Monday, January 16, 2017

My Sunday Best: The Notre Dame Edition

I have a lot of resolutions for 2017: to eat better; to exercise more; to pray more and to strive more intentionally for sainthood, which is of course the whole purpose of this life on earth (and to remember in particular to pray to the patron saint chosen for me this year from the Saints Name Generator, St. Vitus--but more about that later); to write more (in particular, speaking of striving for sainthood, to write the amazing story of my dad's brave, heroic, and holy last weeks and hours on earth before his death on Nov. 25)...and the list goes on and on.  But included in the resolution to write more is the plan to blog more here at String of Pearls, as this is an activity that has brought me more joys and blessings (not to mention new Internet friends) than I ever could have imagined when I started out almost six years ago.

So!

Here I am again, not bleeding onto the page with the story of my father's beautiful death (I just can't do it yet, and I don't know why), but just posting something lighthearted and fun.  And what could be more fun than a "My Sunday Best" post by yours truly?  (I can hear some of you saying, "Um...I can think of a few things."  But here I go anyway.)
My husband and I flew out to South Bend this past Friday, leaving NH at oh-dark-thirty and arriving before lunchtime.  Two of his three brothers met us out there later that day, and together we worked to finish setting up the house my husband and his seven siblings bought recently (as an investment property, to rent out for Notre Dame football weekends and other university events).  So we landed at the South Bend airport and rented a Budget moving truck, and our first stop was Big Lots, where we picked up a queen-sized bed, an enormous leather sectional, a rug, and various and sundry other items that we couldn't have hauled away ourselves if we'd just rented a car.

So it was just me being "one of the guys," which is sort of my wheelhouse after raising five sons.  We spent the rest of the weekend moving furniture, hanging pictures, mounting television sets on walls, and shopping for different household necessities.  (The house has already been rented from Feb. 1 until the end of the summer, from a construction company working on a project in the area.  So right from the get-go, it's already proven to be a good investment!)  Then at quitting time, the four of us stayed up til all hours, talking and laughing.  It was a very productive, but also a very enjoyable, weekend.

One of the best things about being out at Notre Dame on a Sunday is having the opportunity to go to Mass at the Sacred Heart Basilica on campus.  It is one of the most breathtaking churches I have ever seen (and now that I've been to Europe a few times, tagging along with my husband on his working trips, I've seen some indescribably beautiful churches).

I wasn't wearing anything particularly wowser for Mass.  It was my usual uniform of black skirt, black tights, black leather flats.  In the winter I most often pair my black skirt with a sweater of some kind, and yesterday I had on a well-loved and much-worn royal blue cotton twinset.  But never mind that; instead, I thought I'd show you the jacket I was wearing, because it was a killer find at our local Goodwill (where I went shopping after Christmas with my similarly frugal daughter-in-law, Regina).  The brown quilted jacket is by Lands End, and on careful inspection it was obvious that it had never been worn. And despite the label and the pristine condition, I got it for a mere $6.00!  Score!  (The brown lace mantilla is one I made for myself.  It's not nearly as pretty as the ones they sell at Veils by Lily and similar retailers, but it's not too bad.)
My husband--who is a fashion photographer extraordinaire--snapped this picture while I was standing in front of the "God, Country, Notre Dame" door at the Basilica.  This is a favorite spot of ours, as it has been the backdrop for several military commissioning ceremonies in the Pearl family over the years.  Notre Dame has always supported our armed forces, and has ROTC programs for every service branch. I love that about ND.

And when you're at the Basilica, as a bonus you have a nice view of its next-door neighbor with that iconic golden dome on top, and the statue of the Blessed Mother perched up there, watching over all.  (Hi, Mary!)
Needless to say, I had a wonderful weekend, and a wonderful Mass experience at Our Lady's university.

But now I'm back home.  And now I need to head on over to Rosie's and see the Sunday Best outfits worn by some of the other bloggers I've come to know and love.  You might want to check them out, too.  (And you might want to check out the Saints Name Generator while you're at it, to see which heavenly friend has been chosen just for you in 2017.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Grace-filled Tuesdays (Book Club "Meeting" #26): Looking for Some Help

Tuesday's child is full of Grace...

...and Tom, and Sully, and Molly, and Theresa, and Erin, and a whole host of other characters who make their way onto the pages of my novels Finding Grace and Erin's Ring.

