Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Staging Our House: the Blue Room

I told you in yesterday's post (about what we like to call "the Irish Room") that we have names for all of the bedrooms in our NH house, which we are in the process of selling after 26 years.

The smallest of the four bedrooms was originally occupied by sons #3 and 4 after we first moved into the house.  There was really only enough space in there for a bunk bed and a dresser that they shared, and also a little bookshelf filled with books and toys.  But it was cozy and they loved it.

Once son #5 came along and then graduated from sleeping in a port-a-crib by his mom and dad's bedside, we moved his crib into that small bedroom.   Sons #3 and 4 relocated to the big room across the hall where the two oldest boys had been sleeping, and sons #1 and 2 moved into what eventually became "the Irish Room."  (I forgot to tell you yesterday that before it was decorated with a Celtic flair, it was all boy, with shelves packed with trophies and other sports memorabilia--and you could hardly ever see the carpet, because there were usually piles of clothes all over the floor!)  But the switching around wasn't over yet.  Our baby didn't like being the only brother without a roommate, so as soon as he was old enough to sleep in a bed, he moved into "the Triple" with sons #3 and 4 and his little bedroom was from that point forward a dedicated guest room, kept ready for occasional visits from grandparents or other friends and family.

Once it was deemed a guest room, I painted this little bedroom a vivid Wedgewood blue color and we purchased a queen-sized bed for it.  For many years, it had a sponge-painting effect (everybody was sponge-painting in the 90's!) over the blue paint; but not too long ago, I repainted it with what I thought was a more subtle-looking shade of blue.  So here it is, "the Blue Room," before staging to sell.

And here's the "After" version, with the new wood laminate floors, a fresh coat of cream-colored paint, and considerably less clutter.

I think making our house--which was once a rather busy, and very colorful, canvas that chronicled our life as a family--into more of a blank slate must have helped the buyers to see its potential and to imagine themselves moving their own things into the rooms.

I have more makeovers to share.  Stay tuned!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Staging Our House: the Irish Room

We're like the White House around here in our NH house: we've given our bedrooms names. There's the Master (but everyone has one of those, so that doesn't really count).  But there's also the Blue Room, cleverly named for the paint color I put on the walls shortly after we moved in; the Irish Room, named for the theme decorating I did in there once our two oldest boys hadn't occupied it for a few years and it became a dedicated guest room for married sons; and then the Triple (now called our youngest son's room, because for many years it was shared by three brothers, but in the end it was his and his alone).

Also, we've always had lots and lots of stuff on the walls of every bedroom (in fact, on the walls of every room, period) in this house.  I was into the "gallery wall" idea before I even knew that was a thing.  I think I invented the gallery wall, if you want to know the truth.  Or I think my mom did, and then when I grew up and got a house of my own, I decided I would try to take her penchant for plastering the walls with family pictures, decorative plates, and assorted memorabilia to a whole new level.

For example, check out the walls of our dining room (before we got the house ready to sell).  Not only is every bit of wall space occupied by framed family photos, but there are also wallpaper borders-- not only above the chair rail, but up near the ceiling, too, for double the dated fun!
Anyway, after finally getting on board the HGTV train just a couple of years ago (and learning about things we'd never heard of before, like shiplap, travertine, and subway tile), we realized that if we ever decided to sell our house, we were going to need to make a whole lot of changes so that it would appeal to today's discriminating buyers.  (Because one man's "Isn't it neat to walk around a house and see a family's entire history displayed on the walls?" is another man's "Oh my goodness these people have a problem, and I think we need to call the producers of 'Hoarders'!")

So the order of the day was to pare down and simplify every room.

Today I'll show you our Irish Room makeover.  Here's the "Before" shot, with the old gray carpet, the knickknack shelves filled with Irish-themed bric-a-brac, and the Irish flag window toppers.
My favorite detail in this room: the flying squirrel I painted on the window
frame, after we had one sneak into our house one night via the chimney and
I ultimately corralled him in this bedroom until animal control could get there
the next morning to remove him!
And here are the "After" shots, with the new laminate hardwood floors, simple white sheer curtains, and considerably less clutter.  (The room has lost its Celtic flair, but I have to admit that it is so much prettier.)

