12 December 2011

It's The Third Week Of Advent are You Ready?

For the Christ child who
comes is the Master of all;
No palace too great no
Cottage too small.

It's the third week of Advent.  Are you ready?  I'm trying to still my heart and prepare for Christmas here at the cottage. Do you find it as hard as I?  Why are there so many functions, so many obligations, and while we're discussing this, why is there so much traffic?  Peoples of the world, I have a suggestion for ya.  Have your parties after Christmas.  December is already full.

 I am yearning to cozy-in and be quietly surrounded by peace.

And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to your word.  And the angel departed from her.

Don't get me wrong, the sparkling lights and the crisp winter air are alluring to me.  I love to deck the halls decorate the cottage for Christmas.  I get excited for every wreath, every creche, and every candy cane.
Each evening I go about lighting every candle and then before bed I blow them all out again.  I love rituals.  We eat all our meals on our Christmas china this time of year and inevitably one of my kids asks me, "Where did we get this stuff?" Wha, whaat?  I love traditions.  Yesterday we planted poinsettia's along our front walk way.  I've hung candy canes in magical places for my grandchildren to find on Christmas Eve, right after dinner, right before they get in their car, which will happily satiate them on their way home.  That's correct.  I had five kids of my own, lets hope all that wisdom I earned, not go to waste, and my white sofas we all live happily ever after!

This bubble light is my most favorite Christmas decoration.  It has such a pretty, soft glow and it reminds me of when I was a little girl and many of the lights on our tree were bubble lights.  Do they still make these for the tree?  I need to get out more.

The tree is up, the mantel is dressed and so we go about enjoying in anticipation the Advent of Our Lord.

Advent is a time for reflection and anticipation!

Finals are in full swing which means my boyo will be home from school soon.  I hope he loves his bedroom Christmas tree.  I filled a jar with things that he loves and dropped a starlit tree inside.

He's a Graphics and Fine Arts major so  he's gonna love the staging of his very own Christmas tree.

Last Christmas he came home and made a tent in his room.  It was pretty cool until a candle he lit almost burned the cottage down.  He's gonna have to enjoy his room outside the tent this year no matter how much we and the dogs all loved visiting him in there.

 I don't think there is a nook or a cranny that I leave Un-Christmassed.  Yes, I said un-Christmassed, (it's a real word).  Just ask my husband who refuses to play scrabble with me anymore.  I don't cheat.  I just happen to know a lot more words than anybody else.

 I have no treater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.  Aint that the truth?

The greatest gift you will ever receive will never be found under a Christmas tree.  It is far too valuable to be stored in any other place but in the depths of your heart.

 A gaggle of hooligans up to shenanigans.

 My Honey Heart and her handsome daddy.

Give me those eyelashes my pretty, pretty, princess!

It is good to be children sometimes,
and never better than at Christmas,
when its mighty founder was a
child himself.

"Charles Dickens"

Just one more thing; happy 1 month Anniversary to my daughter Kate and her new husband Justin.  May your first married Christmas be as blessed as you have made us this year.

To all my friends, family and dearest bloggy friends, may this Advent Season find you at peace.  It's been a busy year, so while I wait for Christmas I think I'll go take a nap.  I'll be dreaming of you and wishing you Blessings!

Love you more than Christmas,


07 November 2011

It All Started With A Recycled Wedding Dress

When my oldest daughter Tara tied the knot, I decided to make the ring bearer pillow for her wedding celebration. For all you moms out there who think your daughter's will want to wear your old wedding dress, lets just say, I've yet to see it happen. They grow up and embrace their own trends and styles.  In other words, they get their own sense of taste and their own opinion on clothing (and everything else imaginable).  I hate when that happens, in my experience, around age two when they become enamored with the word NO and are not afraid to use it.

What better way to recycle something that is just taking up space, than to make something meaningful and new out of it? My wedding dress had been hanging in the closet gathering dust for years because, I was too busy putting kids through private school to have it hermetically sealed and boxed for $800 bucks.  I breathed new life into it per-say.  So, I used some of the material from my own wedding dress to make the ring bearer pillow for my first daughter Tara's wedding. I wish I could show you a picture of it but, I'm too afraid to ask her if she still has it.  I'm a little over emotional-like right now.

