My Hero, My Bestie, My Role Model - My Mom

Wednesday, January 28, 2015
If you've been following my blog for any time, you probably know I've written about various important people in my life - my dad, my Uncle George, my grandmothers, my daughters.  But there's one significant person missing from that list - my mom.  I've decided it's about time I devote a little time to her today, not just because she's the woman who gave me life, but she's also one of the strongest and most influential women I know.  If you know her, you already know this, but for those of you who don't, let me take this opportunity to introduce you to my mom, Ann.
Me & My mom on her 80th  Birthday!
 My mom was born 82 1/2 years ago in Mechanicville, NY.  Those were not the best of times, in 1932 and life was less than idyllic during my mom's youth.  Mom lived with her mother, her older sister and her grandparents in a small home.  Although it was in the city, it did not have running water or an indoor bathroom.  They had a 2-hole outhouse.  When she was 10, they moved to a cold-water flat where the rent was $12 a month.  Baths would be taken in tubs filled with water warmed on the stove, beginning with older members bathing first followed by each family member one at a time - in the same bath water.  My grandmother worked hard but money was not plentiful, yet my mom remembers those as good times.  Like many during those days, my mom quit school at the age of 16 to go to work to help support the family.  By now my Grandmother had married my Grandfather and the family moved to Rotterdam.  That meant my mom had to take a bus to Cohoes to work in the factory (Barclay Home Products) for .50 cents per hour.

In April of 1949 she met my dad and on April 9, 1950 they were married - my mom was 17 1/2 yrs old.  My dad was 20.  Like most young couples back then, their first year of marriage they lived with my dad's grandfather downstairs from my dad's parents.  Eventually when things were better financially, they moved to their own flat, also in Cohoes.  In July 1952 my parents were blessed with a son, Gary.  Gary was a beautiful, healthy baby boy, the first grandchild of the family.  Then eleven months later, without warning, Gary took sick after a visit to Hoffman's Playland.  Within two hours, Gary was gone, the victim of spinal meningitis.  As you can imagine, this was a life changing tragedy, one that is impossible to forget, much less overcome.
Mom & Gary
 Happily, in time their sadness lessened and they opened their hearts once more and God blessed them with another child - me.  I would be their one and only.
Yours Truly!
My mom has always been a hard worker.  She has always worked full time, first in various factories but eventually she moved up the ranks and began work for NYS.  She spent 25 years as THE receptionist at the Department of Civil Service and anyone who ever worked for the State knew her and her brilliant smile and gregarious nature because it was her radiant face that greeted one and all as they entered one of the busiest state agencies.
Flashing her famous Receptionist smile!
 My mom isn't someone people easily forget.  When she wasn't working, my mom kept busy with a variety of interests.
Our humble home - our castle on the lake.
 She inherited her mom's love of gardening and that was evident by the traffic-stopping flower display that covered much of their property on Saratoga Lake, where my dad convinced us to move in 1967.   The lake was our home away from home anyway.  We'd been summering there all my life.  While owning a home on the lake may sound glamorous, let me clarify that this "home" was no palace.  It was a small, two bedroom, winterized camp.  Although over the years some minor sprucing up did take place, it was never quite the homestead my mom might have dreamed of, but in our house, Dad was the boss and life often revolved around keeping him happy.  Owning a big, fancy home wasn't on his list of life ambitions - for dad, home was about your surroundings and the people who shared those surroundings.
One of the things that kept him happy was being with friends.  My dad loved people, the more people, the better.  Consequently my parents spent a lot of time with their friends.  They snowmobiled and ice fished in the winter, fished in the summer, boated and socialized all the time.  Living in Saratoga and working in Albany meant long days for my mom (and dad) and mom was busy keeping a home, working full time and often hosting an array of guests, often at the spur of the moment.  Sunday dinners were a given in our house and were often attended by last minute guests like my grandparents, or aunts and uncles.  Mom worked like a short order cook and could put on a meal for 4 or more at a moment's notice.  For years we hosted a Christmas Eve gathering that would include everyone from family to friends to neighbors.....only to be followed by a big Christmas dinner for family.   Cook-outs in the summer were commonplace, again always consisting of more than the three of us.  My dad was happiest when he was surrounded by the people he loved and that made for a lot of work and hostessing for my tireless mom. It's no wonder that right after my dad passed, my mom took a moratorium on cooking!
Ice Fishing on Lake George
Nice Catch!
My parents did everything together.   They retired in 1987 and enjoyed 21 years of retirement together taking rides, fishing, enjoying the life they worked so hard to make for themselves.  Fortunately my mom was the 'go with the flow' type because she and my dad hunted together, fished, snowshoed and ice fished.  They were partners in crime every step along the way, whether that meant in fun or in work.  There wasn't a job my mom couldn't do, (then or now) in fact she pretty much single handedly managed the outside yard work.  Whatever the task though, she was by his side or fetching a tool.  They had a partnership in everything in life - with him as Director and CEO.  When my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer's he gradually stepped down from his role and without skipping a beat, my mom rose to the challenge and would now single handedly manage life and my dad's changing condition.  While doing this, an already daunting task, she also took on the role of caretaker for my dad's  aunt and uncle.  My uncle was dying of cancer and for the next 10+ years, my mom oversaw my aunts affairs and saw that her remaining years were happy and healthy.  She did the same thing again for my dad's other aunt and uncle, tirelessly, selflessly overseeing nursing home care, financial affairs and more - for her husband's relatives.  She continues that exhausting task today overseeing her sister's remaining time here on earth.
On their 25th Wedding Anniversary!

