Saturday, February 27, 2021

Date Night

 We have been doing some remodeling lately and thinking of some projects so we thought it would be fun to go to the Home and Remodeling Show. We got there soon after it started for the weekend so it wasn't very crowded at all. And, of course, we always wear masks.  I was a little disappointed that I didn't get to see fabulous finished room vignettes. Most of what we saw was brochures, photos, and granite and siding samples. A couple of interesting moments did make it worthwhile. 

When I go to places like this, I always try to not make eye contact. I never know how to get away from vendors once they start talking to me. I usually say very little. That's why John was so surprised when he found me in very animated conversation with Iowa Legends Roofing and Remodeling. The truth is, I was talking to a hometown hero! I can't help it, I am a fan of accidentally famous people. Carson King is known as an Iowa legend. In September, 2019, he had a homemade sign asking for "beer money" at the Iowa-Iowa State football game. It got a lot of press, and he got a lot of money. And he gave it all away! He donated over a million dollars to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital  after that weekend. He has continued with fundraising and philanthropy and started The Carson King Foundation--Helping children and families in times of need and uniting communities to make a difference. 

We had one other bit of humor. A chiropractic booth was offering three minute posture exams. It was to demonstrate how poor posture can cause all sorts of problems. I chatted with the woman but John just walked away very quickly. When I caught up with him, he asked me why they were giving prostate exams at a Home Show. I can't help it. I am still laughing.

For us, here in the Time of Covid, being able to go anywhere new and without a lot of people, is a treat. Masks don't make communication an easy process!  We are still staying home most of the time. And we watch a lot of tv. He likes documentaries, and I like cozy English murders. But we both agree on buying, selling, remodeling and renovation.   We also love the lake house properties. You know the ones---you buy a house for a lot of money, and then tear out almost everything, and replace it all. There are always a few expensive catastrophes that the inspector missed But, at the end, everyone is happy, and usually under budget. We have learned all the key code words. The word we hear the most is "outdated". New home owners like to tear out the outdated kitchen cabinets and replace them with new white cupboards. And counter tops need to be granite or quartz. Floors are usually replaced with hardwoods. Everyone wants shiplap on their walls. (Thank you Chip and Joanna). I like to see the houses that are rejected because the prospective buyers don't like the paint colors. They don't want to paint, but knocking out walls is never a problem. The open concept idea is the most popular change. Many of the rooms have to be a "total gut job". All through the shows, we hear ways to make it POP. No one wants a cookie cutter house. Everyone needs a firepit. Don't forget the guest rooms for all the friends and family who will be coming to visit and to grill hot dogs. And someone always wants to make it a little more glam. There needs to be a garden tub and double sinks in most of the bathrooms. Am I the only one who thinks a bathroom is a private place? Or should I say space, because space is something that everyone wants more of. There has to be a lot of space for the family dogs. Of course, the dogs and children all have opinions too. We have lived in several old houses, and done lots of taking apart, and putting back together again, and it is never like the ones we like to watch. And now we even watch reruns of the ones we have already seen.  I am just waiting for the trends to change. I want to see contractors putting walls and doors back in. I want to see islands with waterfall sides disappear, and cupboards to no longer be white. I also want to see them serving something better than hot dogs! 

Monday, January 25, 2021

Turn Back Time

 We have a lot of clocks. This is a favorite. (Sorry about the glare. I needed a photo, or another day would go by without writing.)  Several of the antique clocks need some loving care, and don't always keep the time. Many years ago when I worked at the Flynn Mansion at Living History Farms, we had five clocks, and I wound them every morning. Listening to the tick tocks and the chimes marked my days at work for nearly fifteen years. I hope to get the clocks fixed here at some point. Right now I suppose that they are the way they should be. I never seem to know what time it is anymore. Or what day it is. Or even what year it is. In many ways it seems like time has stood still. And yet, it goes by so quickly. I feel like the holidays passed by this year, and weren't even celebrated.
We did a partial kitchen remodeling in December. It was supposed to happen in January, but you never want to argue with a contractor when he wants to start early! So I spent more time moving things around than I did decorating.

The old floor had probably been here for many years. In fact, I had the same floor in another color installed in my first house! We changed both the kitchen and entry. We also redid the countertops and installed a new sink.

The kitchen was light blue. We changed it to a yellow gold and I am very happy with it now. (It doesn't actually look like either of these pictures. It is a much softer yellow.) The painting was done by John's son Eddie when he was still in school. It had to stay, but that's ok, because I like it. We have a few more of his paintings here. He is a very talented artist. He has done large interior murals for two of the restaurants in Des Moines.