Note that the flying squirrel is still perched over that window;
I haven't had the heart to paint over him just yet!
Unfortunately, getting your house ready to sell means stripping it of most of its personality, of most of the items that make it uniquely "yours."  But perhaps that's a good thing--because even though it looks more HGTV-ready now, this room doesn't look like our Irish Room anymore; and that will probably make it easier to leave it behind.

I'll be back with more room makeovers in the coming days or weeks!  (Teaser: the Blue Room is no longer blue!)

Sunday, February 19, 2017

What We All Wore Sunday (Princesa's Get-up Takes the Cake!)

I'm blogging for the second day in a row, which hasn't happened since...since I can't remember when.  This is cause for a celebration, I think--so OPEN THE CABINETS!   (Sorry, if you are not a Pearl you will not get that reference; but here's a very old post, written back when I was a newbie blogger, that explains why we use that phrase in place of, "Woo hoo, time to party!"  It's a short and kind of humorous post, if you're interested in clicking on over to read it.)

Anyway, today I'm joining Rosie at a blog for my mom, for one of my very favorite blog activities: the "My Sunday Best" link-up.
I don't have a whole lot to show you as far as my Sunday fashion choices.  Today, I wore what has essentially become an almost daily uniform for me: a black skirt that I've had for eons, purchased at TJ Maxx; black opaque tights (great varicose vein hiders) from Walmart; and my favorite comfy black leather flats.  On top: a hot-pink cotton twinset from JC Penney (which I've also had for eons), accented by the gorgeous silver Celtic cross that my youngest son bought when he was visiting the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland last fall and gave me this past Christmas.
You don't need to see the bottom part of my outfit in this awkward selfie snapped in the kitchen of my husband's childhood home.  There's just a lot of black going on, per usual.  I am a creature of habit (a nice way of saying that I'm a bit on the boring side).

You know who really did make a splash this Sunday with their Mass ensembles, however?  That would be son #2 and his little namesake (and virtual mini-me), who were looking extremely dapper in matching powder blue.
When my daughter-in-law Ginger texted this picture to us a couple of hours ago, I thought, "Oh, this is too good not to share!"  So with permission, here he is, our adorable Junior, wearing a John John Kennedy-inspired romper and round-collared shirt.  I love it when wee lads are dressed just so, in delightfully vintage-looking styles; I think my grandson looks like a little British prince in this get-up.  I also love it that his dad has recently made a commitment to wearing a suit to Mass every Sunday, complete with a button-down shirt and tie.  My hubby and I decided years ago that we wanted to get dressed in our Sunday Best every week, and he started wearing a suit coat and tie while I started wearing a skirt or dress.  We are big fans of the idea of putting on your best outfits to attend the most important event of every week, Sunday Mass.

Another one of my VA grandchildren was sporting a priceless outfit last Sunday, when we were down visiting so that we could attend a big party in honor of her first birthday.  Princesa, the daughter of son #3 and Preciosa (and the younger sister of G-Man), wore the best thing she could possibly wear when it was time to dive into her smash cake: she wore her birthday suit, accented by a sweet felt crown made especially for the occasion by her mom and her maternal grandmother.
Princesa had a lovely dress on earlier, before this picture was taken; but I think this outfit is the real winner.

The smash cake was a bit of a winner, too.  It was my one contribution to the birthday festivities, and I was determined to get it right. 

My first effort was a Pinterest fail, as you can see.
But I posted the photo of my epic failure on Instagram and got some wonderful advice about Wilton icing tips from one of my best online buddies.  So the second try was much more successful.
Just looking at the above photos of two of our little VA darlings convinces me that, although it won't be easy to leave our home in NH, we are doing the right thing by moving closer to them.  The next time one of them has a birthday, we won't have to head to the airport and spend half the day getting to the party; it'll just be a short drive by car.  Another reason to open up those cabinets, folks!  (Also, being able to let your little one eat her cake while stripped down to a diaper, sitting outside, in February?  There are going to be some very nice things about living in a southern climate!)

