Sunday, May 14, 2017

A Message from Heaven

Happy Mother's Day to all of you beautiful moms. It's always a bittersweet day for moms who have lost their own mothers and other important women in their lives. I think about them daily, but especially on Mother's Day.  When I was visiting New York this past summer, my sister showed me a surprise she found by accident that we will treasure for the rest of our lives.  I thought today was a great day to share it.

My sister Nancy, lives in our childhood home that she purchased after my dad passed away.  My mom had already passed a few years before.  We divided up treasured belongings, but by default Nancy ended up with a lot of her furniture and things.  We are both super sentimental, having lost our parents when our own children were very little. We were very close to our grandmother, who passed after our mom just a couple of years ago. She was 93 and had lived through a lot of history that we only read about in school.  Our mother and grandmother were also sentimental, often showing us things they had that had meaning for them--a gift from a friend, a handmade table cloth my father's mother brought her from Italy, old pictures of family, a piece of jewelry from a special friend.

One day, my sister was looking for something she kept inside my mother's night stand. My parent's bedroom set was now hers, but she kept some of my mother's things the way she left them. She opened the door on the front just enough to reach in. My mother's perfume scent permeated all the drawers, and she likes to keep the smell inside--one of the weird little things we do to hang on to mom's memory. She pulled out a tablecloth she had neatly folded in there that my grandmother had given her some years before when she left her apartment to go into a nursing home.  When she unfolded it, this is what she found:


Written in red on the envelope marked important papers it says, "Diane & Nancy,  I love you both dearly. Keep these and when your feeling blue take them and read them. I'll be looking down at you both  'I hope'! "

Inside, here are the things she found.  A letter from my grandmother to her mother written on July 4th, 1931.  She had just turned 10 years old.
It says:

Chicago Ill. July 4. 1931.

Dear Ma Ma
     How are you feeling Ma Ma don't worry.  We are safe(?).  We are having a good time.  But I miss you and pa pa.  We had a long ride on the train.  You did not want to give us any coats.  It was cold on the train.  Well don't worry we are save (safe?) home.  Say Good by to every body.  Theresa is having a good time.  Your loving daughter
                                                         Fannie La Russa

                                                         Theresa La Russa

                                                         (Kiss  Kiss)
                                                         (Kiss  Kiss)

My great grandparents immigrated from Italy to New York. They had to send their two daughters 10 and 4 to stay with friends in Chicago while they found work.  I still cannot imagine having to go through some of the things they did--immigrating from their home country, the Great Depression, World War II.  I feel very blessed when I think about it.  I can't imagine how my great grandmother felt putting her little ones on a train by themselves knowing she wouldn't see them for a long time. That is truly a mother's love knowing you're doing what you feel is the best thing for your children and your family's survival. I felt bad that they were cold on the train, but my sister reminded me that it was July, and was sure our great grandmother didn't think they would need a coat.

Also included was a picture my grandmother sent to my grandfather during WWII.  I remember how proud she was telling us that she did her own hair.


She also wanted to share with us a poem she treasured from her dearest friend, Mary:


She also had some inspiration for my sister and me:

My sister reminded me that when my grandmother passed in the nursing home, she had very few possessions. She had some clothes and personal care items, but the only "thing" she had left from her 93 years was a framed picture of herself and my grandfather dancing at my sister's wedding. My grandmother had a hard life, but had a wonderful husband, friends and family who loved her tremendously. This envelope of gifts my grandmother sent us from heaven will always remind me that in the end, love is all you need. 

In loving memory of my gramma,

Phyllis Schipani

June 19, 1921 - August 01, 2014

Thanks for reading!  I hope you all had a beautiful Mother's Day.   Come see what I'm passionate about --  Visit my webpage at to see my Treasures for Children & Home. Add your email to subscribe to my blog posts. 