Still crazy in love after all these years.........
 My mom's life has been a good one, but hardly a walk in the park.  She has stared tragedy in the face, overcame breast cancer, risen to the loss of her spouse of 58 years but if you didn't know all this, you'd probably be surprised by her positivity, enthusiasm and love of life.  My mom is one tough cookie and was one tough mom.   She was the disciplinarian in the house and when she looked at you, you knew she meant business.  She was old school and spanking was not out of the question if she thought it was warranted.  Back talk and eye rolling were not tolerated and opinions were kept to yourself - if you knew what was good for you.   While I may have been an only child and one might think a bit indulged considering the events that came before me, nothing is further from the truth.  My mom believed in building character.  She believed in teaching responsibility and from the time I was four, I had to dry the dishes every night before I could go out and play - every night - until the day I married.  When I was old enough to come home alone from school, I'd have to peel potatoes and start dinner.  My room better be clean and weekends were for chores, not sleeping in.  I learned to iron when I was about 10 and did plenty of it, along with dusting and vacuuming.  My mom is the reason I'm the homemaker I am today-although there were days (plenty of them) when I thought my mom was the wicked witch of the north.  Like most mothers and daughters, we've had our moments.  We don't always see eye to eye, but at the end of the day I like to believe we're best friends.  We talk everyday, normally twice a day.  My mom was not perfect, no one is, but it is in her imperfections as well as her tremendous drive that I get my determination and courage to work for what matters to me.
At 82 years old, my mom is a young at heart, beautiful woman who embraces life and all of it's opportunities.  She's active with the Malta Seniors, the Ladies of the Lake (which grew from her Red Hat group where she precided for many years as the Queen Mum), and travels every chance she gets.  She owns an IPAD and an IPhone 6, is computer literate and can keep up with the best of them.  Keeping the promise she made to herself when Dad died, she sold her house when she turned 80 and moved to an aparment where she can spend her days living her life care-free in an environment as frilly and girly as she likes.  She finally has the home she dreamed of!   She's always dressed to the nines, loves glitter and glamour, has a closet that most women would envy and has the love and admiration of everyone who has had the privilege of knowing her.  She would do anything for a friend and is the most generous and giving mother, grandmother and great-grandmother a family could ask for.
At Laura's Wedding (Dad was in the hospital recovering from blood clot surgery)
Although she suffers from severe, chronic Fibromyalgia, one would never know it.  My mom is not a complainer!  She refuses to let her health interfere with enjoying as much joy as she can possible find to fill her days.  Whether she's at the gym, playing canasta twice a week with her friends, having lunch and a little gambling with her friends at the Racino, mom is busy each and every day grabbing hold to whatever opportunities come her way.  She's fiercely independent and stubborn.  She's full of adventure, is fearless, inspiring and without a doubt the strongest woman I will ever know.  Mom, no matter how often I say it, it'll never be enough.....I love you and I admire you and I thank you for everything you are to me!
With us in Rockport, MA celebrating our 30th Wedding Anniversary with the whole family! (2008)

