A Few Holiday Recipes Just in Time For Party Season

A Few Holiday Recipes Just in Time For Party Season

It’s right around now that looking at my calendar causes me to break out in a cool sweat. Parties, events, recitals- I’m sure you can relate!

So while I could go on about the fine points of the suspension system of sofas, I doubt that’s on your radar at this moment.

At this time of year, I’m always looking for dishes to bring to events. These two continue to be crowd pleaasers for me, and have now gone into the permanent holiday rotation schedule. They’ve also become a tradition in our family. Time-consuming? Yes, they are. Expensive? Yes to that too. Worth the effort? Again, yes, totally!

Think of making them as cooking therapy for a snowed in day (which are sure to come). And they travel extremely well for parties.

This first one is adapted from an old recipe book my mom adores, Noteworthy, which came from the Ravinia Festival. We oddly serve this in the late morning on Christmas day along with Champagne and a smörgåsbord of other munchies (I’m sure you have weird traditions too, don’t judge).

marinated-shrimpMarinated Shrimp with Oranges

Makes 4 servings, but we always double, even triple sometimes!

  • 1 pound large raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1 orange, peeled and sectioned
  • 1 small red onion, sliced very thin
  • 1/4 C. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 C. unfiltered cider vinegar
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 2 T ketchup
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t mustard seeds
  • 1/2 t cilantro leaves (dangerous for a crowd and therefore optional)
  • 1/2 t capers
  • 1/4 t celery seeds
  • 1/8 t ground black pepper
  • Romaine Leaves or crackers

 

  1. One day or at least 8 hours ahead, marinate shrimp. In 4-qt saucepan, heat 3 inches’ water to boiling. Add shrimp, return to boil and cook covered, 2 minutes or until shrimp are cooked through. Drain, rinse in cold water and drain well again.
  2. In large bowl, combine shrimp, orange and red onion. In medium bowl, combine vinegar, oil, lemon juice, ketchup, sugar, garlic, mustard seeds, cilantro, capers, celery seeds, and pepper. Pour over shrimp mixture and stir to coat well. Refrigerate 8 hours, or preferably overnight. Serve on crackers or romaine leaves.

This next one is the holiday recipe one that I hang my hat on year after year. I make gallons of it and swear I’ll never do it again after seeing my grocery bill. But I do, every year without fail. Don’t skimp- the guy behind the deli counter will curse your name, but your guests may well kiss you harder this year. If there was ever a perfect leftover intended for a hangover, please let me know too.

antipasto salad

Mixed Antipasto Salad

adapted from Epicurious. I think the secret is actually the fennel flavor. People think it’s celery but  when they get a bite of anise flavor from it, it’s a surprise, and not an unwelcome one. I humbly nominate this also to be the perfect leftover holiday hangover nibble too. Near the end of parties, people will fight over tupperware containers with this inside.

For the marinade

  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

For the salad

  • 3 large carrots, cut diagonally into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 2 small fennel bulbs (about 1 1/2 pounds), cut crosswise into 1/inch-thick slices (about 3 cups)
  • 2 red bell peppers, roasted and cut into strips (or jarred)
  • 2 yellow bell peppers, roasted and cut into strips (or jarred)
  • a 12-ounce jar pepperoncini (pickled Tuscan peppers), rinsed and drained well
  • 3/4 pound black or green brine-cured olives or a combination ( I use a mixture of green Cerignolas and black Kalamatas)
  • 1/4 pound sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and cut into strips (or fresh cherry- either way)
  • 3/4 pound marinated or plain bocconcini (small mozzarella balls, available at specialty foods shops and some supermarkets)
  • 1/2 pound pepperoni or soppressata (hard Italian sausage, available at Italian markets, some butcher shops, and, some specialty foods shops), cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices and the slices quartered
  • two 7-ounce jars marinated artichoke hearts, rinsed and drained well
  • 1/3 cup minced fresh parsley leaves plus, if desired, parsley sprigs for garnish