Diane Graci
Noble Niches

Treasures for Children & Home
(704) 962-0089

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

My Christmas Collections

Anyone that knows me can tell you I have an obsession with "things" & traditions I remember from childhood--especially when it comes to Christmas. I have always collected. It is because my mother taught me to appreciate the history of things & the value of fine craftsmanship. She also explained to my sister & me the sentimental value that many of her collections had because of friends & family who gave them to her as gifts. Now that my parents are gone, I treasure my collections even more & am sharing them with my young daughters. I started my business to feed my obsession with vintage style & beautiful things. I'd like to share a few with you all too, & would love if you shared your collections. Do any of you feel the same?
 My mother's antique piece is from 1895. The front panels are of musical instruments and pull open to store sheet music or maybe old records. On top is a Christmas book from the same era with two little girls on the cover. I thought of my sister and I when I bought it.

Mom's Harold Gale store display Santa from the 1960's. We actually never knew he was a Harold Gale or intended as a store display. I only found out throught recent research. We just put him out every year and we loved him.

 The kids have their tree in the den and I have mine in the living room. It's a 6 foot white flocked tree decorated with Christopher Radko and Polonaise ornaments I received as gifts, as well as some of my moms old glass ones from the 40's, and other unique ones I've found.

 My mom's angel from her childhood tree in the 40's sits on top of my white tree. She has stayed in remarkable condition, probably due to my grandmother's OCD and mother's dresses that she made for her every few years. I took off all the fluffy tulle my mom covered her with and have her as she was originally.

  White feather tree on a little table in the dining room holds antique glass ornaments my mother bought for me as well as reproductions I've collected over the years. A Christopher Radko angel is on top.
My book case looks a bit gaudy, but I don't care. It has all my favorite things on it. The garland above holds some special handmade ornaments I collected when my mom had her shop back in the early 90's. We shopped small Pennsylvania artists and at the NY Gift Fair to find the most unique things.
This is Walnut Ridge Collectibles chalkware from my mother's shop back in the early 90's. The company used antique chocolate molds (like the one in back) to create the figurines and they are painted in beautiful detail and color and sprinkled with mica. My favorite 
The big red Santa is a German batting and paper repro, but the little Santa on skis is really old (one of mom's finds). The trees remind me of The Grinch That Stole Christmas.
 @ early 1900's oak buffet in my entry found in Antique Alley close to home. (My favorite place to escape and play--they have everything my grandmother had). The ceramic tree was always in the same place at my grandmother's house. I remember it as a little kid and loved how the little plastic bulbs lit up. Next to it is a real music box -- none of that computerized junk. On the top shelf is the old cardboard village (from the 60's?) that was under my childhood tree and some from my mother in law that were under my husband's tree. Next to the buffet is the coolest vintage repro wooden cutout of Santa. If you like it, check it out on my website at The colors are amazing.

 On my mantle is a collection of Mary Myers nutcrackers. She hand carves and paints them. I've seen them in the American Folk Art Museum shop in NYC. On the hearth is a fun reindeer in a rocking chair I got from Cracker Barrel. He rocks back and forth like a maniac while it plays Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer. It's awesome!
I love old bottle brush trees. This one is a reproduction. We had the whole cardboard village with these trees under our Christmas tree growing up. The Santa is a Nicol Sayre. I think I found this one in a little shop in Savannah, Georgia. The top comes off and there's a tiny candy cane inside.

 The kids' tree in the den is an 8 1/2 ft slim tree that spins thanks to the 60's tree stand I found on ebay. We had the same one growing up until one year dad broke it. Thank goodness for ebay! The tree is covered with stuffed toy collections from the 60's Christmas specials Rudolph (I collected from CVS with my best friend when we worked together), The Year Without a Santa Claus (found on ebay--so rare!!!), and Santa Claus is Comin to Town (thanks again ebay!). Also so happy to have glass ornaments, little foil cardboard drums, and pixies from my mother in law from my husband's childhood tree.

 I collect houses too. The lights are antique reproductions from mom's shop back in the 90's.
The most special Santa in my collection is this original signed Bethany Lowe woodland Santa. She made him with antique fabrics, fur, and suede shoes. His face is hand sculpted and painted and he's holding handmade ornaments.
This is a repro of a 1960's Blowmold we had at our house every year from when we were little. Mom threw it out. I love my mom, but she pretty much threw away everything--even while you were still using it. Seriously. Another reason to collect. I found this on ebay for $50. The original 60's one was auctioning for about $350. He used to hold a plastic shovel that said Merry Christmas. I recently saw one of those sell for more than $350 after a bidding frenzy. Oh, and those are my two beautiful girls peeking out on each side.