And finally this Christmas flirting with Santa Claus!  I think she's getting younger!!!

If you missed the blog on my Dad, you can read it here: Happy Father's Day to My Dad In Heaven

And on my grandmothers:

Blizzard 2015 from a Birds' Eye View

Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Well as blizzards go, it would seem we lucked out and missed this one, unlike so many of our east coast friends.  I have to confess I was a little disappointed to wake up this morning to dry pavement and nary a flake in the air.  Not having to leave the house has a profound affect on one's attitude towards snow storms and since I've been couped up for a week already trying to find my way out of my annual bout of bronchitis/asthma......I had already planned to wallow away my day watching snow flakes pile up from the cozy confines of my home.  My disappointment in the weather came to an end mid-morning when the forecasted snow did in fact arrive.  As the day progressed, the bird activity outside my window increased and at times it was a flurry of feathered chaos at every feeding station.
Most times everyone took their respective turn, but on occasion two or more would engage in some mid-air display of aggression and other times some friendly sharing of space seemed evident.  All day long a flock of juncos, who seemed unphased by the wind and snow, went from feeder to feeder, suet to suet.  I've noticed them this year much more calm and landing for longer periods of time.  Typically they can be pretty quick movers, hard to photograph, but this group seems to be making themselves at home and not letting the other birds intimidate them.  They really are cute little things!

Never have I ever seen two Carolina Wrens at the same time in my yard - not summer or winter, but that changed today.  In fact at one time, I believe there were three.  I only got lucky enough to catch two though......

 Even Mrs. Red-Bellied Woodpecker ventured out today! (L) Normally I mostly see her mate!

 The doves held their usual vigil high in the pines, keeping as much out of the snow as possible.  That was good news for the littler birds who usually have to fight for equal feeding time with these rather large, and mighty appetited fellas.

And here are my two Carolina Wrens, tucked under cover, snacking away under the watchful eye of the junco.
Sometimes, one decides it's even warmer when eating from "inside" the feeder!

And there's always one (or five ) of these pesky guys nearby.......

 Sometimes a little mid-air correction is called for when there's no room at the Inn.

A nuthatch, just taking a break.

Perhaps the most patient of the lot....the Tufted Titmouse, seeming to indicate it's time for a refill!
Even my Guardian Angel statue seemed to have resigned herself to Mother Nature's fury!  It may not have been a blizzard here today, but it was a busy day for my feathered friends who never fail to provide me with hours of entertainment.  And that folks, is Life As I See it from my neck of the woods.  Don't forget....for a closer look at any photo, just click on it!  Hope you all managed to stay warm dry and safe out there today!  Till next time...........

You're So Quiet - Introvert vs Extrovert

Monday, January 19, 2015
For the's blog is brought to you by a special guest blogger - my hubby, as I recover from the flu.  I better watch out.....he's going to steal my readers ;)

You’re So Quiet!?

Have you ever heard someone say that, to you or another person, or said it to someone yourself? It’s usually expressed with surprise, implies that the person is wondering why you’re so quiet and suggests that they feel you should be more talkative. People have said this to me many times. A couple of times I've replied, "I'll work on it." The last time someone said it to me was at a party after I'd just finished a long conversation with someone else, but the person who said it didn't know that. As a lifelong introvert, I’ve also wondered why I’m so quiet and felt that I should be more talkative. I have no trouble talking with individuals but I’m more quiet in groups.