That's right, you guessed it: it's Book Club time!  Whether you've been here before or are a first-time member of the club, welcome to Grace-filled Tuesdays!

Today, I'm looking for some help getting the word out about my two novels, both of which I believe would make excellent choices for inclusion in the curricula of Catholic classrooms and homeschools, not to mention homes where people like to curl up with books on rainy afternoons or hide under the covers with book lights late at night, long after they should be asleep...
Published in 2012, Finding Grace was a recipient of the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval.  Classified as "YA fiction" but written with older teen readers (and adults) in mind, this deliciously lengthy novel handles difficult topics like underage drinking, teenage pregnancy, and abortion; but it does so without unnecessary salacious details and with great compassion for the human condition.  You can click on this review, by Tiffany, who blogs at Life of a Catholic Librarian, if you'd like to get a better idea of how this book might be just the right work of fiction for your high school-aged reader.  Here's a snippet of that review, in case you don't have time to read the full article right now:

This isn't a quick read, and for good reason. The book captures important moments in a young adult's life, and fleshes them out into a wonderful, relatable story that will grab your heartstrings. As an adult, this book made me nostalgic, and realize how much work I still have to do to make my faith a bigger priority in my life. Do we ever fully grow up? ;-) For young adults, I strongly suspect they will identify with the winningly charming Grace and want to try her approach to life with the saints.  [And of course, there's this, too, dear readers (my favorite part of writing the novel, if you want to know the truth!)]  I couldn't wait to see how things would turn out for Grace and her friends. Who will get the boy?  [Indeed--who will?  I made sure to write the story in a way that it would keep the reader hanging until the very end.]

I also appreciated this positive review, from a book-loving blogger (Rebekah's Weblog was her site) who decided to exit the Internet a few years ago.  Here's an excerpt, if you want a quick synopsis:

The cover of Finding Grace, in all its pastel sweetness, is a bit misleading. I had assumed (based on the cover, shame on me!) this was a book I would read ahead of time in hopes that my 9 year-old AnneMarie would enjoy reading aloud with me as we talked through issues. Not so. The topics covered include Grace experiencing the first hand pain of a Holocaust survivor as well as very mature teenagerly topics such as underage drinking, premarital sex, adoption and abortion. Pretty heavy. This coupled with the length of the novel make this in no way suitable to a young mind. I think perhaps high school is the earliest I would recommend this, and is not at all too youthy for any adult.

I don't recall reading any books with such a theme when I was in high school, a time of great introspection and soul searching for me, as I am sure it is for many girls, although society would not lead us to believe this is true with the typical characterization of the rebellious, bubble headed and fad-driven teens we are continuously subjected to. I know that I would have appreciated and benefited from reading Grace's story during that awkward time, just as I benefited from reading it now!
  
Finding Grace is a book that, although it has much to offer, has yet to truly find its audience.  After more than four years on Amazon, it has only gotten 20 reviews.  Research shows that reviews help a great deal.  So today, I'm asking for help in spreading the word any way you can.  If you read and enjoyed Finding Grace but didn't leave a review on the Amazon site, would you consider writing just a few words?  (Not to put words in your mouth, but even two would work: "Loved it!"  Ha ha!)  Or if you're a teacher or homeschooler, would you consider reading it to see if you think it would make a good addtition to your teens' literature curriculum?

If Finding Grace is too long a book for you, or if its themes are too advanced for the students/offspring/young readers in your life, perhaps you could check out Erin's Ring, a much shorter work aimed at readers middle school-aged and up.
Published in 2014, Erin's Ring is the winner of two book awards from the Catholic Press Association: 3rd Place in Books for Teens and Young Adults, and 2nd Place in Catholic novels.  This work of historical fiction is appropriate for even pre-teen readers, and its length of just under 200 pages makes it a great choice for classroom use.  However, like Finding Grace, although this novel was written with the hope of inspiring young readers, it doesn't ever speak down to its audience and can be enjoyed by adults as well.

I was humbled and pleased by this wonderful review of Erin's Ring by Catholic author and blogger Kari Burke.  If you don't have time to read Kari's whole article right now, here's a short blurb:

Pearl is an expert at creating authentically Catholic characters who are also multi-dimensional.  So, it comes as no surprise that it was the characters that drew me into the story.  I especially love that the relationships in their lives create a perfect conduit for their strengths and weaknesses to be revealed.  The relationships in the book are full of ups and downs, misunderstandings and insecurities, and, like the characters themselves, are just so real.  

