Saturday, June 30, 2018

A Home Library (of Sorts!)

Whenever I see photos of amazing home libraries that look like this
or this

or THIS (!),
my eyes get a little green.  I can't help but envy such beautiful spaces to store and read books.

As Thomas Jefferson would say,

We had a number of built-in shelving units in our old "forever home" in NH, thanks to my husband's carpentry skills. He is not a professional carpenter; but he's a talented and exacting one, and the pieces he made for the house wherein we raised our boys were quite spectacular (said his grateful wife).

We had to leave much of the fruits of my favorite woodworker's labors behind when we moved to VA in the spring of 2017.  We miss all those handcrafted shelves; but our new neighbors (our four oldest sons, their wives, and our 12-going-on-14 grandchildren) more than make up for anything we had to give up.  They make up for it and then some.

However, one of the problems I couldn't wait to solve once we moved into our new, smaller house in VA was where and how to incorporate storage for our rather large collection of books.  As it turns out, although we do have a fourth bedroom that serves as a home office (something we never had before, and which I just love!), between our his-and-hers desks, two large filing cabinets, and various other storage pieces that house our office supplies, there was not a lot of room for shelves.  We did manage to add some, including a space-saving tall, narrow, solidly-built all-wood unit bought at a local Amish furniture store.
This one, a small cherry "wood" unit purchased at Walmart, is not nearly as solid as the tall one, but it works in a pinch.
We also managed to fit one little red "wood" bookshelf into our not-very-large family room.  It's not as well-crafted as the one from the Amish shop either (it's mostly made of particle board, a reasonably priced Target find that used to store video equipment in our NH TV room), but it works for displaying our family Bible, our college yearbooks, and some other oversized books.
Even after the shelves pictured above were filled, we still had boxes and boxes of books that needed a home.  What we ended up doing was turning each of the remaining three bedrooms of our new house into mini-libraries.

For the master bedroom, we purchased his-and-hers medium-sized solid pine shelves for either side of our bed from our go-to Amish furniture store (my new favorite local establishment).  These matching shelves were unfinished, so I gave them a light stain and a couple of coats of poly.

Mine.

His.
The little table below, which I bought with the country-style distressed paint-and-stain finish from the same Amish shop, is actually handy for holding a lamp...which I could otherwise put on my dresser, if it wasn't for the 55-inch TV we have mounted on the wall just above it.  The lamp would get in the way of the Notre Dame game, you see, or the latest episode of This Is Us, so I needed somewhere else to put it.  And how handy that the somewhere else came with space to showcase a few of my favorite hardcover books.  (The little shelf below is what sold me on the table, truth be told.)
By the way, I am aware that this master bedroom is almost embarrassing, it's so big.  I mean, we have room for a king-sized bed, two bookshelves, two easy chairs, two dressers...Oh, and there are also two walk-in closets (I claimed the bigger one!).  I'm not even going to show you our ridiculously large master bathroom.  All I can say is that we never had an expansive and glorious master suite like this when we were young parents raising our five boys.  But now we're a couple of spoiled grandparents--who've earned it, I guess?  (Sure, let's go with that.)

Anyway, the other two bedrooms have some bookshelves in them, too.

In the yellow room where our twin granddaughters usually stay when they sleep over, there is a night stand between the twin beds that was made by my husband over two decades ago for our two oldest boys' bedroom, and which he recently re-worked to add more room to store books.  It used to be stained pine, but I gave it a coat of Irish green chalk paint, and I think it looks terrific.
There is also an inexpensive Walmart faux wood unit in the corner of that room.
In the blue bedroom that I think of as our youngest son's room (mostly because he's the only one of our boys who isn't married yet), there are two nightstands that were made by my handy guy for our old master bedroom many moons ago.  I love the way they look in this VA bedroom.
Ummm...note to self:  I need to center the bed under that picture in the middle.   (A professional home decorator I am not!)
They're small, but they hold a surprisingly large number of books.

So that's the tour of our home library (libraries?), if you can call it that.