Now that my second oldest daughter Kate, is getting married, I got out my scissors and recycled my dress once again.  I'm not a seamstress, (I may have mentioned that once or twice before) but I can sew a somewhat straight line in a pinch.  I cannot measure worth a darn, so I eyeball the project and hope for the best.  I've got three more kids to marry off and I hope to force them carry on the tradition of making from my own wedding dress, their ring bearer pillows with my own little hands.

My wedding dress was ivory satin with a sheer overlay.  I let Kate choose some of her favorite sea shells to embellish her pillow.  They were a salute to all the happy memories she has had living here, from bright days basking in the sunshine, to competing in many surf competitions all through high school, and to bonfires and parties by moonlight. I'm just guessing about the bonfires and parties by moonlight because I'm pretty sure her father and I didn't sanction very many of those.

Kate and her favorite surfing partner, her baby sister Maggie.

I used the satin material from my dress to cover a pillow which I formed from batting.  I then glue gunned her favorite shells right onto the pillow before I covered it with the sheer overlay and ribbon.  Do you think it is appropriate to use the terms,"glue or gun" when one speaks of weddings?

This is Kate and Justin when they first met at college three years ago.

This is them all in love and mushy-like, just before they got engaged last February.

Last summer I snapped this photo of the love birds and if only someone would get the engagement pictures off their fiance's computer and email them to their mommy, I'd have some really, really, cute official engagement photos to show ya.  You guys are always so patient with me though, so I know you'll hang in and when you're a captive audience again, I'll have all the engagement pictures, various parties and such and the official wedding pictures to share very soon.   Because you know I love you like that.

Of course my pup Saint Kieran, was "helping" by giving me moral support through my entire pillow project.  He made sure that none of the batting got away!

I'm not sure what kind of help this gal was.  Perhaps she was supporting me in spirit.

Oooh, so many pearls to choose from. I sewed the (faux) pearls on by hand during the many hours I have spent sitting on the sofa watching Mr. Cottage By The Sea, pace the floor and say bad words while watching The Charger's lose football games this season. OH FOR THE SAKE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY CHARGERS - BRING IT ON!  A woman can only take so much pacing.  The man is beating a path in my rug.

We held auditions for the job of ring bearer, and although this guy was a close second...and very hard to resist -

This one succumbed to the tickle monster and won out in the end.

This is what the website, "The Knot" has to say about the duties of the ring bearer.

The ring bearer, traditionally a small boy aged four to eight, walks 

down the aisle just before the flower girl (if there is one), carrying a 

pillow with two rings tied to it. Since it's not the greatest idea to 

entrust gold rings to a rambunctious 6-year-old, the rings are usually 


Are you the trusting sort? Well, if you trust the little tyke with your

jewelry, at least have someone hand him the pillow replete with real

rings just before he begins trekking down the aisle. If he gets hold of

them too far in advance, it's more likely he'll lose them.

Nicholas are you reading this?  Nicholas can you read?

All I can say is, Nicholas fits the description above.  He's a small boy, age five, and he is definitely rambunctious.  In answer to that question in the second paragraph about being the trusting sort, lets just say I think we're gonna go with the fake rings on the pillow.  Not that we don't trust him,  look at that face, it's just that he is rambunctious and ... well... Nick will be accompanied down the aisle by one of his older brothers Dayne, who is eight.  Accompanying them will be their little sister Emma who will be our flower girl. Big brothers Ty and Cael will be altar servers and baby Abigail will be the topping on the cake as always, with all her adorable cuteness.  Nicholas calls her "Honey Heart" and it sure does fit, don't ya think?

 It's Honey Hearts momma for whom I made that first pillow so many years ago.  It must have been good luck because Abigail Rose is their 6th child.  I like to think it's all because of the prayers I prayed for their marriage whilst making that first ring bearer pillow from my wedding dress.  I'm hoping it will be the same for my daughter Kate and her new husband Justin. If you want lots of wee grand babies this cute just let me know and I'll see what I can do for ya. 

For a DIY project that started out on a wing and a prayer, I think it turned out real purty.  A tad bit of hand embroidery to further personalize with their names and wedding date, and a pillow is born!

  Kate and Justin

Much more to come...