Erin’s Ring is a beautiful love story but it’s not so much about the romantic love between a man and a woman.  Rather, it is about true love and devotion to the Catholic faith and to family.  With so many immoral worldly books on the shelves of our library these days, it can be nearly impossible to find wholesome reading material for teen girls.  This story fills a need for real Catholic fiction that never preaches, yet clearly delivers a message of hope and piety.  Erin’s Ring is exactly the kind of story I feel good about encouraging my daughters to curl up with.  In fact, it’s exactly the kind of book I myself enjoy curling up with!

Do Kari's words make you want to read it?  If so, today might be your lucky day, because
Bezalel Books has recently reduced the price of Erin's Ring from $11.99 per copy to $8.99, in order to make it more affordable for Catholic classrooms and homeschools.

And if you do read and enjoy it, could you post a few words on the Amazon site, pretty please?

Right about now, I can just hear you crying ,"What?!", a la Ralphie in the movie A Christmas Story,  "It's just a lousy commercial!"

Alrighty then, that's enough about marketing and promotion; let's have a real "meeting" and discuss book stuff, okay?

My husband (the most unbiased of all judges when it comes to anything having to do with his better half, I can assure you) tells me that what makes my books enjoyable is the characters.  He says mine are very fully-developed and real, and they make readers care about them.  (He isn't a professional literary critic, but he did stay at a Holiday Inn Express recently...)  So here are some Book Club questions for you: How important to you are the characters in a novel?  Do you need to care about them a whole lot; or can you be satisfied with not-so-believable/lovable characters, as long as the plot is fast-paced and action-packed enough to hold your interest?

That's it for now.  But I'll be back.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

A Grammy's Sunday Best

Hi there, readers!

If you're here, God bless you for checking in, especially when I haven't been keeping up my end of things lately.  I've been on a bit of a blogging sabbatical, and I have so much I want to share with you: the grief of losing my beloved father, the beauty of his very peaceful and holy death, and the joy of having every single one of our kids and grandkids under our roof to spend Christmas with us just a month after his passing.  It's a lot to write about, and I have a brain crammed full of thoughts and feelings to process and organize before I can do these events justice...but I thought it might be good to get back in the blogging groove today with a lighthearted "My Sunday Best" post.  So I'm linking up with Rosie to show you what I wore to Mass this Sunday.
Before I get started, let me preface this post by saying that I've been told by several people (when I've gone through occasional periods of "Why am I still blogging?" angst) that String of Pearls does fill a need, even in a Catholic blogosphere that's densely populated with ladies who are much younger, much funnier, much better writers, and much better evangelizers for our beautiful Faith.  Not to mention more fashion-savvy!  Because I am a woman of [ahem!] a certain advanced age, I've been reminded, I have a different perspective than the typical "mommy blogger": I've raised my five sons and [supposedly] have some wisdom to impart, having survived the many stages of child-rearing, entered the empty-nest years, and been rewarded with a growing brood of grandchildren.  I am that rarest of birds: the grammy blogger.  I'm not so sure about the whole wisdom-imparting thing; but I hope I've been able to show younger moms out there that although it's a bit heart-rending having all of your beloved chickies leave your nest, there are so many indescribably wonderful things in store for you when your children are grown and having families of their own.

Anyhoo, time to talk fashion.

The fact that I'm an older gal undoubtedly shows in my clothing choices.  I am drawn to longer hems and longer sleeves and loose, flowy tops.  Actually, my fashion style might be summed up in the phrase "full coverage."  I love layers with sweaters and vests; I love jackets and coats.  Swimsuits?  Not so much!  I would say that this is because I'm in my late-50's; but I was always sort of like this, even when I was young and toned and wrinkle-free.

In recent years, I've enjoyed flipping through my mom's vast collection of women's apparel catalogs when visiting her and my dad at their house...because my mother is 81 and we have very similar taste in clothing!  I've ordered some items from these catalogs from time to time, and now they show up my mailbox, too.  If you're under 40, you've probably never heard of Blair, but I'm always finding things I want in that catalog.  I recently fell in love with a Blair outfit and my husband ordered it for me for Christmas.