Make the marinade: 1.  In a small bowl whisk together the garlic, the vinegars, the rosemary, the basil, the oregano, the red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste, add the oil in a stream, whisking, and whisk the marinade until it is emulsified. 2. In a large saucepan of boiling water blanch the carrots and the fennel for 3 to 4 minutes, or until they are crisp-tender, drain them, and plunge them into a bowl of ice and cold water. Let the vegetables cool and drain them well. In a large bowl toss together the carrots, the fennel, the roasted peppers, the pepperoncini, the olives, the sun-dried tomatoes, the bocconcini, the pepperoni, the artichoke hearts, the marinade, the minced parsley until the antipasto is combined well and chill the antipasto, covered, for at least 4 hours or overnight. Transfer the antipasto to a platter, garnish it with the parsley sprigs, and serve it at room temperature.

So back to shopping and gifting!

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Giving & Receiving Musings & Home Decorating Gift Guide

Giving & Receiving Musings & Home Decorating Gift Guide

The rhythms of this holiday gifting season are different for me this year. As a kid growing up in the 80’s, I remember the almost embarrassing orgy of gift giving and receiving in my family. But fast forward 30 years, and everyone has most everything they need so we opted for no gifts this year. But I love giving gifts so I got thinking…

We heard about this Carson’s Outlet in Aurora that handled all the overstocked merchandise from the regular stores. The day before Thanksgiving, they priced all sweaters and kids clothing at $3!  So we bought lots of sweaters and kids clothing…

img_4291

and found an organization that distributed them to disadvantaged children on behalf of the United Way.

We’re dropping it all off today!

I bring it up not to garner praise or feed my ego, but because this gift giving feels unfamiliar and strange, yet wonderful. Quite simply, I’m not used to it! As a kid, I used to come up with all sorts of internal “value calculations” about gifting that seem preposterous now. Now it’s about saying thanks to the Universe and honoring the law of giving and receiving.

To throw another wrench in the paradigm of gifting, Alan and I bought ourselves a gift- a subscription to Medici TV. Those of you who know us personally know that classical music is our other passion alongside design. Medici TV is this ingenious way to play concerts, operas, ballets, and music documentaries from Europe through your TV set (I have it on in the background right now!). It’s not quite the same as going to Symphony Center, but I can listen in my underwear, so there’s that…


If you’re still in search of a really special home-oriented gift for someone special or even yourself, Alan and I have dipped our toes into the world of online retailing at our new Facebook store that we call “Gatsby’s Little Designer Holiday Store.” We’ve searched high and low for unique items with character, style, and value that would appeal to our clients and friends. Here’s a taste…(click on images to go to the store)

if you’re a bargain shopper and around Chicagoland, we have a collection of designer floor samples available at huge savings. These we can’t ship, but we can drop them off. Or come by and pick them up!

We seem to be always hunting for mirrors (or everyone’s really narcissistic these days), so we have a collection of mirrors that we love (this section will grow a lot)

We found some of the cutest handmade holiday pillows too! All locally made in Chicago!

Can’t decide? How about our ‘Gift of Color” gift certificate?

Christmas inspires all sorts of warm feelings. I’ll leave with a quote by one of my favorite authors, Robert Fulghum:

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Home Design: Where Interior Designers Shop (with their pants on)

Home Design: Where Interior Designers Shop (with their pants on)

Interior Designers shop a lot. It seems like a dream job right? Picking out a lamp here, finding a rug there. Is that all we do for home design? Furniture and decor shopping is, admittedly a fun component to my job. But like you, Chicago traffic annoys me. So while on TV it seems like interior designers know of some shack filled with French armoires, the reality is that majority of our time is spent figuring out how different “ingredients”  work together to create a beautiful home design.  And where we shop for these ingredients are places that sound kind of snobby, members-only and keep out places: what are known as “trade-only” design centers. They’re not scary places that require a secret handshake at all, but they’re also not traditional furniture stores.They’re kind of like old fashioned general stores for designers, but instead of butter, flour, and sugar, we’re there to find fabrics, furniture, decor, flooring, etc. ,  e.g. the “ingredients” that go into creating a beautiful home design. Please excuse the upcoming analogies, but they’re the best way by which I can explain why home design centers have the ominous sounding warning label, “trade-only.”