04 November 2011


Several months ago something awful happened here at the cottage. I'm not big on writing about awful because I have so much to be thankful for that I'd much rather devote these pages to that.  Before I go on to tell my story, I want to say that I know there are much, much worse situations going on in the lives of people everywhere.  My life here at the cottage seems idealistic, and in many ways it is. I understand the difference between your home being vandalized and losing a child, or having a loved one fall ill or die.  I realize that some people live in deplorable conditions every single day.  I was a Foster Mom for many years, and I've worked within a system where the visibility and fate of others less fortunate was crystal clear to me.  This post is about something that happened personally to my family and in the context I'm putting it I hope you will realize that for us it was a very bad thing.  But in the big scheme of things, it's just an unfortunate circumstance.  It doesn't even count amongst all the more serious situations out there.  I just wanted to chronicle it and let you know, that even in idyllic situations, bad things happen.  It's the context of what we do with it afterwards that counts.

I usually don't write anything but optimistic posts around here so I hesitated penning this one.  This is where I come to share the good and the beautiful in my life, and hopefully that is why you visit me here.  I promise I will end this post on an up note and with some beautiful photos because, hopefully that's the way I will always end up.  On my feet, with a smile on my face!  I truly believe there is a blessing in everything if you look hard enough and I'm determined through any and all things dark, to see the light.  More importantly is the fact that no bodily injury incurred to anyone at the cottage, and everything that this treacherous person tried to destroy has now been restored.

Someone, maliciously vandalized our home and property last spring.  In our little neighborhood and even in our town, which is small by San Diego standards, at just under a population of 13,000 people, we are very lucky because crimes like this seldom take place here.  Many of our neighbors have lived here for over 20 years and have never seen this happen. The crime was so obviously and maliciously intended to be personal, we have no doubt.  On our front drive here, what you see is some kind of acid which was thrown over the front driveway, walkway up the side of the house, the front gate and the walkway to our front door.

It has taken us months of hard work and as they say, blood, sweat and tears (more than a few tears) to come to grips with the vandalization that occurred to our property last summer.  Besides Creedence Clearwater Revival, I'm not sure whom else uses the term "Blood, Sweat and Tears" but, those words ring true in this instance.

Part of what we've been dealing with is the mundane, such as insurance company policies, robots on the phone instead of real people, coverage or no coverage?  That, as anyone whom has done it knows, is mind numbing in and of itself.  We've addressed the clean up, and back breaking work of the complete reconstruction to the front of our property.  We spent over a year while we were remodeling, living with the noise, mess and distress which typifies construction and, in one fell swoop, having barely had time to enjoy the fruits of our labor, we were plunged back into it again.

Our family has had to address the emotions of vulnerability and betrayal that come with having your personal space and your privacy invaded.  There are fears which surface at a time like this that you have face and come to terms with.  Fear for the personal safety of your family is right at the top of the list.

The substance you see on our front cobbles, is some kind of acid which when you try to soak it up, incinerates the rags.  Literally, burns them up.  It is very scary and disturbing when one thinks of what more might have happened.  Our guardian angels were looking after our personal safety on this sad, dark night.  Only our  property was destroyed which is a blessing unto itself.  To be frank, there is nothing of material value to me, nothing that can't be replaced, except for my family and my peace of mind inside my home.

The intruder not only destroyed the driveway and sidewalk in front of our home, by throwing the destructive substance all over our front gate.  You might remember this post  " Ode To A Cottage Gate" where I explained all the details about how our gate got built and which I recently re-posted.

These were the stains that remained after we did our best to clean up.

The vandal was criminal enough to open the gate and throw the substance down our front walkway, all the way to our front door.  On the way out he tore into my husbands' car, bashing out every window and both mirrors, and denting the sides in as well.  All of this occurred at 10:00 pm when we were all at home.




So we rolled up our sleeves and went in to recognizance mode.  You can't let the bad guys get you down. First we took out all the front cobbles, turned them over and set them back down in sand.  Therefore we didn't even have to buy any new material! 

We then researched our options for replacing the front walkway.  I wasn't fond of the idea of painting over the cement.  I've done it before and usually it becomes a high maintenance project because it doesn't last very long.  A friend of ours suggested an outdoor Brazilian Walnut deck.