Here's the kicker, though: Blair sells clothing for us mature ladies, but the women who model it in their catalog are a couple of decades younger than most of their customers.  So when I fell in love with this skirt and top, I forgot that I'm not 30, six feet tall, and willowy-thin like the girl in the picture.  So...the Sunday Best outfit I wore today wasn't exactly a win on me.
Yikes!  Ugh!  When I showed my husband this side-by-side comparison, he said, "It's just lighting."  Yeah, that's it.  Lighting.  Otherwise this model and I would look almost identical.  (It should be noted that my husband always has my back; I call him "my back-haver.") 

It's possible that I should have ordered a size smaller, I don't know.  But I decided to push through and add a belt.  Surely that would help with the problem of looking extremely shapeless and dumpy.
Okay, the belt might be a slight improvement.  Maybe.  And then I wore a lace mantilla to Mass, too.  Because veiling is just something I've felt compelled to do, and it makes me happy.

My best accessory, however, was a silver Celtic Cross that my youngest son gave me for Christmas.  Back in October, he traveled to Ireland.  When he went to the Cliffs of Moher, he saw this necklace in the gift shop there and bought it for me.  I just love it (and him)!
The thing I thought was great about this ensemble (before I realized that it wasn't going to look all that great on me) was that it would be perfect to pack for airplane trips, because the fabric is wrinkle-resistant.  Also, it's loose and comfortable--which is what I look for in a travel outfit.  As a bonus, I figured I could mix and match the pieces with solid black and turn one outfit into three.  Like so.
I'm not really comfortable with the leggings, because the top isn't long enough.  I would most likely pair it with a black skirt, black pants, or jeans instead.

I have to tell you that half the fun of doing a "My Sunday Best" post is employing my husband as a fashion photographer.  He makes me laugh (perhaps you can tell from the pictures) and he actually works really hard to get the best shot of the clothes.  He would have more success if he didn't have such an awkward model to work with!
He thought maybe the hand-on-hip thing would help.  (Did it?)

Okay, that's it for this not-very-fashion-forward grammy blogger.  If you'd like to see more (and better!) Sunday Best outfits, go and visit a blog for my mom.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

I'm Back, and Life Will Never Be the Same

If you've been checking in here and wondering why it's been almost a month since I last posted something at String of Pearls, there's a very good reason for my hiatus.  On November 25, my dad passed away.  We had known that he was probably terminal, but were hopeful that his chemo treatments were going to buy him some time--even a year or two, according to the best case scenario.  On November 21, however, he got very sick and had to be admitted to the ER; that very day, he got the devastating news that his leukemia was not responding to the chemo and he had at most a week or two to live.
My older brother took this picture of my Dad and his bride of
60 years not long after he got the bad news.
Dad had previously thought he wanted to die at home, and we were preparing to be trained by hospice so that we could fulfill his wishes; but he ultimately chose to spend his last days at the hospital.  I believe it helped him to keep from getting anxious, having all that medical staff nearby.

However, it was anything but lonely there for him.  Every day, it was like there was a party in his room, with talking, laughter, food and drink.  He was always surrounded by loved ones: his wife, his sister, his kids, his grandkids, and even a few of his great-grandkids were there with him, so that he was never alone.  And it was simply an amazing time--joy-filled in its way, if you can believe that.  As one of my sisters said, it was like we were having a big Irish wake...but the guest of honor actually got to be present to party along with everyone else.
Dad's doctors even allowed him his nightly after-dinner glass of Tia Maria (which he hid under his tray whenever the nurses came around, even though it was written right on his chart that he was allowed to have it!).
Cheers, Dad!

Look at his happy smile.  My mom is by his side;
my daughter-in-law Preciosa and grandson G-Man are on
his bed.

This is our second-oldest son, who along with our middle son
was there to say good-bye as Dad passed on to the next life.
(Notice that Dad is resting his hand on Mom's arm; he never
stopped touching here when she was in the room with him.)
Dad ("Bigfoot" to his grandkids and great-grandkids) was completely lucid and fully engaged with those around him, telling lots of stories and even jokes; he kept his sense of humor until the very end.  "How are you doing, Leon?" a nurse would ask; and he would chuckle and respond with a wry, "I've been better."  Here's an excerpt from my Christmas newsletter, just to give you an idea of what my father's passing was like: A whole bunch of us (including his beloved wife, his three daughters and their husbands, a number of grandchildren, and three of his ten great-grandchildren) brought a lasagna dinner to the hospital and celebrated Thanksgiving with him: he smiled and raised his after-dinner glass of Tia Maria for a toast; he regaled us with stories of his first date with my mom and their short courtship before he asked her to marry him.  Then just hours later, not long after midnight, he died with a brown scapular around his neck as we stood around his bed, praying and laying our hands on him.  He was enjoying the company of his family almost to his last moments, and he did not suffer.  His was the holiest, the most peaceful death one could ever imagine.  You couldn’t script a more perfect passing from this earthly life to the eternal one.  God love him; he had a hard life in many ways, but was also very blessed and never took his blessings for granted.  I hope Dad’s enjoying a beautiful Christmas in Heaven, most especially with the father he lost when he was only six.  May he rest in peace!

