Filled with love: lessons from my classy grandma

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This is a photo of me, Gigi, my grandma and the doll she painstakingly made for Gigi for Christmas 2 years ago by machine knitting it.

My Grandma Dolores was one classy lady. She was effortlessly chic and cool to her core. She passed away this week, and I’ve been reflecting on her life and what I have learned from her. I decided that this year I’m claiming my Grandma as my Valentine, and showing my love for her by sharing some of her wisdom and beauty with you.

Dolores was glamorous and gorgeous until her last breath, she even made an oxygen tank and a Rascal seem totally hip. I’m not just saying that. She really did.

I’ll miss my Grandma so much, but she has been in pain for a while, and I know the life she has been living for the past few years would not be one of her choosing. Her example and attitude through those last painful years will probably be something I remember the most about her. She will forever be an example of grace under fire. But there was so much more to her than that, so I give you:

5 things I learned from the classiest grandma on the block

1. You can always look your best

Like I said, this woman made a motorized wheelchair disappear behind her tailored suits and handcrafted jewelry. Mind you, you would never know anything she was wearing was handmade, she machine knitted suits that looked like St. John knits, and knew every method of jewelry making under the sun. She wasn’t flashy or always shopping, she made and bought quality items and took good care of them. She always exercised, ate healthy, and had her hair and make-up done. I don’t think we should walk around like beauty queens, but I think there is a sense of dignity in taking care of yourself and making an effort to look your best, even if you have to wear an oxgen tube.

2. You’re never too old to learn something new

Dolores was ALWAYS taking classes. In her 70’s she was learning new sewing or knitting techniques, learning new games, reading good books and somehow always knowing about every culinary trend before it even was one.

3. Having a bad day does not give you the right to treat people badly

When I was high school I was even more of a spaz than I am now. I allowed myself to throw big dramatic fits and let my anxiety and perfectionism manifest as tangents and outbursts. But like any good crazy person, I saved all the crazy for those closest to me. When I was getting ready for my senior prom my grandparents came to see me and take pictures. I couldn’t find a shoe, my hair was ugly (it seriously was really bad) and I didn’t like my eye-makeup. I acted about like Ginger does, and threw a big fit.

My mom later told me that my grandma (she is my dad’s step-mother but is the only Grandma I’ve ever know on his side) was very appalled and shocked at the way I acted. She was disappointed in me. She hadn’t said anything, and she didn’t make a big deal about it, but knowing that I had disappointed and maybe even embarrassed her with my actions was agony.

It’s not always easy to be in a good mood, especially when I’m pregnant and my back hurts and I’m EXHAUSTED. And I know I get snippy and sassy. But over the years I’ve worked very hard to do what I need to do so that I do not act like that ever again. Snotty looks, tantrums, and being short with people are bad habits. Sure we all slip, but I believe that we can apologize and have the humility to say, “Please know I’m having a hard time and it’s not you.”

Even when my grandma was sick and in pain, and it was stressful for her to attend family gatherings, she came, stayed as long as she could, which was sometimes under an hour, and she was pleasant the whole time.

4. There’s always an occasion to use your fine china

There are 5 children in my family, and we are all close together. About once a month my grandparents would invite us to Sunday dinner, and my grandma ALWAYS used her nicest china. She served us on silver platters, busted out the chaffing dish and the presentation was always fantastic, as was the food!

It was something she took great pride in, and she wasn’t doing it to post on Instagram, a blog or Facebook. And she certainly wasn’t doing it to impress the 5 little brats spilling on her table cloth. She treated us like we were respected guests, and it made every dinner that much more special. I think with social media we can sometimes lose sight of doing beautiful things just for the sake of their beauty. She will always be a good reminder of that.

5. If you’re doing something, you might as well do it well

Even though Dolores wasn’t my biological grandma, (my Father’s mother passed when he was 16) I love that we shared a love of crafts. She knew how to do EVERYTHING. And she did it flawlessly. I remember when I wanted to learn how to sew she bought me LEATHER to make a skirt and said, “Well if you’re going to make something, you might as well make something nice.” Haha, incidentally I never really learned how to sew from her, and she made the leather skirt for me. But I’ve always remembered that lesson as I teach myself or learn new skills. There is something so satisfying in this day and age of “quick crafts” and the disposable, about making a few things (not EVERYTHING) that are really high quality and will last forever.