The idea of a deck appealed to us.  It flowed right along with the aesthetic of the cottage.  Very simple, easy to maintain and beachy.  Sand just falls through the cracks!  This wood was no more expensive than re doing the concrete and took about the same amount of time.  A bit of back breaking, knee cracking work but hey, worth it in the end.

Ipe is three times stronger than teak.  It's scratch resistant has a knot free surface and a one hundred year life span.  I think that will be plenty long enough for us.

Once it was installed we simply oiled it and even after a soft rain, it looks this beautiful and rich.  I LOVE the look, the feel, even the smell, of wood.

We transplanted some grasses from the side yard which had grown too large for their space there, around the Magnolia tree in the front yard.  When they get over the shock they'll green up and be the perfect addition of height around the deck.
I replanted the acid-burned moss around the front gate cobbles and it's happily thriving and growing back in now.

You may notice on the right pillar we now have a security system.  This was the hardest thing of all for our family to get used to.  We were the family whom in 35 years have never even locked a door!  When we sold our last house and the new owners asked for the keys we just looked at each other with blank expressions on our faces.

We've always had an open door policy.  

It's raining today, just an Irish mist really. I like to think it is God helping me to clean all the way up to the tree tops, as we are in full wedding mode around here, getting all the last minute details ready to celebrate our daughters marriage sacrament next week.  Many family members and friends will be flying in from around the country.  There will be parties before the wedding and parties after, and I am forgoing my beloved flip flops for high heels.  If I don't fall them off them and break something important, I'll be back in the blog world full swing. Thanks for sticking with me my friends, you are so special to me.  I'll share plenty of pictures of all our shenanigans when the celebrations are complete and the happy couple is off on their honeymoon.   

We have been blessed with so many good people in our lives.  The bad guys are certainly out there and can make things miserable for a time but the adversity they create can only get you down if you let it.  Thank God, and I do every day, that my family is safe. Although we now have the inconvenience of having to use a code to get into our own home, don't let that stop you from coming by.  One ring and we'll buzz you in and make you feel just as welcome as before.  The dirty dogs of the world will never win in the end because it's all about attitude.

Blessings to all and remember,

I love ya more than all the bad karma the bad guys will reap, and more than all the love God has sewn back into my heart.


19 October 2011

Ode To A Cottage Gate (La deuxieme)

When we were at the tail end of the completion of our cottage remodel our mission was to design a front gate for the entrance to the courtyard which leads to our front door.

For design inspiration we went on many-a-walk about in the neighborhoods surrounding our cottage and in neighboring towns, checking out all the varied and inspirational gates people had designed.

 There were designs with wooden pillars.

 Designs curving up like happy faces.

Sweet designs that had peep holes or a trellis for plants to blossom.

I've heard it said that, you only have one chance to make a first impression, and the front gate is the first chance you have to enter the courtyard to the cottage.  I probably weighted it with more importance than it actually has; but that's the OCD way I do.

We wanted our gate to blend in with the arch we designed over the entrance to our home. The arch is an architectural detail present in many of the historic buildings in our little beach town.  The train station has one, several homes and restaurants have them; our art district which used to be an agricultural district of quonset huts has them but, the most riveting fact is that, The Belly Up, (where my husband took me on our first date) has one.  So, we decided it would be meaningful to us to arch our entry, cause we're just romantic like that. 

(Addendum to post: Prince Harry recently visited The Belly Up with some friends.  He is stationed here in San Diego for a time, and by all accounts he is enjoying himself immensely!)

For us, the arch is a welcoming site and protects the front porch from sun and rain as well as gives it grace and beauty, (in my humble opinion).   Our desire was to have a gate which would be sturdy and strong while at the same time be as low maintenance as possible.  We hoped that it would look like it has been there forever.

Remember (before) when the cottage used to look like this?  To tell ya the truth, I loved my little cottage just as it was.  But, man oh man, do I really love it now.  There wasn't a gate at all then which, wasn't safe for my puppies.  Now they have a secure spot where they can lie out and sun themselves without me worrying that they will run out into the street after a dog or a mail truck.

 The process was a long, frustrating and arduous one.