I have also often been asked, "What's taking you so long?"  In the fourth grade, I was placed in an academically talented program. After school I began the homework and after supper I continued but at bedtime the homework wasn’t done, so I went to bed crying. At nine years old I learned that the world was not satisfied with me being smart, it also wanted me to be fast and I wasn't. This was very discouraging. Since I'd tried to get the homework done without success, it didn't seem to make any sense to keep trying. I started coasting in school, doing just enough work to get by. 

Math was my best subject but my eight grade math teacher gave us a 10-minute quiz each week. Since I wasn’t fast enough to finish them, I got D's and F's on my report card all year. What do you think I got on the final exam? 100! I didn’t cram or do anything special to prepare for it. I'd done the homework and understood the material all year. We were just given a reasonable amount of time to finish the final.

In the novel A Step of Faith, author Richard Paul Evans wrote, "...every now and then, we find that one book that reaches us deep inside and introduces us to ourselves. And in someone else's story, we come to understand our own." I experience quite a revelation when my wife Gail gave me the 2012 New York Times bestseller Quiet - The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. After reading only a few pages I told Gail, "I LOVE this book! The author is talking about me!" I always knew there were other introverts but I didn't know the full extent of what that meant and just how much we had in common. Reading this book was emotionally moving because it validated me by explaining why I am the way I am. It showed me how all of the pieces of life's puzzle fit together, helping me better understand not only myself but others, as well. This book is a game changer! I wish I had this information when I was nine years old. 

About a hundred years ago, America’s population began to shift so that more people lived in urban than rural areas. With greater job competition in the cities, the traits of extroverts became the ideal, giving the traits of introverts less value. Consequently, I have struggled at times to be something that I am not, which left me feeling to some degree that there was something wrong with me. I felt like a stranger in a strange land.

Extrovert traits are certainly beneficial. I think that the image of football’s Heisman Trophy illustrates these characteristics well: focused on the external, outgoing, action oriented, favors quick decisions, works well in teams and has many friends.
However, our culture has also benefited from the contributions of those with introvert traits. Rodin placed his sculpture The Thinker on a pedestal so people could look up to the embodiment of these characteristics: focused on internal thoughts and feelings, observant, good listener, focused and thorough, independent and has a few close relationships.

Interestingly, Asian cultures and Sweden and Finland value introvert traits more. The Chinese believe that it is wise to be quiet. Here are some of the famous introverts:
Leaders: Moses - "I have never been eloquent. I am slow of speech and tongue." Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi - "In a gentle way, you can shake the world."
Entertainers: Steve Martin, Julia Roberts, Steven Spielberg.
Businessmen: Dale Carnegie, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates.
Writers: Emily Dickenson, Dr. Seuss, J.K. Rowling.
Scientists: Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein - "It's not that I'm so smart. It's that I stay with problems longer." 