Dad died one day shy of his 82nd birthday.  He really wanted to make it to the 26th, but God had other plans for his birthday celebration.  I have so much to say about my dad's last days and hours, so much I want to write down and post here because I feel it absolutely must be shared.  But I have been suffering from the most severe writer's block I have ever experienced.  There is so much to say, and I fear that no matter how hard I try, I won't be able to do the story justice.  But in the days to come, I'm going to force myself to sit in front of this computer and try to get it all down, while the details are still fresh enough in my mind.  I don't want to forget one minute of it...but actually, if I live to be 100, I don't think I could ever forget it.  The experience of watching my dad face the end of his earthly life with such courage and peace was profoundly life-changing for me.

I had our Christmas cards printed up months ago, because for once we were ahead of the game: we had a great family picture, with--miracle of miracles!--all 18 of us together (including all 7 grandchildren), since we'd had the forethought to have a professional photographer take pictures during our week-long family reunion this summer at our Oyster Haven retreat on Lake Champlain.  But I haven't had the heart to finally start addressing the envelopes and getting them in the mail.  Today, I am forcing myself to do so. 
And in the coming days, I will post more about my father and his extraordinary passing from his earthly life to his eternal one.  Until then, God bless you and yours throughout this holiday season and always.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Blog Blessings (Books and More Books!); and Dumpster Diving

Blogging...it's still a thing, right?  I hope so!

I just don't seem to have the time (or maybe it's the energy, or the mental focus, or a combination of all those factors) to write lately, in case you're wondering why things have been so quiet here at String of Pearls.  Life seems a bit too hectic and out of control these days--even though these are supposed to be the slow-moving empty-nest years, when we finally get to kick back and relax, because we no longer have school and sports schedules to keep up with and the care and feeding of five growing boys to worry about...

Wait, is that how it's supposed to work?  Because the opposite seems to be true, and my husband and I seem to be busier than we ever were when our five sons lived under our roof with us.

When we're not on the road, for any number of reasons (visiting our boys and their wives and children, going to Notre Dame games or family weddings, taking care of my aging parents as they become more and more dependent on the help of my siblings and me, checking up on and/or cleaning our VRBO house on Lake Champlain, etc.), we're home in NH, working to get our house ready to sell--after calling it home for the past 26 years. 

Phew!  Do you think we're tired?  We are!  (And by the by: there will be some fun posts in the near future, with before and after photos to show you how our house renovation projects are coming along.  As I write this, laminate wood flooring is being installed throughout our upstairs, replacing the sad and tired 26-year-old gray carpeting that my husband and I tore out ourselves.  Our bedrooms are going to be absolutely beautiful!)

Anyway, as hard as it is sometimes to find the time to write a new post, I really want to do my best to keep at it, because in the five-plus years that I've been a blogger I have received an inordinate amount of blessings.  Through this little blog of mine, I've made online friends that I truly cherish, some of whom I've had the pleasure to meet in person, and others whom I would love to meet one day.  And I've been contacted by folks who never would have known I existed if not for String of Pearls.

For instance, not too long ago I got an email from a young gal at Beacon Publishing, who'd stumbled upon my site while doing a Google search for potential Catholic bloggers who might make good book reviewers. What was really neat and almost unbelievable is that in a true "it's a small world" coincidence, this girl wrote that she had actually gone on a date with my youngest son, when he was a senior at Notre Dame and she was a junior, about a week before his graduation.  She went on to thank me for raising a respectful and chivalrous, Godly and genuine young man.  She said that I must be a proud mama (oh, I am!).  The purpose of her email was to ask me if I would be willing to accept a review copy of one of Beacon's titles, and of course I was thrilled to do so.  But it was what she said about my son that made my eyes well up with tears--THAT was the real gift.