I am so grateful for the years I had with Grandma, and for her example of love, beauty and grace.

Thank you so much for letting me share some of these thoughts with you. I hope that you have a very happy Valentine’s day. Even if it’s not filled with handcrafted goodies, homemade cards, roses or fancy dinners, I hope you fill it with love. Call your Grandmas, and take a big hug and squeeze from me. MUAH.



  1. what a beautiful post. this brought tears to my eyes. your grandmother sounds like she was a very beautiful, brilliant, and downright classy person.

    my grandmother is a very gracious woman who is always learning… even in her 80’s now… and i am going to call her today. thanks for posting this.

    happy valentine’s day to you!

    1. thank you! You as well!

  2. Such a beautiful post. Grandmas are the best!

  3. Casey

    That reminded me of my great-grandma Ruth:) Thank you for putting something out there that is both real and thought provoking. She sounds like the kind of person I aspire to be, although I too have a hard time not let my perfectionism get the best of me.

    1. Haha, right? I can already see my daughter displaying the perfectionist gene! a blessing and a curse!

  4. Doll, this is just lovely. I’m so sorry to hear about your Grandma D passing, but I’m glad to know that it was her time and I’m sure she’s loving this tribute. Losing a Grandma is so hard, even if it’s expected — they’re special in a way that no other family member is. Dolores sounds rad, and I’m glad to know her a tiny bit. And thank you for the reminder of my own Grandma Olivia, who never said a mean word against anyone. Happy Valentine’s Day, Grandmas!

    1. Your grandma had a such a hip name :)! thanks love

  5. Lovely words Alison. I have a similar relationship with my grandad that just seems to get stronger every year and I learn a new lesson from him with every season. My grandparents aren’t spring chickens but every time I think of their passing my eyes fill to the brim with salty tears that I have to blink back and accept that the time will one day come but all the memories and life lessons will be there for a lifetime. x

    1. I know! It’s so surreal. Thank you.

  6. What a wonderful post! As someone whose tendency to quip is a blessing and a curse, I always need to watch being sassy to my favorite people. I love your blog because you are yourself at all times, and that’s what brings people back to your blog more than any tutorial could. (Nerd alert) I still remember you writing for square (so good! I was jealous!), and bottom line, you’re great. Don’t ever change.

    1. You CUT THAT OUT! haha square!? bless your heart. Your compliment means so much to me, in fact, i’m putting it in my media kit 🙂 thank you! xo

  7. Jessica

    So sweet. Your grandma was so sweet and love to see how you resemble her in so many ways.

  8. britney

    That was so sweet. I’m sorry for your loss but happy for you that you had such a charming woman in your life for so many years. She sounds like a real gem.

  9. Amy

    “Having a bad day does not give you the right to treat people badly.” That is something that is so hard for me to remember. I’m glad you had such a wonderful example of someone who, no matter what, gave people the respect and love they deserved. She sounds like a beautiful person in every way and what a lovely way to remember her this Valentine’s Day.

    1. thank you so much Amy!

  10. So sorry to hear about Dolores passing Alison – she sounds like a pretty rad grandma. Her life lessons have been absolutely ingrained in you and I’m sure you made her so proud. Thanks for sharing such great reminders. I’m off to remind all the teenagers in my classes at school!

  11. Debbie

    Beautifully written with loads of love. She was a classy example for you. Thanks for sharing her with us. I still marvel at Raggedy Ann. Love, Gigi’s Grandma

  12. Mary

    I’m sorry to hear about your grandma’s passing, but I’m so glad you got to have her this long and know her! My thoughts are with you.

    Funny you said to call your grandma I actually just got off an hour long phone call with my 91-year-old great aunt who has been the only grandma I have ever known.