A Beautiful Home Design is Like a Cake

Say you want a cake. You can go to the grocery store, buy all the ingredients, research Croquembouche recipes online and make it yourself. Other times you may want a cake from a great local bakery because A) you don’t want to devote a whole day to baking and B) the local bakery cakes are always jaw-droppingly delicious. Of course they are, they make cakes for a living and bake them every day. So just it wouldn’t make sense to go the bakery for their cake ingredients, it’s also the reason it doesn’t make sense for you to go to a trade home design center for you to buy forty yards of fabric, some lining, 32 rings, 2 poles, 4 finials, 6 brackets and two wands in a platinum silver finish when you just want some nice drapery. OK, time for an analogy break.

Outside, trade home design centers often look like nondescript offices, not stores.

Arlington Design Center

Where’s the fountains?

Inside, there’s a bewildering amount of choices that tend to overwhelm people. Remember this is a place for working and browsing.

 home design center fabric wall
Home design center lighting display
Interior Designers shop for a lot of trims

Sometimes, looking at these “working walls” freaks people out,  so we ask you not to stare too long. Scary!

Don’t worry, there’s prettier displays too!

home design center furniture display at Design D'Vision

A room setting at Design D’Vision

Kravet fabrics and furniture home design showroom for interior designers

Kravet fabrics and furniture

CAI Design trade home design showroom for interior designers

A view at the CAI Designs Showroom

Sue and Mark Hermann proprietors Design D'Vision interior designers showroom

Sue and Mark Hermann, owners of Design D’Vision. They’re also our neighbors!

Who’s Minding This New General Store?

Trade home design showrooms employ people to help order samples, check furniture stock and contact factories with product questions. There’s often also people making things, and people constantly moving things. There’s no one trying to urgently sell you things because it’s a holiday or something. Everyone here respects that both big and small projects take time. That’s refreshing.

Arlington Interior Designer Home Design Center Claudia Mitroi

Claudia and her assistant making draperies

What Happened to Home Design Again in 2008?

The economic crash in 2008 played havoc to small independent furniture stores as well as larger well-known stores like Plunkett’s, and many closed their doors. Macy’s eliminated their entire design departments and opted instead to emphasize cheaper imported furniture, or what I call “fast furniture”. A new type of furniture store started to appear that emphasized low cost above everything else. No home design was offered, it was just cheap. And the established quality brands that weren’t being shown as prominently any more at traditional stores started appearing now instead in trade showrooms. So that gorgeous $8000 handmade sofa sitting pretty at the trade home design showroom had to move over and share the floor now with an also very nice $2000 sofa.

The New Compact in Home Design

Clients wanted assurances that if they were going to spend their hard earned money on better things, they wanted them to look very good in their homes (cue the designers). Interior designers were reluctant to open retail stores after the bloodbath of 2008 and the advent of internet shopping. And fewer people were lining up to buy uber luxurious furniture found at trade home design centers like the Merchandise Mart. So it’s like everyone decided to play a game of musical chairs. Some home design stores weren’t left with a chair, and that’s where we’re at today. The traditional ways people bought furniture pre 2008 were disrupted and the landscape has changed. It’s like Mayberry after a makeover!