Hmmm...Were you interested in seeing pictures of the inside of my house?  I know that I love getting glimpses of the homes of bloggers whom I admire and follow...but this little cookie cutter house in a cookie cutter neighborhood in VA is hardly Gramblewood...Then again, very few houses are!  ;)

In spite of our new home's limitations, at this stage of our long and blessed life together, this is just about the perfect place for us to live. And with a little creativity, it now has the perfect number of bookshelves to keep this bibliophile happy.  For now, anyway.  As our collection grows, my ideas for creating more storage will have to grow as well.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Mad Hatters

I love hats.  I don't always have the courage to wear them, but I wish it was still the thing to do, the way it was back in the day, because I think they're so much fun.  If I lived in England (the land of my father's people), I probably wouldn't be as shy about donning a chapeau--especially if I went to Ascot, or was lucky enough to be invited to a royal wedding.

I mean really, hat-watching is one of the most enjoyable activities for me when these oh-so-British events are televised.
Those two young princes are very cute and all, and their uniforms are quite dapper; but I can't stop looking at the hats!
This isn't the first time I've blogged about the sometimes quite attractive and other times completely outlandish hats worn at a royal wedding.  I did so here, in this old post  from 2014, back when Prince William and Kate Middleton were still the couple everyone was talking about.

There were actually some very lovely hats and fascinators at this recent wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.  Here are a few that I particularly liked.


It is not surprising that Kate rocked hers.  She always looks impeccable.

Back in the summer of 2013, I was invited to a wedding shower for Preciosa (now the wife of my middle son and the mother of his three children).  We met up with some old college friends of hers here in VA (one of them being Ginger, who would meet my second-born son at the wedding and is now his wife and the mother of his two sons, with another baby on the way).  Knowing that I was planning to wear a hat for the wedding, they convinced me to buy a rather dramatic fascinator that we saw in a small boutique.

However, when it came right down to it, I didn't have the guts to wear it. I even removed a long black feather from it to see if that would help me feel less conspicuous in it, but no dice.  I spent $50 on that crazy thing, and it's been sitting in a hat box in my closet for the past five years.

Recently, inspired by a photo Kendra Tierney shared on Instagram, in which she and her eldest daughter were wearing fashionable fascinators with their Easter finery, I dug it out of the closet, put it on, and a took a selfie.  Then I texted the photo to Ginger (who is as loyal a follower and fan of Kendra as I am).
Ginger thinks I should think about wearing this daring headpiece when my fifth and last son gets married.  I just might have to do that.  We shall see...

Before I sign off, I've just got to show you a couple of photos of my youngest grandchild (as of now), an angelic, constantly smiling 6-month-old lass who I've decided to call Rosita here at the blog (she is the youngest child of son #3 and Preciosa, the younger sister of G-Man and Princesa).  This sweet little gal looks utterly fab in a hat, let me tell you!

When I met up with some of my gang at a vineyard on Mother's Day, this fashionable little lady was sitting at a picnic table, waiting to greet me, wearing this wide-brimmed beauty on her adorable noggin.

Can.  You.  Even.  Stand.  It??!!

With that, my friends, I'm going to doff my proverbial hat and bid you all adieu.  Until next time!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Cuteness--in Triplicate!

I have spent a lot of time with three special little people the last nine months.  They are the firstborn children of my fourth son and his wife, triplets who made their much ballyhooed entrance into the world last August, at 32 weeks.  After spending less than a month in the NICU, they came home and have been growing like weeds and hitting every milestone ever since.

There are two boys and a girl in this adorable trio, and it's very likely that the boys are actually identical twins (their parents may eventually have them tested to find out for sure).  They look so similar that it's positively uncanny.  Our firstborn grandchildren are our oldest son's identical twin girls, who just turned 7.  If these triplet boys turn out to be identical, too, I'm going to start wondering if this is something than runs in the Pearl family!
I just wanted to share a few picture of these three sweet babies who have wrapped their Grammy around their chubby little fingers.  Their parents have given them nicknames that I am going to use as their blog handles as well.

PUMPKIN (the larger of the two boys):

PAQUITA (the lone senorita in the group):

PEANUT (the little guy who wasn't supposed to make it):

They are cuteness cubed.
When we brought son #4 and his wife over to see the new house we had just decided to buy in VA (a mere 35 minutes from where they live), she had just found out she was pregnant and had no idea yet that she was expecting three at once.  We always knew that moving down here to be closer to our kids and grandkids was a good idea, but little did we know just how much our help was going to be appreciated!  It's definitely vital to have a lot of helping hands when you're dealing with multiples.