Okay, before I go I just have to share one more picture of Junior where he's absolutely killing it fashion-wise.
I can't take it.  I can't.
And now if you'd like to have your cake and eat it too (am I trying too hard to make this post cohesive?),  head on over to Rosie's for more Sunday fashion talk. 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Serendipity, and Letting Go

I'm dusting off the old blog today.  Lately, I've spent a lot more time over at Instagram, where you can snap a quick picture and add a mini-post and be done in a matter of minutes.  Easy peasy. (As I've said before, I can see now why so many bloggers have made the switch to being predominantly 'grammers.)

But as archaic as blogging might seem these days, it is still my favorite form of social media.  It is still the outlet that gives me the most pleasure, writing-wise.  And I am determined to keep this blog of mine up and running, as long as there is even one reader out there who cares to stop by.  (And I know there will always be at least one: hi, my better half!)

If you've come here before, you probably know that after 26 years of living--and raising five boys--in our NH home, my husband and I have been thinking about selling it and moving closer to some of our kids and grandkids.  We have three sons who have settled in VA with their wives, two in one city and another one just a couple of hours away from them.  They have been not-so-subtly hinting for a while now (there might have even been a power point presentation created for us, complete with heart-tugging photos and declarations of love; but I digress) that they would sure like it if we moved close-by--and reminding us that if we did so, we could see 3/5 of our children and 1/2 of our grandchildren on a regular basis without having to get on an airplane.  It does make sense: it would cut our travels down considerably, if we didn't need to fly to see the VA gang; and it would make it so that our other two sons (one in WI, the other currently stationed in Germany) could see more of their family members when they come home to visit dear old mom and dad.

We went back and forth on this, even though it did seem to be the logical next step once all of our boys grew up and it was obvious that they wouldn't be returning to settle in New England.  We were constantly traveling to see all of them and were hardly ever home anymore anyway, we rationalized, and they were only able to get home on rare occasions.  What was the point of keeping this big house for the two of us?  However, one stumbling block has been that we are mightily attached to the cozy white Colonial that we thought might be our "forever home" and into which we have put so much blood, sweat, and DIY tears over the years. Intellectually, we know that this house doesn't fit our lives that well anymore; but emotionally--well, that's a different story.
I mean, we were slowly but surely coming to the conclusion that we would sell it; but we thought we might take six months to a year to make the break.  We started the "getting ready to move" process by ripping out the 26-year-old builder's grade gray carpet that was original to the house shortly before last Christmas, and replacing it with beautiful wood laminate flooring throughout the upstairs.  We also decided to update the extremely dated upstairs bathroom that our boys had shared growing up.  While these projects were being completed, we rented a dumpster and started the arduous process of tossing out all the construction debris and lots of other junk that when push came to shove was not going to make it into either the "keep" or "donate" piles.

Stuff like this.

Away with you, ratty old carpets, broken Adirondack chairs,
and crusty, mildewy baseball gloves!

So much junk!  (But I admit to being a little torn about tossing
those stinky old lacrosse pads on top.  Sniff!) 
We pretty much filled a huge dumpster, so you would think that afterward we would find ourselves clutter-free and junk-free, would you not?  Well, you would be wrong!  (But more about that in a future post.)


So in preparation for a sometime-in-the-near-but-not-too-near-future move, we started getting a whole lot of work done around the house.  We had those glorious floors put in upstairs; I freshly painted most of the rooms and removed the last of my 80's-era wallpaper borders.  (Yes, I liked wallpaper borders once upon a time, I admit it!  Don't judge me!)  And my husband went into handyman mode, doing demo work on the bathroom, tiling the floor, and putting in a new vanity, mirrors, and light fixture.  (We also had a new tub/shower unit installed.)
Our house was starting to look almost pretty enough to put on the market, but we weren't really there yet. We were looking at a lot of VA listings, but just for fun, with the vague idea of buying a house there sometime down the road. But you know what?  If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.  Because some really crazy things happened to us--things that can only be taken as signs that we were meant to move, and meant to do it now.

We flew down to the DC area on inauguration weekend to visit son #2 and his family, and that Saturday, on a lark we went to look at one of the houses that had caught our fancy online.  Our son and his wife (and their one-year-old boy) drove over to look at the house with us, and we just loved it.  The price was right, it was located exactly in the middle of the two cities where our children live, less than an hour from each...maybe, we thought, we should make an offer?  But was that insane?  We weren't even ready to put our house on the market yet--how could we buy a new one?  Could we rent the new house out until we were ready to make the move south?