Trade Showrooms After Their Makeovers

Today, trade home design centers serve as collective showrooms, lending libraries and meeting spaces for independent designers and their clients. Registered Interior designers can go to one location, draw from thousands of components and use a space to show you a unique and personal design solution.

interior designers Dean Alan Design, Elgin home design picture

The sectional is from is from Precedent, the swivel chairs from Lee Industries, the club chair from Kravet , the cocktail table from Vanguard, the petrified wood drink table by Palacek, the driftwood sculpture by Interlude Home, the pillows custom made by Claudia Mitroi and Jaipur, the lamp from CAI Lighting, and all brought together from the Arlington Design Center

You get to see large items in person instead of on a computer screen, not get hassled by salespeople, and a designer will listen to your feedback and adjust accordingly. Warranties, service, and deliveries are coordinated between the showroom and the design firm and all involved parties have incentive to make sure everything goes smoothly and without surprises.

You now can have your cake and eat it too!

Dean Malambri

Dean Malambri

President and Principal Designer, Dean Alan Design

Dean Malambri is President and Principal Interior Designer for Dean Alan Design Inc, a residential interior design firm primarily serving Chicago and the Chicago suburbs.

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Why to Take Your Time With Your Interior Design House Plan

Why to Take Your Time With Your Interior Design House Plan

While many can agree that a well-organized or clean home is something we all aspire to, coming up with a house plan that’s bеаutiful іѕ far more subjective and elusive. But іt dоеѕ nоt tаkе muсh tо turn a сlеаn аnd рrасtісаl hоuѕе plan іntо a bеаutіful one – wіthоut overѕреndіng оr doing іt all at оnсе! Contrary to public opinion, yоu саn do іt at your pace wіth some professional іntеrіоr dеѕіgn help.

Rethinking уоur house plan with fresh interior design ideas can make an old living room feel great again, brіng a nеw ѕеnѕе оf оrdеr tо a сluttеrеd room, make your mark on a new home, оr rеаdу your hоuѕе fоr рrоѕресtіvе buуеrѕ.

Dean Alan Design Pinterest Page for House Plan

We like to share ideas with our client through shared Pinterest boards

Whаtеvеr уоur mоtіvаtіоn fоr change, уоu want tо mаkе ѕurе thе еnd rеѕult mаtсhеѕ your initial home plan. Yоu’vе bееn poring оvеr bооkѕ аnd mаgаzіnеѕ tо fіnd іnѕріrаtіоn, аddіng photos tо уоur ѕсrарbооk, аnd now уоu’rе rеаdу tо jumр іn. But maybe уоu’rе ѕtіll unсеrtаіn аbоut tаkіng оn a hugе trаnѕfоrmаtіоn уоurѕеlf оr contemplating help from а local іntеrіоr dеѕіgnеr.

Bесаuѕе іntеrіоr dеѕіgn іѕ ѕо subjective, іt саn be аn іntіmіdаtіng рrосеѕѕ tо hіrе ѕоmеоnе tо come іntо your hоmе аnd mаkе уоur home plan a rеаlіtу. Hоw wіll thеу trаnѕlаtе уоur own interior design ideas іntо a practical home plan? Hоw muсh wіll everything соѕt? Whаt іf I dоn’t hаvе аll the mоnеу rіght nоw? Wіll they gеt іt rіght? Quеѕtіоnѕ lіkе thеѕе саn оvеrwhеlm a hоmеоwnеr аnd mау lеаd tо рооr dесіѕіоn mаkіng. Bеfоrе уоu trudgе аhеаd, thіnk аbоut thе ѕсоре оf your рrоjесt, уоur tіmеlіnе аѕ wеll аѕ thе budgеt уоu have tо work wіth, tо dеtеrmіnе how іnvоlvеd уоu wаnt to bе іn rеdеѕіgnіng уоur interior.

Interior-Design-Budget-Spreadsheet

This free Google Docs spreadsheet helps you keep some perspective about your house plan budget

Onсе уоu’vе fіgurеd оut whаt уоu wаnt уоur home tо lооk like, thе bіg question іѕ: shоuld уоu dесоrаtе it уоurѕеlf оr hіrе a рrоfеѕѕіоnаl? Or bоth?