    Happy Valentines Day – I love this holiday! -Love, Mary

    1. Mary I love you! You are one of the best examples I know of someone who keeps in touch and truly appreciates people. You are such a good friend.

  13. I am so sorry to hear about your loss, but so glad you shared what you learned from such a beautiful lady with us.

  14. Clara

    Thank you for sharing such precious thoughts and memories of your Grandma. The pain of losing such a loved one can only come from having shared all the goodness and love.

    Your website and blog inspire me and always brighten my day.

    Thank you for being you!

    Big love n hugs

    1. Thank you so much Clara, such a sweet compliment that really means a lot to me!

  15. Kimmy

    Sweetest post ever. Xoxox and love to all you guys

  16. Andrea

    So sweet Ali. Perfectly said. Xoxo

  17. Patsy Reed

    . . . genuine feelings outwardly expressed. Alison this was a beautiful, heartfelt tribute to your Grandma. Much love to you and your family.

  18. I’m so sorry for your loss, Alison. But thank you for sharing such sweet memories of your grandmother!

  19. Cherie

    Alison! This is so beautifully written. It fits her so well, and is exactly how we feel about her too. It has been so hard this week, and reading this has been such a blessing. She was so kind, sweet, talented, giving, an amazing cook, and definitely classy! Bless you for sharing this!

  20. Your grandmother sounds JUST like my amazing grandma 🙂 My grandma passed away a year and a half ago and it was quite difficult for me. But at the same time, I recognized SO many things around the same time that I just new were aligned with making her passing so powerful. Everyone in my family was experiencing their own painful hardship right before she suddenly passed away. And I think those things were meant to happen so that she could be her very best self, loving each one of us exactly how we needed to be loved right before she passed away. I really do believe all things are connected.
    I’ve actually been having a very hard time this past month, learning so very painful new about one of my sisters, my mom being diagnosed with breast cancer, and my grandpa almost dying and having to be resuscitated twice. But I try to remember all that my grandma taught me, similar to what you learned from your grandma, and I keep pushing forward. I drive my grandma’s old car still. She gave it to me 4 years ago. My grandparents live/d in Southern California and so I drove it all the way up to Seattle, WA when they gave it to me.

    Last night, Max was looking under the hood of my car to check out the front light that went out and all of a sudden a leaf fell out of the hood onto the ground. I looked at it and immediately recognized that it was a leaf from the tree that sits out in front of my grandparents house in LA. The shape, color and texture is such a sweet memory for me. It had traveled all the way from So Cal to Seattle and weathered the dramatic seasons for 4 years in the hood of my car and survived. As soon as I saw it I immediately started weeping.

    I felt like my Grandma was reminding me that she is always with me, she travels with me wherever I go, it isn’t always obvious but she IS here. I put the leaf in my car and I think I might even put it in a little frame to hang on the wall as a reminder that she is always with me. And I know your grandma will always be with you too. All of the things she taught you will act as constant reminders of her presence in your life. And what a beautiful and vibrant presence that is. <3

    xo Moorea

  21. This is such a beautiful post. It brought a little tear to my eye, thinking of my late Grandmother. She always used to make a big deal about dinners, too. Thanks for bringing back lovely memories from my own life.

  22. Alison this post literally brought tears to my eyes. My Granny died a few years ago and she was literally one of my best friends. Over three years has passed by and I still want to call her sometimes and grab lunch or make her a chicken salad sandwich (that was kind of “our thing”). I’m deeply in love with “The Sound of Music” and wear red lipstick every day because of her. I even named my blog after her.

    Don’t worry though–I kept the tears to a minimum : ) And they were happy ones, no less! I’m sorry that you don’t have Dolores’ physical presence anymore but it’s so wonderful that she made such a lasting and positive impact on you. #4 really struck a chord in me. I mean, I LOVE my instagram! But I need to do the things I do even without having some media platform to post it on.

    Thanks for sharing these wonderful things about your grandma with us! What a high note to my day : )

  23. This has to be the best blog post I have read in a very long time, I’m a new follower now.

  24. carla

    My 16 yearold son has a crush on honor blackman

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