We returned home to NH and went through the mail that had been delivered in our absence, and there was a letter from a local real estate agent in the pile.  She said she had clients who were longtime residents of our town but had always wanted to live on our street, and she wanted to know if we were thinking about selling.  (Also, these people were ready to pay in full.  In cash!)

Everyone on the street got this same letter; but still, it seemed like some kind of sign to us!  So we called the agent and arranged to have her come and look at our house.  She gave us a few suggestions--pare down the books and knickknacks (especially the porcelain dolls!) on the shelves, put away the countertop appliances in the kitchen, and give the dated master bath the update we'd been planning to give it.  She told us that if we could do this as quickly as possible, that would be best, because if we waited too long her clients might start looking elsewhere.

Meanwhile, we decided to be bold and put in an offer on the VA house.  For a while, it looked like we wouldn't get the house; we were outbid and decided we wouldn't go any higher, so we bowed out of the race.  But the sellers ultimately accepted our offer, because they were in a hurry to move and ours was the only one that came without contingencies.  Okay, we thought; we must have been meant to get that house.  But what were we going to do if our NH house didn't sell?

Well, we went into hyperdrive getting it ready to show.  I cleaned and painted and purged and staged.  Here are photos of the built-in shelves on either side of the fireplace in our living room.  (They're still pretty busy shelves, but can you see how much worse they were in the photos on the right side?)

While I was playing (poorly) at being Joanna Gaines, my husband was busy tiling our master bathroom floor and putting in a new vanity.  We got the house looking showcase-ready in record time, and we arranged for the potential buyers to come over and see it on a Saturday morning (last Saturday morning, to be exact) when we were going to be--where else?--in VA, for our granddaughter Princesa's birthday party.  That same day, we drove over to our new house with sons #3 and 4 and their wives, as they hadn't seen it yet.  As we were getting close, our real estate agent called to say that the people who'd been shown our house definitely wanted to buy it--and not only that, they wanted to offer us the full asking price!  So without even listing it, our house has been sold.  We got out of the car at the new house and told our kids the news, and we all marveled that things were falling into place so beautifully.  Serendipity is what I think they call it.

So life is good, but my head is spinning a little.  We've had to do so much work in such a small amount of time; and yet there is still so much to do.

Perhaps you can see why I've had trouble blogging lately.  Not only have I been very busy, going through my attic and storage spaces and trying to figure out what we will take and what I must finally let go of, but I have also been somewhat emotionally overwhelmed.  There have definitely been tears.  Although I know that this will be the best thing for my husband and me and for our family, it's really, really tough getting ready to say goodbye to a house that has nothing but happy memories in it.  It contains so much of our history as a family within its walls.  For instance, there's this.
If you look very closely, you'll see a faded ink stamp on one of the bricks of our family room fireplace.  When we were just down in VA, son #4 reminded me about it and said he'd looked to see if it was still there when everyone was here for the holidays. He told me that he remembers that they got Jurassic Park ink stamp kits in their stockings one year, and that the brother just above him in age promptly stamped the brick with that picture of a velociraptor's head.  I LOVE it that that mark is still there, and that our 29-year-old son looked for it the last time he was home.

I have so many blog posts in me, you wouldn't believe it.  Great renovation posts, with "before" and "after" pictures of our bathrooms (they are gorgeous now!).  Posts about preparing your home to sell.  Posts about the angst a mother feels about tossing out any item from her children's past that has a happy memory attached to it, no matter how useless that item has become.  Posts about finally learning to let go, and to feel peace about it. 

The other day, I was finally able to let go of some of my boys' lacrosse helmets.  (Some, not all; I'm not crazy, you know.)  I brought three of them over to Goodwill, along with a load of other stuff.  But you know what?  Goodwill doesn't take old used sports helmets.  They aren't up to code anymore, their integrity might be compromised, they might have hidden cracks.  It's too bad that I didn't just donate them a decade ago, when some young lacrosse player could have put them to good use.  But unfortunately, I didn't.
Note the floors: aren't they awesome?  They sure beat the worn-out carpet we
used to have!