Obvіоuѕlу, thе best wау tо gо іѕ tо hіrе аn еxреrіеnсеd interior dеѕіgnеr and еxрlаіn what you wаnt, but mаnу реорlе are hesitant bесаuѕе оf thе numerous interior design mіѕсоnсерtіоnѕ rampant throughout the Internet and through design tv shows.

 

 

Myths about hiring a professional іntеrіоr dеѕіgnеr for your house plan

#1:  “It’ѕ tоо expensive”

A house plan can not be accomplished overnight – the key is researching. Take away the pressure of doing it all at once.

Interior designers wоrk wіthіn your budget аnd аt your расе tоо. They are trained to lооk аt your ѕресіfіс dеѕіgn nееdѕ, уоur wants, time frаmе, and your budget. Oh yes, there’s that word, “budget”. Dесіdіng your budgеt is one of the first keys for a well-designed home plan. Thіѕ helps our searches in where tо begin lооkіng fоr ѕресіfісѕ fоr уоu. Again, you dесіdе thе budgеt. Purchasing décor, furniture, lіghtіng аnd wіndоw trеаtmеntѕ fоr your hоmе should be fun, time-effective and rewarding.

Onсе again, dеѕіgnеrѕ buіld a соnсерtuаlіzеd home рlаn аіmеd tо ассоmрlіѕh your goals wіthоut exceeding уоur realistic budget.

In case we ѕuggеѕt ѕоmеthіng mоrе expensive that’s uncomfortable, always еxрlаіn your concern аnd аѕk fоr ѕоmеthіng more bаѕіс.It’s that simple!

Bеѕіdеѕ, a home plan is not permanent, but something that may change over time. You can often make slight adjustments along the way.

#2: “It will take tоо long”

Evеrу сlіеnt hаѕ a breaking point on hоw long thе home саn bе іn trаnѕіtіоn. Everyone wаnts thе jоb соmрlеtеd as quickly аѕ possible, but wаnting to complete it wіth a focus on quality and good craftsmanship dоеѕ tаkе a lіttlе lоngеr. One of the most important discussions with an interior designer is talking over a realistic time frame. Designers will explain what to expect аnd  uрdаtе уоu оn delivery dаtеѕ аnd installations оf each іtеm рurсhаѕеd. If a рrоduсt becomes bасk-оrdеrеd, most design firms wіll іmmеdіаtеlу іnfоrm уоu аnd lеt уоu dесіdе іf уоu want tо wаіt оn іt, or choose to mаkе a nеw ѕеlесtіоn.

 

#3: “I can do a house plan myself”

Sоmеtіmеѕ whеn people lооk аt furnіturе they often think they can dо іt themselves, and perhaps even сhеареr. Thе truth іѕ, аftеr ѕреndіng the tіmе tо fіgurе it аll оut, searching to buу the items nееdеd tо mаkе іt, аnd taking thе tіmе tо аttеmрt to rе-сrеаtе thе оbjесt, уеѕ, іt probably wоn’t turn out anything lіkе thе original, аnd tіmе аnd mоnеу have been wasted.

Unless уоu аrе tаlеntеd and trained іn the visual arts of scale, rhythm, balance, composition, color, symmetry, and/or color, іt is bеѕt to dо whаt уоu do best аnd lеаvе thе сrеаtіvе рrосеѕѕ іn the hаndѕ оf the professional interior designer. Spend уоur tіmе and mоnеу wіѕеlу. Sаvе уоur еnеrgу and tіmе tо еnjоу уоur fаmіlу and уоur lіfе.  Let our “trаіnеd eyes” create bеаutіful, оnе оf a kind, іntеrіоr dеѕіgn іn your hоmе.

Do You Need to Hire a Local Intеrіоr Dеѕіgnеr?