Being an introvert is often considered the equivalent of being shy but shyness is not an inherited trait. It is a response due to fear of disapproval because you’ve failed repeatedly in  social situations. It can be unlearned. Both introverts and extroverts can be shy.
It will probably surprise you to hear that up to half the population is introverts. This is because extroverts stand out more because they’re more talkative and introverts sometimes behave as extroverts because it’s what’s expected of them in order to fit in.
What makes someone an extrovert or an introvert? Recent studies by neuroscientists using brain scans showed that extroverts quickly process lots of outside stimulation while the brain path for introverts is longer and more complex, involving areas that deal with remembering, problem solving and planning. Extroverts are energized by outside activities and people. Introverts get energy from internal thoughts and feeling and need time and peace and quiet to recharge.
So being an introvert (or an extrovert) is hardwired. It's our nature. It’s not a choice, an excuse or a defect. It’s like being right or left-handed. There was a time when our culture forced everyone to be right-handed. Try using your left hand with scissors meant to fit well in your right hand. It’s uncomfortable. Try writing with your opposite hand. It’s very difficult. This illustrates how introverts sometimes feel when they’re expected to act as extroverts and why they don’t always succeed at it as well as actual extroverts.
Individuals, parents and teachers need to understand these differences. Managers will gain new insight from this information, as well. Today’s work environments favor open floor plans over individual offices, multitasking and planning done through group brainstorming. However, introverts perform best when they can spend more of their time working independently and focusing on one task with few distractions. While extroverts thrive on lots of stimulation, studies show that the current approaches actually reduce productivity and increase errors for both introverts and extroverts!
In group discussions in any setting, introverts don’t think as quickly as extroverts, so it may seem like they have little to say. They may think of something later after the topic has moved on to something else and it’s awkward to go back to that topic. They’re not as quick to compete for talking time and spend more time considering what others are saying. I took a graduate course where ten of us sat in a circle discussing what we were learning. After several weeks I realized that I almost forgot one of my classmates was in the group because she was quieter than I was!
 When conflicts arise, introverts prefer to avoid them, while extroverts cope by confronting them. Introverts remain calm to show respect but extroverts express anger to show how much they care about the issue. Introverts feel attacked by the expression of anger and extroverts think that the introverts’ lack of strong feelings means that they don’t care. These misunderstood intentions further fuel the conflict and both introverts and extroverts need to understand each other’s approach in order to better resolve issues.

The importance of this new-found knowledge has led me to develop and deliver a PowerPoint presentation  with the help of my daughter Katie. We’ve given it twice to church groups and I’ve done a shortened version twice at a Silver Sneakers group. If you know of a group that might be interested, please let me know. I’m eager to share what I’ve learned. I look forward to the day when all introverts, like The Thinker, can be quite comfortable in their own skin.  If you're interested in learning more about this subject, please use the links below.  By following the first link (TED talks) you will hear a 20 minute talk by Susan Cain.  I'd love to have comments on whether or not this subject relates to you or someone in your life.  Feel free to  leave a comment below.  You may do so anonymously if you choose.


The Lost Art of Listening

Friday, January 16, 2015
I don't know about you, but lately I've noticed that in this age of high-tech communication, a very fundamental piece of communication seems to be becoming scarce.  People seem to be losing their capacity to listen.  Let me elaborate....  but first, let us examine the definition of listen:


: to pay attention to someone or something in order to hear what is being said, sung, played, etc.
—used to tell a person to listen to what you are saying
: to hear what someone has said and understand that it is serious, important, or true
(Merriam Webster)

Before the age of cell phones, texting, facebook, instant messaging and email, people actually spoke to one another.  We picked up a telephone and had a conversation with people.  We even got together with people, maybe over a meal or at each other's homes, and had a conversation that involved looking into each other's eyes.  If we had a question for someone, we'd ask them - in person or through a phone call.  If you wanted to thank someone for a kind gesture, we wrote thank-you notes.  If we had an issue with someone, you talked about it.
Nowadays, we're all too busy.  People are looking for instant gratification, an immediate response.  We abbreviate our words in texts.  We try to find a way to say what we need to say using as few words as possible.  We share our news on facebook - sometimes even big news such as pregnancy, engagements, promotions, news that would one day warrant a phone call, even many phone calls to all of our friends or relatives.  In all of these instances, people listened to what we had to say.  We answered the phone, we read notes that came in the mail, we made time to see people and share life's latest happenings with our family and friends.
While modern communication has its advantages, I think it has more disadvantages.  Sure, we can contact people on the spot through a text making sure they get our message, even if they're not home.  And that's convenient because it moves the "task" from our plate to theirs with the speed of striking a few the ball is in their court to respond.  Perhaps another advantage might be that the details of the call are in writing, say details of dates or times of meetings, etc....where a phone call might be forgotten.   But overall, I believe the disadvantages far outweigh the advantages and here's what I mean.  Today's methods of communication have pretty much taken all human connection out of the equation.  We communicate without much emotion or enthusiasm.  We're left to express our emotion with the use of exclamations points, emoticons, and acronyms.  People don't see our facial expressions, good or bad, and don't hear our tone.  It's easy then to misunderstand a person's reaction and can lead to erroneous conclusions.  Often we jump to conclusions, sometimes creating disagreements when there aren't any.  On the phone, we could clarify misunderstandings immediately.  Instead, in email or texts, even in a facebook post, we're sometimes left with minutes or hours of misunderstanding and confusion.   Also, when we are communicating in such a limited format, we actually talk less.  Think about many of you can relate to this.   You're at work and you are emailing with a co-worker about a task.  You go back and forth with emails and after several hours, several emails, you complete the task or understanding about the task and realize that if you could have just had a "real conversation", the issue might have been resolved in a matter of minutes.  Why?  Because when you speak, you can use several words, more expression and come to an understanding way faster than when communicating in texts or emails.  Yet today's society has minimized the value of face-to-face communication and made us all believe that this new, high-speed, high-tech communication is the "right way" to communicate, a more convenient, or efficient way to communicate.  In some ways, that may be true, but beyond the downfalls I've already mentioned, the worst result of this age of technology is the lost art of listening!

