Thank you Downton Abbey for reminding me of my blessed heritage with your beautiful season finale

Last night, Hubby and I watched the season 4 finale of Downton Abbey. Toward the end of the episode the staff has a day off at the seaside. The scenes were composed and shot simply yet beautifully—directing and cinematography done very well produce such stellar results (as seen below).

During these scenes at the beach, two characters (Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson) go wading in the chilly surf. The almost dialogue-free exchange was charming and heartwarming.

I know when I'm watching great television when I have the experience of being emotionally and/or mentally transported to something very personal. And this particular scene did just that. I found myself recalling old family photographs from albums over 100 years old of my great-great grandmother, Jessie Rae Munce, wading in the California surf with her granddaughters and daughter in the summer of 1910.

Jessie was 68 years old in the above photograph. And like the water that the characters on Downton Abbey were wading in, I'm certain that the Pacific waters were quite chilly on Jessie's feet (water temperatures along the northern coast of California are never really warm).

When I found this photograph of Jessie, I fell in love with its candidness and frivolity—a "pull up your skirts girls because no one cares" sort of attitude. It represents an interesting time in history when things were changing. I am certain that my transplanted Scottish grandmother, her daughters, and her granddaughters were right there leading the way here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Their faces in the above photo tell me that. They're modern leanings are also evident in the fact that even though they weren't wealthy, they still had a camera with them at what seems like every family outing and then paid the money to have the film processed and printed.

Today, thanks to that wonderfully produced episode of Downton Abbey, my heart is full of gratitude for so much of what I owe to my incredible forebears.

Jessie and her husband, John, made difficult sacrifices to come to the U.S. from Glasgow, Scotland in the 1870s. John came first, leaving Jessie behind with 4 children. Jessie came later wrangling those 4 children on her own. John's job as a metalworker with a railroad company allowed them to work their way across the United States from the east coast to the west coast having 2 children along the way in New York and Indiana (how hard must that have been for Jessie?). Their last 4 children were born in the San Francisco Bay Area. Their youngest was my great grandfather, William Munce, who ended up marrying Elsie Pump (pictured above) and their oldest was my grandmother (aka Grammy) Elsie Munce (the kid playing in the sand not looking at the camera in the above photo).

It is because of Jessie and John that I can happily say I am a 4th generation Bay Area native. I was privileged to be born a U.S. citizen because of them. I was blessed to love the sea, the beach and the coast because of them. I am certain that I even owe my love of photography to them because of their love of it over 100 years ago.

Yes, I know I've witnessed great television when all this emotion and gratitude can be inspired by it.

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My major accomplishment in the past week... making throw pillows for the living room

In the last couple of years as we've made some minor changes to our interior environment, Hubby and I have fallen in love with the colors of the sea--light aquas and turquoises paired with pale creams and beige like the colors of sand on a pristine tropical beach.

Believe it or not, we make design decisions as a couple. We go together when we shop for anything related to home decor. In case you're wondering, Hubby does not go on these shopping adventures under duress. I am more likely to hate going shopping than he, so when I ask something like, "Honey, do you want to maybe go to the fabric store to look for fabric to make throw pillows?" if he isn't completely exhausted by some other task he's had to tackle that day, his answer is always a sincere and cheerful, "Sure!"

At the end of last week, the above scenario played out as I got a wave of energy to feel up to finally tackling the task I'd been threatening to take on for way too long--updating our throw pillows. I know how to sew (I've been sewing since I was around 10 years old). I have a sewing machine (although at the time it was tucked into a never-accessed corner of my current studio covered with cat hair, dust and looking really disgusting). More and more those waves of energy come less and less, if you know what I mean. So when it does happen, I know I need to jump on the opportunity.

It turned out that my fit of creative spark happened to coincide with a 50% off sale I didn't know about (pillow forms were on sale too). So the home decor fabrics that I would have loved but dared not buy at regular price, were miraculously attainable. It was great. I pushed the cart up and down the aisles as Hubby and I mulled over all the possibilities. We ended up coming home with some nice choices.

The following evening I had to do the thing I was dreading most... dig out my sewing machine and clean it off. It spiffed up quite nicely and was ready far faster than I had mentally projected it would be.