Not long after I wiped my eyes and blew my nose, look what showed up in our mailbox (two books, not one!)--and this never would have happened if I hadn't shyly dipped my toes into the populated waters of Catholic blogging back in 2011, with the encouragement of my first daughter-in-law.  I am one lucky blogger, and don't I know it!
Stay tuned for reviews of these two books (Matthew Kelly's
Resisting Happiness and Danielle Bean's You're Worth It!)
in the near future!
So I do love blogging, both for the writing outlet it provides and the opportunities it gives me to connect with readers, other authors, and other moms with whom I share so many common interests and experiences.  Realizing that this cyber-community existed back in 2011 was life-changing for me, and I've loved being even a small player in the Catholic blogosphere all these years.  But about a year or so ago, I noticed that many of my favorite bloggers had made the switch to Instagram, and at first I didn't understand the appeal.  However, as my life has gotten busier lately, I find that I'm much more likely to 'gram than to blog.  It's so much quicker!  So I get it now.  (BTW: when there's nothing going on here at my blog, you can click on the Instagram icon on the side bar and check out my Insta-posts, if you're so moved.)

As if my blog blessings haven't been abundant enough, there have been Instagram blessings, too.  This social media phenom has put me in touch with people I might not have otherwise met.  One of them is Catholic author Stephanie Engleman, with whom I recently did a book exchange.  I sent her a copy of Erin's Ring (and threw in one of Finding Grace, for good measure), and in return she sent me her highly recommended YA novel A Single Bead--which looks SO GOOD.  I can hardly wait to read it.
Stay tuned for a review of this one, too.
So I've got some reading to do--which is always a treat for me rather than a chore.  The trick will be trying to find the time for such a guilty pleasure in the midst of the chaos and demands of my current life.  Right now, my husband and I have a huge dumpster sitting in our driveway.  We've already loaded it with the sad old carpeting that we tore out of our upstairs bedrooms and the outdated toilet, vanity, and tile flooring from our recently demolished upstairs bathroom.  Now we're going through our garage, basement, and attic and disposing of all the junk we've managed to accumulate in the past quarter of a century, items that are too mildewed or broken or rusted or worn-out to donate to charity.  Sometimes it's a bit painful ("You want to throw out those plastic sleds?" I ask pathetically, remembering the little boys who once sat on them, red-cheeked and smiling), but other times it's the best feeling ever ("I had no idea how we were going to dispose of those broken mirrors, and those remnants of construction materials from long-finished house projects!" I say, relieved beyond measure).

It's a process.  And it's coming along.  And I will write more about our renovations and preparations for the big move, I promise; but today, I just don't have the heart.  So I'll leave you with a few pictures that tell the story better than I ever could.
This bathroom was good enough for five growing boys to
share; but it needed a facelift for sure--it was hardly ready
for its HGTV close-up.

My husband and I tore up all the carpet in the upstairs
ourselves, and removed every tack and staple.  (Ugh!)  But 
we saved $1,000 on the new floor installation by doing so. 

First thing in the dumpster: that nasty carpet!

Try as I might, I could not come up with a good reason to keep
this catapult project that our youngest son made for his high
school Latin class.  (Note the TMNT cereal bowl--a
nice touch!)   So into the dumpster it went...sniff!!

For a family with NO baseball players in it, we sure had a lot of
gloves!  I was going to donate them, then realized that they
were covered with mildew and mold...so into the dumpster
they went, to join all the moldy, deflated footballs and
basketballs that we found in every nook and cranny of the
garage!!

Our master bedroom floor, ready for its make-over.


Oh, baby!  Aren't these floors gorgeous?!

Our whole upstairs is getting floors  like this! 
As if I didn't love this house enough already,
it now has the floors of my dreams!

So that's a taste of what's to come.  I'm going to post before and after pictures of all of our bedrooms; my husband and I are trying to give them a "Fixer Upper" vibe that will appeal to savvy house-hunters.  (We'll see how we do with that...)

Until next time, you can find me on Instagram.

Monday, November 7, 2016

My Sunday Best: The Usual, with a Dash of Panache (and Also Nerdiness!)