Thanks for reading!  I hope you all have a Happy and Healthy Holiday season.   Come see what I'm passionate about --  Visit my webpage at for Vintage Inspired Treasures for Children & Home. Add your email to subscribe to my blog posts. 

Diane Graci
Noble Niches

Treasures for Children & Home
(704) 962-0089

Monday, November 24, 2014

Magic Cookies

I was about 10 years old when Patti and Mike moved next door.  I can picture it as though it were yesterday.  My sister and I were on the swings in the yard watching over the fence, curious to see who our new neighbors would be. I remember thinking Patti was young and so pretty. Over the years, my mother and Patti borrowed cups of sugar from each other and traded recipes. I still remember Patti's recipe for peach almond dessert with cream (I must scour my mother's cookbooks and find that one).  My family's favorite though, were Patti's Chocolate Chip Cookies.

For years my mother, sister and I tried to duplicate them.  They were perfectly sweet.  They were thick and the texture was more cake-like than crunchy, but not soft to where they would crumble. They were full of chocolate chips.  Whoever was lucky enough to answer the door when she brought them might hoard what was left after devouring as many as they could eat in a sitting. Ours, on the other hand, were flat. sometimes soft and bendy, or if we changed it up, crunchy.  They were ok. Your standard home made chocolate chips.  We decided that the magic must lay in the cookie sheets she used.

I finally got Patti's recipe once I had moved out of state with my husband and two girls. Thanksgiving was coming and I emailed her to find out once and for all what we were doing wrong.  Patti and her husband Mike were always so good to my family, especially my parents when they were ill and needed looking in on.  They were always caring and generous.  My sister lives next door to them now and I pop in whenever I'm in town.  I was proud to have made her cookies (though not perfect, pretty close) and mailed them to her  in a year when she was not able to make them herself.  I hope she doesn't mind that I share her magical recipe with you all.

Patti's Chocolate Chip Cookies

In her words...

"No mystery really (if it IS the pans, I use Baker's Secret)--use the Toll House recipe on the Nestle's bag, BUT really use Ghiradelli chocolate chips (Nestle's is fine of course, but the other is a better quality chocolate) and increase the amount by 50%.  A good idea is to make two batches using three 12 oz. bags, so a bag and a half for each batch.  Also, lessen the white sugar and increase the brown sugar:  one cup of brown; half a cup of white, instead of 3/4 cup each.  One more teaspoon of vanilla. Use unsalted butter, and be sure to leave it out of the fridge the night before you bake.  That should do it. If they are still coming out flat, try a little more flour than asked for until you get the results you want.  Happy Baking."

Here are a few hints.  Drop by rounded TABLESPOON onto ungreased cookie sheets. Do not use foil. Use 2  3/4 cups of flour instead of 2 1/4.  Makes @30 per batch.

Wishing you all a Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving!

Thanks for reading!  Come see what I'm passionate about --  Visit my webpage at for Vintage Inspired Treasures for Children & Home. Add your email to subscribe to my blog posts. 

Diane Graci
Noble Niches

Treasures for Children & Home
(704) 962-0089

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Memorial Day

This is a picture of my incredible grandfather, Jack Schipani.  He was a soldier in the army in World War II.  He fought in the Battle of the Bulge and was wounded by shrapnel on December 24th, 1944.  He spent 2 years in a hospital in France. He nearly lost his leg and because he had no feeling below the knee, he wore a brace for the rest of his life. He never  talked about it, and never complained about his condition.  In fact, once I asked him why he didn't park in the handicapped space. He said there were so many worse off than he that he would walk because he could.  He eventually died at 88 years old from complications related to an infection in his leg. He was a husband, a father, a grandfather, a musician, a teacher, a friend and a soldier.  I miss him and his wisdom and humor every day and feel blessed that he made it through that terrible time. Thanking all the soldiers and their families this Memorial Day who have sacrificed so much for our freedom.