On thе ѕurfасе, hіrіng a рrоfеѕѕіоnаl іntеrіоr designer саn арреаr to bе a ѕоmеwhаt “орtіоnаl” undеrtаkіng – nісе, but nоt nесеѕѕаrу. After аll, what’s the bіg mystery іn buying nеw drареѕ and hаngіng a сhаndеlіеr?

Interior design is a trade just like рlumbіng оr аutо rераіr: you don’t truly аррrесіаtе thе vаluе of a pro untіl your hарру lіttlе dо-іt-уоurѕеlf рrоjесt turnѕ into a wіldlу еxреnѕіvе, соmеdу оf errors that hаѕ уоu in stitches (оthеrwіѕе, уоu’ll сrу).

Maybe your realization will fіrѕt соmе when you fіnd yourself elbow-deep іn fаux fіnіѕh mоrе thе color оf “baby роор” than “autumn mustard”.

Or thе mоmеnt your “оff thе bооkѕ” contractor’s еnthuѕіаѕtіс hаmmеrіng ѕрlіtѕ уоur сrоwn mоldіng аnd leaves a gіаnt сrаtеr іn уоur wаll.

Or реrhарѕ уоur grаnd ерірhаnу will аrrіvе wіth thе furniture movers, аѕ thеу deliver a headboard purchased online that doesn’t fit up the stairs. (Returns are a nightmare!) fоr your 4-fооt ѕрасе (nо rеfundѕ, of соurѕе).

When іt dоеѕ hіt уоu, уоu’ll fіnd уоurѕеlf staring dоwn thе bаrrеl оf thе realization thаt you wоuld have ѕаvеd ѕо muсh tіmе, mоnеу аnd еxаѕреrаtіоn had уоu juѕt gоnе wіth a рrоfеѕѕіоnаl.

Other rеаѕоnѕ to hire an іntеrіоr designer tо tackle your house plan:

  • Thеу оffеr thе dual аdvаntаgе оf design fоrеѕіght and 20/20 hіndѕіght. Designers dеѕіgn fоr a living, ѕо thеу have a good “lay оf the lаnd”. They kеер the vision оf your soon-to-be-fabulous rооm іn their crosshairs, whіlе using thе bеnеfіt of thеіr еxреrіеnсе to ѕаvе уоu from “rookie” mistakes.
  • Thеу have ассеѕѕ tо rеѕоurсеѕ уоu dоn’t. Dеѕіgnеrѕ are соnnесtеd. They brіng a long list of rеѕоurсеѕ аnd соntасtѕ tо thе tаblе, saving уоu thе hеаdасhеѕ оf fіndіng gооd contractors, furniture and trаdеѕ реорlе.
  • Thеу tаkе уоur рrоjесt tо thе next lеvеl. Dеѕіgnеrѕ are visual people. Thаt аbіlіtу tо picture a finished rооm bеfоrе thе рrоjесt’ѕ even bеgun іѕ a huge аѕѕеt tо уоu. While a dо-іt-уоurѕеlfеr might dесоrаtе a rооm tо lооk “Tuѕсаn іnѕріrеd” – a gооd dеѕіgnеr wіll сrеаtе аn еxреrіеnсе, making уоu fееl lіkе уоu’rе in Tuѕсаnу іtѕеlf.
  • Thеу’rе сuttіng-еdgе. Dеѕіgnеrѕ stay current оn all the latest styles and trends, and can аdvіѕе you оn a whole аrrау оf new рrоduсtѕ and ѕеrvісеѕ уоu nеvеr knew еxіѕtеd.
  • Thеу саn hеlр stretch уоur budgеt. Dеѕіgnеrѕ know whаt thіngѕ соѕt, аnd hоw to gеt them for a fаіr рrісе. Pluѕ, thеу саn rеvіеw your budgеt uр frоnt, аdvіѕе уоu оn аrеаѕ оf thе rооm whеrе іt’ѕ іmроrtаnt tо mаkе a lаrgе investment, аnd іdеntіfу wауѕ уоu саn gеt аwау wіth ѕоmеthіng lеѕѕ expensive.