In one evening I got two pillows done while we watched episodes of Once Upon A Time on Netflix. Since I had to hand-stitch the pillows closed once the forms were in, it was nice having something whimsical and fun on the TV while I pushed and pulled the needle back and forth.

I sat in the recliner in the living room while I sewed--the recliner we bought a couple years ago when we first started making the transition to the sea colors in our decor. It was fun making the pillows in the same chair that they match so perfectly.

The pillows also coordinate with our dark brown leather couch that always has a pale cream quilt thrown over it. We wanted the pillows to be interchangeable wherever they are needed (or wherever a cat isn't snoozing). And we accomplished that with our fabric choices.

It still is somewhat of a surprise at how much something so simple as adding new throw pillows can do to a space. Suddenly the sea colors we love are becoming prominent just because of these simple additions.

And the area rug that we thought would have to be the first thing to be replaced, doesn't look quite so bad now. Isn't it funny how that happens? We'll still change out the rug, but I don't feel this sense of urgency like I have to get it out of here as soon as possible like I did before. I don't like making design decisions in that state of mind. It's better for me to be calm and methodical making a choice that has to last for quite some time in order to be economically responsible. It's amazing that new 16"x16" throw pillows achieved all that.

Last night (again while watching episodes of Once Upon A Time), I finished recovering two old throw pillows we already had with fresh and new fabric. I couldn't just throw them away. The old saying, "Waste not, want not" is too ingrained in my psyche. Now I'm happy I didn't.

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If I always expect the unexpected, then nothing is truly "unexpected", right?

My "super wise" epiphany for today... if I always expect the unexpected, then nothing is truly "unexpected".

It came to me in the shower (as many "super wise" epiphanies do). I don't know... maybe I've been absorbing something while watching Sherlock, but it seems logical when I think about it. It is particularly applicable to home construction.

So when Hubby finished pulling down all the ancient sheet rock left on the framing in the garage that will be my studio some day, it was not unexpected that more wood rot was uncovered... because I've come to expect stuff like that. Luckily, it is wood rot that's just as ancient as the sheet rock. It's leftover from when the garage had its original flat roof (pre-1960s) probably when it was still an open-sided carport. There must have been a leak in the roofing that caused rain to wick down along the framing just enough to create some wood rot. It isn't much and is isolated to a couple of studs, so the fix is relatively straightforward. Hubby just needs to sister in some new studs alongside the compromised ones.

When we determined that we would be plunging into this latest home renovation adventure, we both expected things to go any way but straightforward, simple and swiftly. Again... expecting the unexpected. So that is why I am not posting photo after photo of progress with this project.

Over 13 years ago after optimistically thinking we could renovate/rehabilitate our entire home in 2-3 weeks, we learned that nothing goes quickly when it comes to this house.

Why, you ask? Just in case any of you have the idea that you'd like to tackle a similar adventure (and prove us wrong), keep these things in mind as you plan your renovation/rehabilitation timeline:

  • Expect any vintage home that was custom-built by the owner (particularly if the owner wasn't a contractor) to have weird quirks because everything is "unique" (we've sometimes used other choice words to describe some non-contractor-owner-builder choices we've uncovered)
  • Expect any vintage home that has had annexes built onto the original footprint to have multiple eras of construction materials represented as well as odd connection points or hidden damage from before the annex was constructed
  • Expect any vintage home built prior to 1960 to have construction that is sub-standard according to current building codes
  • Expect any vintage home that has gone through a period of dilapidation or neglect to have even more weird quirks than one that has been lovingly maintained over the years since it was built

So... from those of you that have been through this adventure already...  are there any other bullet points I should have included above?

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The sound of raindrops have never sounded so wonderful

Despite clear blue sunny skies and warm temps all day Saturday, we awoke to the sound of wonderful big juicy raindrops coming down outside on Sunday morning. We were blessed with an entire half inch of rainfall throughout Sunday morning.

And the mountains got snow!!!!

We're continuing to pray for more to come--particularly snow because the snowpack is what gives us water throughout the rest of the year.

Thank you to everyone who joined your prayers with ours that we would have rain. Those prayers were answered! In a very real way.

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