Thanks for reading!  To see what I am passionate about, add your email to follow my blog and visit  Noble Niches Treasures for Children & Home 

Diane Graci
Noble Niches

Treasures for Children & Home

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Happy Belated Mother's Day

I'm sorry for the belated wishes.  I hope all my friends in life and business, and all my customers who are moms had a beautiful day.  Why bother when I'm a week and a half late?  Well, this blog post has been on my mind along with all the other important tasks we moms keep in our heads and allow to spill out on to lists and sticky notes.  A never ending to do list.

I wonder how many other moms stress over the smallest details and who lets some things slide so they can accomplish the most important ones. And what happens when we let things slide?  Do we feel guilty we never made it to eat lunch at school with our kids more than once this year? Or worry that if we don't keep perfect records for our home business we'd have to pay more taxes?  Well, yes and yes.  It's hard to keep a good balance when you are a perfectionist.  I am not saying I'm a perfectionist to give myself a pat on the back.  I am a perfectionist more out of fear for what will happen if I don't get it all done, and done "right." With the stress of that,  I don't even always get joy and comfort from the fruits of my perfectionism. 

I read an article recently (see below link) about what you should stop doing so you can become more productive and lo and behold, there was my problem!  As a belated Mother's Day gift to myself (and my family who puts up with me when I'm not paying attention to them because I have a million things on my mind), I am going to do my best from now on to let some things go so I can do other things really well.  I never liked getting a million things halfway done anyway (or half-assed as my mom would say, God rest her soul and happy belated Mother's Day! Oh, and thanks for the OCD mom!). If I can "perfect" being imperfect, I'm sure I'll be a happier and more productive mom.

7 Things You Need to Stop Doing To Be More Productive, Backed By Science

Thanks for reading!  Come see what I'm passionate about --  Visit my webpage at for Vintage Inspired Treasures for Children & Home. Add your email to subscribe to my blog posts. 

Diane Graci
Noble Niches

Treasures for Children & Home
(704) 962-0089

Monday, March 17, 2014

An Italian Leprechaun?

There is an Italian version of a leprechaun.  I always wondered if anyone else has heard a story about them in their family.  One of my great grandmothers was Neopolitan and she called them minuscolo, which literally means miniscule (I had to look it up--I'm pretty sure that's the Italian way to spell it, but the dialect sounded more like moon-a-zhella).  

The way my mother told my siblings and me the story, she swore that elf left my great grandmother a dime every day in the same spot on her walk to work.  She would sometimes see him and he would stand there with his hands on his hips and laugh at her and tease her.  He said if she told anyone about him, he would stop leaving the money.

After a while, she couldn't help herself, and she told her husband.  Shortly thereafter, the elf appeared to her in her room and jumped from corner to corner laughing and laughing while she pointed him out to my great grandfather, "Look, there he is! Look over there!" He never did see the elf.  On her walk to work the next day, in place of a dime, she found a button.

Come visit my webpage at for Vintage Inspired Treasures for Children & Home. Add your email to subscribe to my blog posts.  Thanks!

Diane Graci
Noble Niches

Treasures for Children & Home

Saturday, July 14, 2012


      The dream of owning my own retail shoppe was one I had since college, when I helped out at my mother’s antique reproduction and decorative accessory boutique in Amityville, New York.  The years went by working as a teacher, administrative assistant and in medical billing at various insurance companies and doctors offices.  None of it was as fulfilling as finding beautiful and unique things at antique stores and trade shows to sell at at the shoppe (and surround myself with at home). When I married, I ran an internet sales business with my husband, Mike.   Although we were very successful and I enjoyed working for myself, I still had the “bug” to seek out and sell things that would delight my soul (and hopefully others).

         After having Julianna and Sophia, my two beautiful little girls, I began to scour specialty shops and magazines getting ideas for their nurseries and when they were ready, their “big girl” rooms. Creating spaces that bring comfort and joy was my goal when I finally opened Noble Niches inside Linda’s Childrens Shoppe, a local clothing boutique in Matthews, North Carolina.   Having a web shoppe allows me to work with people around the country offering the most exquisite things not only for children, but also for your home.  Please come back and visit often.  Because the site was recently born, I am continually adding new treasures.

Happy Shopping and Dream Big!

Diane Graci
         Noble Niches

Treasures for Children & Home