I'm still finishing. It was a very crowded kitchen, and right now, I am enjoying the empty spaces. Little by little, and bit by bit, I am feeling that this house has more of my own style. It is not an easy process, even though John is very encouraging. I don't want to take away a family's memories, but I also want to make new ones.
Oh, and we did have Christmas. Even though we were the only ones who saw it. Next year I am hoping for Christmas Mass and wild and crazy gift unwrapping with lots of people. And hugging!

Covid 19 has been with the world for almost a year.  It has changed the way we shop, travel, see our friends and spend precious and irreplaceable hours with our families. We seldom see our grandchildren in person, and when we do, they have gotten so much older, and taller, and so quickly. I would really like to slow down time where the little ones and the young men and women are concerned. I feel like everyone is growing up without me. 

I heard lately that we should start the year over with February. I think I will do that in my head. I have spent most of January watching news programs in disbelief and wondering where this country is going. Here at home, it has been a month of computer snafus, and lost items, and things never quite happening the way I expect them to happen. Except for the Inauguration, most of January hasn't been what I wished for.

Monday, December 14, 2020

My Christmas Letter

 Christmas 2020

Christmas is near so I think it is time
To try to make another rhyme
A year has gone by and the time has flown
This was a year like we’ve never known
We’ve been through a storm and it wasn’t just weather
But we have learned the value of being together
We have work-at-home, school-at-home, shop-at-home tasks
With circles and bubbles and zoom calls and masks
Our first year of marriage was not quite as planned
I thought we would travel and see more of this land
Instead we stayed home, watched a lot of tv
We think “old people romance” is a good place to be
Blending a family can be a real test
But lucky for us, we both got the best
We’d love the idea of some big family cheer
But we are socially distanced so it won’t be this year
Our grandchildren range from young men to just tots
Thirteen of them now-Sounds like a lot!
And now here we are, at the close of the year
Hoping that normal is once again near.
Stay home and Stay Safe. Things will get better
Merry Christmas to All. That’s the end to this letter

Virtual Hugs from Sandi and John

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Thanksgiving Reveries

 Well, Thanksgiving is over, and I am ready to move on to Christmas. It was a nice day. The weather was almost warm, and it would have been wonderful to have one of those big, noisy holidays we used to have back in the days when we took these things for granted.

I have a long, long list of big Thanksgivings behind me, and, yet, I have never roasted a turkey. We had so many large family groups, with lots of food, family, friends, and friends of friends, and lots of cooking.  My late husband, Jim, was born into the restaurant business, and was an excellent baker. Everyone always assigned us to bring the pies and rolls. On Thanksgiving mornings, he would take some of the kids to Mass, and then to Moran's Cafeteria to bake. Easy peasy for me. But I don't think I've ever cooked a special food that people remembered or requested. Maybe I need to work a little harder on a signature dish. Maybe not.

When I was a child we had storybook Turkey Days at my aunt and uncle's farm. These continued through my own kids' childhoods, until we suddenly lost my Aunt Jane. Later, we traveled to Kansas City, and had great times at my daughter's. Her husband, Trent, was always our chef. He also cooked when I had everyone come to the Frat House for two Thanksgiving dinners. There are lots of memories of our Kansas City holidays. One that the whole family will remember is when the tablecloth caught fire just as Johnny Cash started singing Burning Ring of Fire on the radio. Everybody was sure it was a message from Jim, since it was our first holiday without him. We laughed and cried, and kept the tablecloth.

Last year was my first year with John. We had only been married a few weeks. We celebrated with part of his family. We have several children, and it is unusual to get everyone together at the same time. But that is my dream, to have all of us together. I certainly didn't dream that it would turn out to be such a complicated, difficult year!

Our Thanksgiving dinner today was just the two of us, with a pie delivery from one of his children. It was delicious, thank you. And there were several phone calls, texts, and Facebook messages. After dinner we took a drive to the nearby lake. 

Thanksgiving has never been at the top of my holiday list. I always enjoy it and I certainly eat more than my share, but I have never gotten that excited about it. There is always so much nostalgia, and missing things and people that we don't have any more. I try to remember that things change and people change, and that favorite foods don't always taste the same when someone else makes them, and that even though we are practically confined to our houses for the present, we really "can't go home again." But we can remember to be thankful every day, for the past, the present, and for the future.

Saturday, October 31, 2020


It's almost too late to show off my little bits of Halloween, and tomorrow it will be gone. I am really not too much about decorating for Thanksgiving. I'll turn the pumpkins around so the jack-o-lantern faces don't show, and pack away the ghoulies and ghosties. Leaves and acorns can stay. I do like the mysterious apothecary, but it will probably have to be packed away.