Have you noticed that people have become bad listeners?  Now, not everyone is a bad listener.  I have a husband (an introvert) who is always an outstanding listener.  I have some good friends who are also good listeners - all of them listen because we have face-to-face contact.  But.....we are losing our ability to actually focus and listen when people talk.  We are no longer accustomed to stop multitasking and give our attention to someone who is talking to us.   For example, if someone walks into our office to talk, we stop what we're doing and listen.   Not the case so much when we get an email or text.  We have gotten accustomed to checking texts and emails while we do other tasks.   We send emails - sometimes while we watch TV.  People don't pick up the phone like they used to to "catch-up".   Communicating has become a SOLO task - we talk and then we go about our business and wait for a response.  We need not sit there, look into someone's eyes or listen on a phone receiver, to actually hear a person's response.  Communicating is no longer a two-way conversation.  And then.......what is ultimately happening is that people are losing their ability to pay attention.  We don't listen to hear, we listen to respond.
We have added talking to our long list of chores that must be done and in our fast paced world, even that has to be done asap and crossed off the list.  When we do finally have someone on the phone or in front of us, our minds drift and we get distracted by the many things we need to do after this call or meeting.  Or in our constant quest to be efficient and save time, we finish people's sentences for them so we can move the conversation along.   If you've had this happen, you understand how frustrating it can be and how unimportant your conversation appears to be, like your listener's focus is not in understanding, but in getting on with the next 'thing'.    People don't make as many phone calls.  When given the option of picking up the phone or texting or emailing, we choose the option that requires the most immediate and least personal method, not because we are choosing to be impersonal or less friendly, but because we feel it is the most efficient method.  We rationalize our decision by thinking it will be less of an imposition on the person we're contacting because they can receive our call and respond when it's 'convenient' for them.  Today's high-speed communication is turning us into emotionless robots programmed to perform, but not feel.  An exaggeration?  Maybe but personal interaction is definitely diminishing in today's world. 
As much as I've made all of these observations and disliked them, I too have found myself to be a less than attentive listener at times.  I find myself distracted sometimes, multitasking while on the phone.  Sometimes even as a passenger in a car, or in a restaurant, I might be checking my email or texts instead of being a dedicated listener/observer.  It's a virus that has infected many of us and one that might warrant some conscientious behavior modification.
 Here's an idea:
- The next time you have a need for conversation, consider doing it in person or over the phone.
- Try to exchange one text encounter each day for one more personal exchange.
- Step back in time and make a phone call to a friend.  Spend some time really listening to what that friend has to say - without multitasking while you listen.
- Really listen....and let them finish their sentence, even if you do know where it's going.
- Use reflective listening - reiterate what they've said so they know you heard and understand.  This isn't just good practice in therapy sessions, but in all communication.
- Look into people's eyes.  The eyes are the path to the soul.  Last I looked, my phone and computer screen did little to endear me to those with whom I communicated.