So we had five of those helmets in the attic.  Now we have two, and three of them are on their way to the dump.  But at least I have this picture to remember them by.  And I'm taking pictures of other sentimental items, too--a technique for holding onto things without holding onto them, which I've found to be really helpful while going through this painful process.  So that's another post I'll be working on, too.

I have so many things to share here.  I will be back.  Hopefully sooner rather than later. (But in the meantime, you can check out Instagram for more about our house projects and our move.)

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Happy Belated National Chocolate Cake Day!! And National Cake Day!! And Birthday!!

So I was catching up with my blogging friend Madeline over at A Dash of Snark this morning, and I realized that I had missed a national holiday without even knowing that it existed.  There is a holiday known as National Chocolate Cake Day!!  True story!  And I missed it!!
(Am I the only one who didn't know that this perfect excuse for baking one of the best treats a sweet tooth ever tasted even existed?  Did everyone else know about it and not tell me?  Were you keeping it from me because you wanted to help me finally start and stick to the "21-day fix" healthy eating program that is on my long list of grandiose and ambitious resolutions for 2017?)

Well, I Googled "National Chocolate Cake Day," and I found out that it was Friday, January 27, 2017.  That got me curious to know if there was also a National Cake Day for all kinds of cakes, so I Googled that (yes, that's how I spent my morning: Googling national cake holidays!); and it turns out this is a holiday as well--and it was last celebrated on Saturday, November 26, 2016.  Who knew?!  What's so sweet to me is that my dad's birthday is November 26; what's more, he died on November 25, 2016, one day shy of his 82nd birthday, which he really wanted to live to celebrate.

Well, I know now what I have to do: I'm going to bake a cake today in honor of Dad's birthday, and I'll start my "21-day fix" tomorrow.  (Yeah, that's it: tomorrow.)

So...what kind of cake to bake?  There are so many great choices!  My go-to, however, is always a golden cake (made with butter instead of oil), topped with homemade buttercream frosting.

And it just so happens that I have another great excuse, aside from Dad's birthday (and of course, the important national holiday that I missed), to bake such a cake.  In February, my husband and I are heading down to VA to celebrate the first birthday of our little granddaughter, Princesa.
And I was asked if I would be willing to make her a "smash cake" for the party, which will be a royal affair fit for a princess if I know her other grandmother (who could seriously start a party-planning business, she's that good at it).  My answer of course was, "Would I ever!"

So this is the kind of cake I'm going to try to make for Princesa's big day, using 6" round pans.
As soon as I can get out to the grocery store for baking supplies, I'm going to practice by making a prototype of this little beauty.  And then my husband and I are going to do some practice eating of the cake, I believe.  Just so we'll be up to speed for Princesa's birthday.

Yes, I want to "fix" my bad eating habits.  But life is too short...and I also believe that every now and then, I just need to
(P.S.--Perhaps I'll post a picture of my practice smash cake tomorrow...even if it's a "Pinterest fail"!)

Sunday, January 29, 2017

My Sunday Best: Accessorizing!

Here I am, again, talking clothes and shoes and hats and whatnot.

That's right, it's another "My Sunday Best" fashion post, and I'm linking up with sweet Rosie at a blog for my mom to show you what I wore to Mass today.
So...I guess I'm becoming a fashion blogger.  And String of Pearls is becoming a fashion blog.  Mmm hmmm.

Yeah, I know. That was a good one.  But if you're finished laughing at with me, I'll continue now.

As you might have surmised from previous fashion link-up posts, I favor wearing some kind of head covering while in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.  Normally, I wear a lace veil or mantilla.  But sometimes, I wear a hat.

Today, I donned a boiled-wool cloche that my daughter-in-law Regina had specially made for me at the greatest online craft store in the world, Etsy.  (And no, this is not a sponsored post!  You're welcome, Etsy!)  This extremely lovely one-of-a-kind hat was a Mother's Day gift from her and my oldest son a couple of years ago.
Regina knows me well; she knows how much I love vintage-inspired styles like this one.  She also knows how much I love the blue and gold color combination--thus her choice of fabric for the decorative band (making this hat the perfect thing to wear to a Notre Dame football game on a chilly fall day).
I must have a slight allergy to wool, because when I wear it I always get itchy after awhile.  But this hat is fully lined with high quality cotton fabric, and it is exceedingly comfortable to wear.
I'm not even going to show you my Mass outfit, because it's just too boring: the usual black skirt, black tights, and black leather flats, topped with a bright-colored cardigan sweater.  This is seriously a uniform for me, practically.  You don't need to see it.  Today, it's all about showing you my awesome accessories instead.