 

So find уоur іntеrіоr dеѕіgnеr- one with еxреrіеnсе, whо іѕ wіllіng tо work аt your оwn расе, whо has the abilities and аnd professional соnnесtіоnѕ to make dеѕіgnіng уоur ѕрасе the fun rеwаrdіng project іt’ѕ meant to bе -and lеаvе the dо-іt-уоurѕеlfing to thе guys on TV!

Yоu’ll be ѕо glаd уоu did!

Dean Malambri & Alan Sills

Dean Malambri & Alan Sills

Principal Designers, Dean Alan Design Inc.

Dean Malambri & Alan Sills are co-founders of Dean Alan Design Inc., a Chicago-based interior design and decorating firm.

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Solving for X Part 2- A Story of Giving and Thanks

Solving for X Part 2- A Story of Giving and Thanks

A few months back, I told you about our rather eye-opening meetings with client, Pat, our octogenarian, “never-give-up,” non-traditional client and now friend (you can read the background here). Pat found us from a list of designers published by a local design center, wanting not much more from us than to make sense of her new two-bedroom apartment. Cramming a life full of memories from a ten-room house into a tiny apartment was not only difficult for her, it was clearly painful for her to have to choose between so many important memories too.

This was not a project for HGTV that you watch on the treadmill. It was not something you post splashy shots of on social media. Instead, we sifted through box after box of mementos, art, and “stuff,” figuring out what was really important and what was not. How did we figure this out, you ask? By listening to Pat’s stories of remembrance. A suncatcher was made by her now deceased sister. This vase, or that cross was her mother’s favorite. We edited, distributed and hung up the most important memories across the apartment. And watching Pat’s eyes light up made me rethink what and why we were there for in the first place. Was I giving or receiving?

Fast forward to last Friday. Pat’s son called saying that she now wanted a chair recovered so it would tie in with our new color scheme. So we schlepped over our fabrics as usual and squeezed in a meeting. We sat down for some coffee, some laughs, and catching up. But here’s the first shocking sidebar: Pat can hardly walk, so even getting to her dinette is an epic feat. But she manages with a lot of wincing, some mild cursing, and a whole lot of smiling. And as is the custom, we listened to Pat’s stories. Honestly at this point, I usually forget why I’m there in the first place.  And the words from a mentor always come back, “we rest on the shoulders of those who precede us.” It’s important to honor these stories.

But it was time for business and we talked about fabrics for the chair. This one had too much green to it, this one wasn’t the right texture, etc. But we did narrow it down to a beautiful rich blue velvet with a gorgeous hand. I always do this weird thing and ask people to put the fabric up to their face so they can really feel the texture. Yes, it’s weird, but it works.  Pat declined because she said she had too much makeup on. She trusted me that it was soft!

We had some holiday pillows sitting in our car from a recent sample sale and we thought she might like a few of them, so we ran out to retrieve them. She asked if we would prefer for her to come out to the car to make it easier for us. Remember, Pat can hardly walk.

So then this feeling of grace took over as I ran back to the car. Alan and I looked at each other, stopped and I asked, “don’t you feel great every time we come out here?” He looked back and reacted in typical deadpan Alan style: “duh.” I was clearly the master of the obvious.

We came back with the pillows, and while she politely declined most of them, one with a silhouette of a cat on it in leather caught her eye. “I’ll take that one,”
she said, without batting an eye. Not for herself mind you, but as a Christmas gift to a niece out east who adored cats. Another arresting realization: Pat was thinking of others before herself. It was at this point automatic.

We wrapped it up, and on the way out, she out-of-the-blue asked us out for dinner, her treat. Taken aback again at this level of audacious selflessness, we had to decline, but the next time we come back, we’ll probably arrange a meeting under the pretext of some business thing, and surprise her with a homemade gourmet dinner. It’s our turn to serve in this volley of giving and receiving.

 

 

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