So, as it says in the part 3 of the definition above - listen to hear what someone has said and understand that it is serious, important and true! 
Today I heard a sermon with a powerful message.  From James 1:19, "Be quick to listen and slow to speak and slow to anger.  In a world where we're all focused on being right, God's doesn't want us to be right to each other, He wants us to be right WITH each other.  How many times have you (and I) persisted in making our point, making sure we stated our case to someone, trying to convince them that we're right?  I know I'm so guilty of that.  Almost nothing bothers me more than not being understood, especially if I lose an argument because I am being misunderstood.  But what this sermon reminds us is that it's more important to be right with each other than it is to be right TO each other.  What good does it do to win an argument if in the end we walk away having hurt or offending the person who we were trying to convince.  We need to be quick to listen and slow to speak and slow to anger.  We need to be right WITH each other.  Isn't that what communication is really all about? 

Maria's Holiday Magic - aka House Beautiful!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015
For almost as long as I've been doing this blog I've been saying that one of the best parts of it is the way it introduces me to awesome people I might not meet otherwise!  Today was one of those opportunities!
 As much as I love taking photos, I don't make it a habit of photographing anything but for my own enjoyment.  So when my friend Linda told me she had friend who was looking for someone to take a few photos of her decorations and would I be interested, my first reaction was to say, "no".  Not because I don't love looking at decorations, but because my confidence plummets when I have to 'perform'.  Eventually I mustered up the courage and accepted her invitation and boy, oh boy, I'm glad I did.  I wouldn't have missed this for anything!  I only hope I came close to doing her home justice because these photos (if taken by a pro) could easily fill the pages of Architectural Digest or House Beautiful.
 The homeowner, Maria, is a woman of many talents - as you'll soon see.  A retired attorney, she is also a Master Gardener, crafter, and mom, as well as a talented, undiscovered interior decorator.  If she were looking for a new career, that would be it!  There wasn't a corner of her home that didn't look like something that was professionally designed.  Each room was inviting, cozy and tasteful.  When Linda invited me to do this photo shoot, she described Maria's home as something that could rival the store Experience, and she was not exaggerating one bit.
 Easily my favorite part of the house - as evidenced by many, many photos.
 Maria's built-in bookcases were designed and built by a company in Altamont and serve as the perfect home for her self-designed and handmade village.   Each little (and big) village cottage was made by Maria herself!  Unbelievable!!!  She even offered to teach us how to make one that will be a replica of our houses!  Talent, I'm tellin' ya!  Don't forget to click on any photo for a larger look!

 As you can see, there wasn't an area Marie left undecorated!

Even the staircase was decorated in style!

So many's just a few!

Maria has a collection of nativities - here's just 3.

Everywhere you looked, your eyes were met with something beautiful, grouped with just the perfect accessories.  I could have moved right in and felt completely at home.  I'd met a kindred spirit, who like me, can't get enough "Christmas"!  And what made it all so perfect was that everywhere you looked, you found a piece of Maria, whether it was in the numerous, aged ornaments on her tree, her handmade houses......everything represented a piece of the person who so skillfully brought it all together in one spectacular holiday masterpiece.  Although breathtakingly beautiful, it was still a perfect representation of the woman who created it, not just some duplication of a department store display.
The rest of her home was just as gorgeous.....including the upstairs loft, where I could have easily wallowed away the day.
Notice the paper dolls Maria mounted and framed!!

At the end of the day after delicious tea, cookies and conversation, it was time to go home, but just as were  about to leave, the sun streamed in making an already beautiful home glow with warmth, love and just enough "fancy" to touch perfection.   Thank you Maria for sharing your beautiful home with me and letting me share it with my readers. 

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