Aside from the hat, I wore a pair of Alex and Ani stackable bracelets that are special to me.
I have six of these popular bangle bracelets, and they were mostly gifts.  The one with the wing charm on it was given to me by my older brother's wife back in November, just before my dad's wake and funeral.  (She gave my mom and two sisters the same bracelet.)  Whenever I wear it, I think of Dad and pray that if he isn't there yet, he will soon be among the angels and saints.  The one with the Miraculous Medal on it is actually one I bought for myself.  (I have trouble resisting when it comes to images of this particular devotional, and I consider this bracelet well worth the $30-ish price tag.)

So that's it for me today.  I may not be the most fashion-forward lady on the planet; but I think I may be one of the most lavishly blessed, and I loved visiting God's house today wearing tangible reminders that there are people in this world--and in the next--who love me.

Now head on over to Rosie's for more fashion fun.

Friday, January 27, 2017

This Post is All over the Place!

Hi readers!  I thought I'd pop in and let you know I'm still alive and kicking--I've just been busy and distracted lately, as my husband and I work to get our family homestead cleaned out, updated, and ready to sell.  And as we fly hither and yon to house-hunt down south and celebrate the birthdays of our darling far-flung grandchildren.  And as we drive back and forth from NH to Upstate NY, to take care of our "Oyster Haven" VRBO house on the lake...

Well, you get the drift.

Also, I have "homework" to do: there are several books I've received gratis from authors and publishing houses, in exchange for honest reviews, and I'm very behind (I feel like a college student with overdue papers to write!).  Here are two of said books.

And of course, I must--I MUST--write the story of my father's courageous last days on earth.  That is probably the biggest stumbling block I have to getting back in the groove here at the blog.  It's been two months now since he died, and if I don't write it all down soon, I fear the memories are going to start getting hazy.  So write it I must...but for some reason I can't. 

In the meantime, just to give you an idea of how amazing Dad was in the face of his imminent death, here is a conversation we had on Tuesday, November 22.  My brother took out his phone and videotaped us as we talked, and as you'll see, Dad's sense of humor remained intact until the end.  (He passed away in the wee hours of the morning on Friday the 25th.)

Anyway, this kind of writer's block has happened to me before: back when I was writing my first novel Finding Grace (from August 2007 to December 2011), I hit two stretches where I literally couldn't type a word for weeks and weeks: when I was writing about one character's tragic Holocaust survival story; and when I was writing about another character's unplanned pregnancy and (SPOILER ALERT!) abortion.  I was terrified of tackling those two very serious topics.  Even though I'd done tons of research, I had no first-hand experience with either of those life-altering scenarios, so I was worried that I wouldn't be able to handle them properly, with the gravitas, compassion, and truthfulness they deserved.

I feel that way about writing the incredible story of Dad's death, too...

Speaking of Finding Grace (how's that for a segue?), I'm running an ad (or a "boosted post") on Facebook today.  It's such a pro-life novel, and today is the March for Life in Washington, D.C.--so I thought it was a good time to do it.  I would love to get this book in the hands of more young (and not-so-young) readers who might be touched and inspired by it.  If you want to check out my Facebook author's page, you can find it by going to Facebook and typing @laurahpearl in the search box.  If you do head over there, maybe you could "like" or share today's post about Finding Grace.
My middle son is a fan of everything I do.  He's a doll.
I will get back to blogging regularly, I mean it; that is one of my resolutions for 2017.  I have so many things to share, and some of them are so fun!  We've finished a bathroom renovation, for instance, and it looks so spectacular that I think Chip and JoJo would approve.  One of these days, I'm going to share the "Before" and "After" pictures with you.  And I've got Christmas pictures that I never posted, and birthday homages to my two January boys...

So much to do, so little time!  But I'm working on it!

Okay, then, that's enough for today.  Now for a title...okay, I think I've got it!