I made this Halloween book from an antique ledger several years ago, and it is always fun to page through. I have made quite a few altered Halloween books as gifts, but have no pictures. I never learn! There is also a Practical Magic spellbook that I received in a swap quite a few years ago.
My mom used to have a business with a friend called "The Trunkyard". They beautifully refinished antique wooden trunks and made ornaments out of the tin coverings. The tin cat was once part of a trunk. The three little witches print is from Paulina Cassidy. Her work is delicate, whimsical, and just a bit on the scary side. She is an artist, a writer, and a songwriter.
I have several of these little tombstones. I used to decorate them with tiny flower arrangements and ribbons, and I think they were pretty darn cute. The black casket is a Victorian paperweight. I bought it in an antique store in a little English village. It is quite detailed, and also very heavy.
The velvet pumpkin has several old brooches pinned on as ornaments, and some little leaves. It could use a little more work before next year. I think I will make more of them.
The top shelf of my favorite bookcase is filled with children's Halloween books. I am partial to friendly witches and ghosts. I'm really not sure about pumpkin faced people and skeletons. My favorites are probably banners, buntings, and garlands. This year I made quite a few from fabric yo-yos. (They are also known as Suffolk puffs in my favorite adopted country.) They are easy to make from gathered fabric circles and can always have buttons and twine or ribbon to perk them up a bit.
From Ghoulies and Ghosties and Long Leggity Beasties
And things that go bump in the night
Good Lord, Deliver Us
Happy Halloween


Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Still A Wonderful Life

 "Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives, and when he isn't around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he? Clarence Oddbody; Angel Second Class 

Richard Thomas Moran

  Sept 27, 1979-Sept 23, 2010

I find it hard to believe, but it has been ten years since we lost Rich. And, still, there isn't a day that we don't remember something about him and miss him just as fiercely as ever. I always thought we would have a big party for the tenth anniversary. We would invite everyone we could think of and listen to their stories, and laugh and cry. He would have liked that, and there would be a lot of stories.

Of course, those were pre-Covid plans. Instead, there will be a small gathering with just some of his siblings. I feel sad that we can't all be together, but there will be Zoom. Not the same, but that is how a lot of things seem to be handled these days.

I've seen so many changes in the last ten years. If anyone had told me that I would move three times, lose my husband, mother, and brother, walk Bridget down the aisle at her wedding to Matt, help with grief counseling, work at a funeral home, travel to my favorite places, become a House Mom for a  fraternity, and re-connect and marry my wonderful John......Well, I probably wouldn't have believed any of it. I know Rich would have had a lot to say!


I still have his original "Bucket List" framed. I did the embellishing, after I found it. It sounds so much like him that reading it always makes me smile. He named authors that he wanted to meet, books to read, and places to go. Maybe now he has run with the bulls, and lived in a lighthouse, and talked to Shakespeare about his plays. I hope so.
John and I are blending our families. Between us we have ten children and thirteen grandchildren. We have both lost a son and a spouse.  I am still trying to find places for all the photos! We have been married for nearly a year. In normal times, we would have seen a lot more of  the family. I am looking forward to normal!

Friday, September 11, 2020

So Much Stuff

 I have opened a booth at a local antiques mall. It is just a small space and really can't hold too much. I am paring down little by little and finally hoping to get rid of my storage unit. That sounds great, but what we are really doing is transferring things from mine to his. His was practically empty. Mine had lots of treasures that have been hidden in totes and boxes for five years. Theoretically, if I have not seen something for such a long time, it should be easy to get rid of, shouldn't it?  But that's not how it works for me. I think of every box I open as Christmas coming early. And then I try to put a price tag on it. My sales have been pretty good, but I don't think this is my true calling. Over the years I have been known to buy back items that I had previously let go. I will persevere, because we are in our golden years, and don't really need so much. HaHa. 


I moved into a house that was filled to the brim with more treasures and memories that aren't my own. It has attics and storage areas all full from many years of happy living and collecting. It isn't always easy, but little by little, I am trying to make it ours. We talk about moving, and have looked at a few houses, but really like this one. I would like to find a house we both love, but so far when we do see a possibility, it sells while we are still thinking about it. We have such a lot to do before we would move, so it may happen, and may not. And in the meantime, we will just keep downsizing.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

I am beginning a second blog. At this time, I am not positive why I am having problems with the first one, but it may be time for a new name. I love my Second Story cottage, and this seems like a good time for a name change. After all, I am living my second story everyday. I hope that you will join me.