I'm linking up with sweet and adorable Rosie, a fashionable mom of five-soon-to-be-six little ones, over at "a blog for my mom"--to show you the Sunday Best outfit I wore to Mass this week.  (I was going to say this morning; but it's almost midnight right now, so by the time I get this finished and posted, it will actually be Monday.)
I was feeling like quite the fashionista by the time I had put my church ensemble together, I tell you.  I mean, it's true that I was wearing what I almost always wear: a black skirt, black tights, and black leather flats.  I could just about live in black skirts, truly; I have six of them, in different lengths and styles, but I think the one I wore this Sunday (a TJ Maxx find from years ago) is my all-time favorite.  It's swingy and comfortable and slimming, all at the same time.
I often pair my usual black skirt with a colorful sweater, and that's just what I did here.  This soft, cowl-neck beauty (east 5th brand, from JC Penney a few winters ago) is such a glorious shade of royal blue--the picture doesn't do the color justice.

But here's where the panache part comes in: I almost never wear belts; but for this Sunday Best ensemble, I added a wide, stretchy belt (a bargain from--where else?--TJ Maxx) at the waist.  I had forgotten I even owned this snazzy accessory; but we've been cleaning out all of our closets in order to rip up the carpeting in them (we're having new wood laminate floors installed throughout our upstairs--woo hoo!!), and guess where I found it?  That's right, it was buried in the back of my closet, where it just might have languished yet another 26 years if we weren't in the process of getting our home ready to sell!
As if the groovy belt didn't add enough panache to my outfit, I decided I needed a little bling, too.  So I broke out my 14-carat gold charm bracelet (the one filled with charms my husband has picked out for me himself as gifts over the years), which I don't wear nearly often enough, as the T-Rex tail tends to get snagged on loose-weave fabrics.
But it wasn't all flash and panache, glitter and gold; there was a pretty nerdy-looking accessory involved in my get-up as well: my Grace Kelly-style glasses, which I've been forcing myself to wear more lately (even though I don't think they are all that becoming on me), because my husband loves them so much.
I know large plastic frames are the "in" thing for glasses right now (it's like we're back in the 80's--an era not exactly known for its fashion "do's"!),l but I still can't help but feel nerdy in them.  Kind of like this lovable but very nerdy guy here.
Seriously, though, I do love to dress up for Mass.  And I know there are plenty of other gals who enjoy putting on their Sunday best every week, too.  Why, you could meet some of them if you head on over to Rosie's.  So off with you now.  And God bless you.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Grace-filled Tuesdays (Book Club "Meeting" #25): Giveaway Winners!

Hi, readers!

I haven't been here for a whole week.  Sheesh, I don't know why it's become so hard for me to keep up with this blog on anything even close to resembling a daily basis, which is the way I started out five years ago!

Or perhaps I do know...Let's just say that there's a lot going on in my life right now, making it so that I am rarely in my own home and able stick to any sort of regular routine.  Tonight, however, I am actually in my house in NH, after lots of time spent on the road visiting elderly sick parents and tall strapping sons and wee adorable grandchildren. (Not to mention Prague. Which was amazing.)  It's so good to be home!  But it isn't exactly relaxing: my arms and shoulders are aching tonight, after a long day of painting one of the many rooms that I intend to paint in the coming weeks as part of our valiant effort to get this house we've lived in for 26 years ready to sell.

BUT--

I do have time for a quick book club "meeting."
Especially since I need to announce the five winners of the Erin's Ring giveaway!  Thank you to everyone who helped me to spread the word about the contest on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter during the past two months.  I am more grateful than I can ever tell you, and I wish I had a copy of the book for everyone who pitched in.  But here are the winners:

Micaela Darr
Christine (Epiphanies of Beauty)
Aileen Searles
Amy Cattapan
Marlin Weenie

If your name is on the list, please contact me, using the "Email Me" button on the sidebar on the right, to provide a mailing address for your copy of Erin's Ring.

I am especially happy to announce the winners of this particular novel, featuring some plucky 19th-century Irish-Catholic immigrants who made a huge difference in the New England town where my husband and I raised our five sons, on this particular date; because it's not only All Saints day, but also my late mother-in-law's birthday.  She was an Irish lass through and through, with a father who came from County Cork at the age of 19 and never went back to the Old Sod.  (He is mentioned in the dedication at the front of the book.)  Mom's father died when she was only 10 and she missed him terribly her whole life; I like to think of them together now, in a place even more beautiful than the Emerald Isle.
Again, thanks to all who shared my posts.  Hopefully, this contest helped to give Erin's Ring some added visibility that it might not otherwise have gotten.  I dearly hope that all who receive a copy will enjoy it and pass it on.

And happy birthday to my beautiful, beloved mother-in-law, with her smiling Irish eyes.  She is sorely missed, never forgotten.