Dealing with construction is never easy believe me.  It's how my husband makes a living and it seems that we have always been in some stage of construction the whole of our married life.  We have built and remodeled several homes doing much of the work ourselves.  Mercy, I do believe we're too old for this anymore!

It gets my Irish up a bit when I talk about construction after so many arduous months of living amongst it, and nobody wants to see that!  Mostly I like to think I've moved on.  This is a blog of light and blessings and good things.  I'd rather we celebrate the glorious outcome which we are relishing today.

Can you believe this is what the cottage looked like only a year ago?

What a difference a year makes!

I think all our hard work was worth it, don't you?

This was the first gate built.  You can't see it in the photo, but none of the wood matched up at the angles.  It was flimsy and despicably and poorly built.  After the guy who built it had his shot, my husband tried to revive it and spent about 100 hours in the garage, rebuilding, reinforcing, sanding and painting it with special marine paint.  I wanted the top panel removed to we could put glass in it because, I felt too isolated from my neighbors and passerby with it being a solid structure. In a beach community whenever people walk by your house they smile and say hi.  Almost always they are sporting at least one canine and at first you get to know each other by introducing your dogs.  Soon everybody knows your name and as for me - I always look forward to those smiling faces, familiar or not, who say hey when they walk by.  

So my handy hubby used a skill saw and removed the top panels.  We ordered some really cool glass to replace the panels which although see-through, was thick and had a beach wave etched in the glass giving it a custom vibe all its own.

When the glass arrived (8 weeks later), it was warped and didn't fit properly or look right. Arghhhh. At that point I had designed a completely different gate in my imaginative little head.  So I used all my feminine wiles to persuade my husband to let me have a shot at making the gate something we could love and live with forever.  Yes, I did say, live with forever.  I'm very dramatic like that.  I may even have said, live with until the day we die, or until eternity or death do us part, or that I wanted it to live on for our children and our children's children.  Anyway, when that didn't work, I whined and cried, even squeezing out some real sad salty drops for effect, and that apparently did the trick.  Because here my friends, is the end result.

Bye, bye, you old, time sucking, bad memory making, piece of junk of a gate.

Hello new gate, you gorgeous piece of work art which makes my heart sing.

I designed this gate and commissioned an awesome company called "Edwards Ironworks," in Escondido, California to build and install it for us.  They were amazing.  They listened to my every request and they made my gate the work of art I wished for.  They did it all in a timely fashion, unheard of in the construction field from my perspective, but they restored all my hope that things can be done correctly and on time and even turn out better than you'd hoped for!

I used my mailbox for inspiration.  The symbol on it is the Irish symbol for eternity.  I love my mailbox.  Seriously love it.  The arch is represented, as well and some of the linear aspects present in the house.

I love the first impression my gate makes now.  It says, I'm a little cottage by the sea, with a cobblestone entrance and an old (well, new but made to look old) gate, that everyone is welcome to peek through and say, "Hi neighbor."  I LOVE living here, and I LOVE the cottage where I dwell with the people whom I love, and I want to share it with you, so come on in!

 My pup is not happy when we are on opposite sides of the gate.

Please excuse him, as he is howling here.  When I photograph him he howls, something about the camera stealing his soul.

Isn't she a beauty?  Everything I'd hoped for; strong, sturdy, beautiful, and durable.  She looks like an old iron gate that's been there forever and will be there forever.  And ever and ever and ever!

And now I can sit in my courtyard and say howdy to my neighbors when they walk by.  I can soak up the sun and the smiles all at the same time.  Have I ever mentioned that I can hear the surf roll in and out from my courtyard?  

So when are y'all coming over to have a cuppa or a glass of wine on my patio with me?  I'll be waiting, just give me a holler over yawn gate there.

Are you doing anything to spruce up your house for summer?  I'm linking up to The Lettered Cottage so you can go get yourself inspired too.  Go check out Layla and Kevin's summer mantel and all the other great links.  Get goin' now!  

The Lettered Cottage

Love you more than I love my new iron gate.
P.S.  If you are just reading this, you may find that it's a revised edition of a previous post.  Being incredibly UN blog savvy, when editing the post in order to link it to one I just wrote, I couldn't figure out how to edit without reposting, go figure.  If anyone has an answer to that dilemma let me know, mmmkay?