of French Country design. I have been dragging furniture around and bringing copper bowls, baskets and my antique kitchen utensils out of hiding so that they can be enjoyed. I have always loved French Country and have been pleasantly surprised to realize how much was in the house but not being grouped and lovingly displayed. A side effect of raising a child with severe RAD (as our Katie has) is learning to never let the child know you care about any item or it will be instantly destroyed. I had many casualties along the way, including dozens and dozens of books, many Hallmark ornaments, my favorite nativity (she literally ate the Jesus figurine), and all of my Grandmother's letters to me, just to name a few. Although she has been living out of our home for almost six years, it has taken me this long to realize that I could have pretty things around me again and openly enjoy them. It's amazing how long it takes to truly heal from trauma! It takes a really long time and we aren't there yet, but we are growing and healing all the time. In that vein, I just want to state that our Katie's well-being was always more important than belongings. Nonetheless, it is so nice to be able to say something such as, "I like how my painting job on the storage bin came out," without having to worry about a mentally ill child destroying it at the first opportunity in an an attempt to hurt me.
This spoon rack was made by my Grandfather.

We created a reading nook in our library.

A little dash of French Country.

I painted this little storage bin and am now so much happier with it.

Today is Friday and we have so much on the agenda. I  am going to let Dean sleep as much as possible. I hope to make it to the farmer's market to get apples for pies. I also hope to make it to the grocery store and make sure we have enough water stored away for our city's water shutoff at midnight tonight. They are doing some repairs to the dam and I am not sure how much of the weekend we will be without water. Anne has a full load of school to get through today. She is in a constant state of catch up. There are also many things to load onto eBay and WNC Yard Sale. I better get to it.

Lastly, Anne got to build a table and chairs at work this week.

But as this blog's title says, I really can't complain. Life has hard patches, but we are so blessed daily by the love of our family and the way everything works out in the end.

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Hello, November!

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We had some wild rain followed by crazy wind over Halloween night. The result is that we woke up this morning to a neighbor's tree that fell through our yard and hit our back building (which we refer to as the back house). There is structural damage. We will see if insurance covers it. Never a dull moment!
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We had a very rainy Halloween. We dressed up and walked around the mall so we could watch all the little kids trick or treat and see their cute costumes. Dean didn't want to dress up at all this year. Then we went out to dinner at our favorite burger place. Lastly, it was home for a fun Tim Burton move, The Corpse Bride.
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Anne was a Steam Punk lady.
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Timothy was a knight.
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Dear husband was Dustin from Stranger Things.
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I was a Steam Punk lady.

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Earlier this week, Anne was helping me move bookcases around the library. She was crawling along on her knees and managed to get a small, thick shard of porcelain in her knee. We couldn't get it out and had to take her to Urgent Care. They had a hard time getting it out as well and had to take x-rays to see the exact location and size so they would not have to cut into her skin too much. It was an adventure. She is feeling better now.
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We also had a blast at the local high school's haunted house. They do a nice job each year and all of the proceeds go to the band. My kids know lots of teens in the band, so it is a fun way to support them while seeing their spooky performing skills.

In between all the crazy we had a good school week. With the weather being cold and rainy, spending time with our family read-aloud basket has been very popular this week. We haven't put the heat on yet, but we will have to do so soon. The house fell to 62 degrees briefly one morning. I read from several books over the course of an hour. We enjoyed learning more about Nikola Tesla and are having fun with our unit study on electricity.

We also enjoyed our latest Mel Science Kit. I find it a bit underwhelming for my teens, and I wish they did a bit more teaching for the price of the kit. However, it could be that I would be more impressed if I could get the app to work on my phone. I need to put more effort into that before next month's kit arrives. This month they did the tin hedgehog and the tin dendrite. To make the tin hedgehog, a salt (tin chloride) is mixed and added to a drop of zinc, which lies in the bottom of the tube. As a result of a substitution reaction, some zinc will dissolve into the tin chloride solution, while tin precipitates on the surface of the zinc pellet form needles, thus making the pellet look a little like a tiny hedgehog (look closely at the bottom of the test tube that Anne is holding). However, they preferred making the tin dendrite tree with electricity (shown in the video clip).

Tin hedgehog at the bottom of the test tube

Making the tin dendrite

Both teens did fairly well completing a week's worth of independent lessons. Anne is really enjoying geometry. She cracks me up. I think that is my most dreaded math. Dean is moving along slowly and steadily. He should have two or three workbooks done before Thanksgiving and be ready to move on to new ones. This week he was most interested in his Draw and Write Through History workbook and doing picture studies of some of Edgar Degas's work.

In our house the close of Halloween is the close of Spooky Season and the true beginning of Nutcracker Season. Rehearsals are already intensifying, and Anne will be at the studio every day this week (except Halloween), including six hours on Saturday. Nutcracker season takes over our lives, and it is always hard to maintain a balance. However, I have got lots of plans and experience on how to create balance after nine previous years of Nutcrackers.

Blessings, Dawn