And I am most happy to oblige.
As is Papa.
Back when my daughter-in-law Braveheart was expecting these little munchkins, I asked you to pray for the health of mom and babies.  And dear readers, those prayers were answered, in spades. She was able to carry the babies until the all-important 32-week mark, and they were born tiny but remarkably strong and healthy.  Even little Peanut, who wasn't supposed to make it, and who doctors felt might be the best choice for elimination if our son and his wife wanted to reduce the risks of her pregnancy (insert angry, red-faced emoticon here!!!), is doing great.  He does have some GI issues and struggles a bit with eating, and he is due to have his tongue snipped next week.  (He is tongue-tied, but this was not properly diagnosed until recently--the poor little fella!)  So once again, I am asking for your prayers. #prayforpeanut

I am sometimes in awe of the fact that my husband and I--who had babies of our own only YESTERDAY, it seems--are the grandparents of 12 already.  Your family grows pretty quickly when your kids keep having multiples, I'll tell you that.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Having My Own Things About Me

I have a tendency to hold on to well-loved things forever and ever.

We've had the same living room couch and loveseat set for 24 years, for instance.  I know their pink and green floral pattern dates these pieces; but even though they were bought at Costco for a bargain basement price, they are a good make (I think?)--Bassett--and they have held up beautifully, so I can't see the justification for replacing them.  Besides, when I see them looking right at home in our new house in VA, their steadfastness and familiarity--and all the memories they evoke, of Rosaries prayed together while sitting on them in our old living room when our boys were growing up--give me a great sense of peace and happiness.

Can furniture make you happy?  Should it?  I don't know, but it does.  And actually, the older and more well-used, the better.  I can totally relate to Mary Kate Danaher, the feisty heroine in The Quiet Man (hands down one of the greatest movies of all time), when she says: "Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed of having my own things about me.  My spinet over there, and a table here, and my own chairs to rest upon.  And a dresser over there in that corner, and my own china and pewter shinin' about me."
I get you, Mary Kate, I really do.  Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed of only two things: getting married and being a mom; and having a home to take care of.  Call me old-fashioned.  (Really, you can call me that.  I'm totally okay with it.)

When we moved in March of 2017 from our home in NH, where we'd lived for 26 years and raised our boys, the transition was a bit emotional. Of course, we were moving closer to the people we loved, so we knew we would be happy here.  But I have to admit that I wondered if the much-different house we were moving to could really ever feel like home to me.  Well, after more than a year as a Virginian, I am pleased to report that it does; and one of the reasons for this is that I have my own things about me.  Even shinier, newer furnishings could never make me as happy as these familiar friends.

Once such piece of furniture is a pine night stand that my husband made way back in December of 1991, for our two oldest sons' bedroom.  (I know this is when he made it because I actually dated it, in pen, on the back.)  Once upon a time, the room it lived in looked like this.
[Sniff]   Where do the years go?  It seems like yesterday that our five boys were all still sleeping under our roof, tucked in beds covered in Notre Dame puffs...

Sorry about that.  Back to the night stand.  This solidly-built little piece was a total original, made without plans, and my husband even let me help him with some of the design elements.

This is how this beloved friend looked when we found it a new home in our VA house, between the twin beds that are sometimes occupied by our twin granddaughters when they come for sleepovers.

So here's the BEFORE.
For years now, I've thought it would be a good idea to add another shelf to this piece, so that it could be used as a more traditional bookshelf.  But there always seemed to be more important projects for my husband to tackle, so I didn't push it.

BUT--we had to leave behind our built-in bookcases when we made the big move, and I've spent the past year trying to figure out how to incorporate book storage wherever possible; so I recently decided that now would be a good time to finally add that shelf, and this project shot to the top of the honey-do list.

And my honey did.  So here's what it looks like now.
And here's the AFTER.
I thought it might be hard to match the stain perfectly, so I decided to try my hand at using chalk paint, after hearing so many good things about it.  (The fact that it can be applied over stain without sanding first was a big selling point with me.)  I wasn't sure what color to paint it, but I always seem to be drawn to shades of green.  I think Mary Kate Dannaher would approve of this very Irish color I settled upon.  Aye, I think she would!

This charming little bedroom pleases me so.  It looks like it belongs in a B&B, always ready to welcome stayover guests.  That's one thing that does change when you no longer have a passel of messy boys living at home: everything stays so neat and clean!

Unlike Mary Kate Danaher, I can definitely live without a spinet (I have no musical talent whatsoever) or shinin' pewter; but I need to have my books about me!  So in a future post, I'll show you how I turned each of our bedrooms in the new house into mini-libraries, since there really weren't good places anywhere else in the house to add bookshelves.  I'm sure you'll be waiting with baited breath for that post!

Friday, June 1, 2018

7QT: The Hopeless Hibernophile Edition

It's been a while since I posted anything in the 7QT link-up, and as I'm trying to get back into a rhythm of blogging more regularly, I thought this was a good time to join the party.

I know the Takes here are supposed to be Quick; but I have to warn you that this first one is a tad on the long side.  (I promise to make up for it with the next 6!)

1

The Irish I's Are Smiling!

Well, my eyes are smiling anyway.  Because I've completed the I pages for the ABC Book that I've been working on for my grandchildren. It's been a work in progress for more years than I care to admit, but I am finally seeing the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. 

I was able to incorporate some of my favorite things on these pages: IRELAND and her patron saint...and also, something we all scream for, ICE CREAM.
Nice photo bomb, Finding Grace.  I see what you did there.

If you stop in here from time to time, you might know that I'm a huge Hibernophile (as in: a person who is fond of Irish culture, Irish language, and Ireland in general.  Its antonym is Hibernophobe.  The term originates from "Hibernia," the word used by the ancient Romans to refer to Ireland).

As proof of my Hibernophile tendencies, I actually found myself sighing with relief when our middle son got back the results of his recent 23andMe DNA test.  Faith and begorrah, look at that high percentage of Irish blood!

So of course, given the letter I to illustrate, I just had to include the land from which St. Patrick drove out all those pesky snakes. My map of Ireland would not pass the cartographer's smell test, I'm sure, but hopefully it approximates the shape of the Emerald Isle closely enough for the wee ones for whom this book is being created.

I am not that adept at maps, buildings, and inanimate objects; my favorite subject to draw or paint has always been people.  Like this guy.
Although anyone who knows me will be surprised to hear me say anything positive about my artwork, I am actually pleased with how he came out.

I'm NOT entirely pleased with my little ice cream-eater, however; and it's entirely possible that before this book goes to print, I will re-do that second I page.  Her hair looks kinda weird.  And then I added all that dark shading around her to take attention away from the hair.  And I don't know, she just didn't come out the way I'd envisioned her in my head.
But given that it's taken me almost a quarter of a century to get this long-dreamed-of book [almost] finished, I think she may end up making the cut, if only to save time.

Now for more proof of my Hibernophile tendencies, I'm going to share some photos of the breakfast nook of our kitchen.

2
The former owners had already given the kitchen a green accent wall (and this was one of the things that made me fall in love with this house when we first looked at it just over a year ago).   That lovely verdant shade makes a perfect backdrop for my various Irish-y décor items.

3
Our youngest son made a trip to Ireland and had pictures of himself taken on the Cliffs of Moher, so obviously a couple of those had to be included in my homage to Ireland.  There is also a plaque of St. Patrick's breastplate, a housewarming gift from one of my husband's sisters.  I found the painting of the little boy wrapped up in a quilt of Ireland online, made a copy of it, and framed it; it is one of my favorite pieces of artwork in the house.  The small resin wall hangings to the left of the large "Team Pearl" family picture are gifts from my boys.

4
I have a Kelly green Kitchen Aid mixer, a gift from my kids a few Mother's Days ago.  I can't imagine a color that would make me happier.  (As if cake making wasn't fun enough already...)

5
A new addition to the kitchen is this Irish Kitchen Prayer plaque...a Mother's Day gift that I picked out for myself this year and then told my husband he was giving it to me.  The framed Irish Marriage Blessing on the green wall was a gift from my very Irish mother-in-law.

6
Even our Yankee candles are Irish-themed--as are our twin granddaughters (the oldest of our 12 grandchildren).  Their matching t-shirts in this 2012 photo of them say, "'Tis Weeself."

7
Our two St. Patrick statues (both gifts from our boys) watch over this nook while we eat our meals together.  I'd say we're in pretty good hands.

I could go on, but that's 7 Takes.  So I guess I'll end here--and now you should head on over to Kelly's for more 7QT posts that might not be quite so Irish-themed, but are bound to be worth the trip.

Friday, May 18, 2018

The Little Oar House at Oyster Haven

That sounds almost like the title of a really cool mystery novel or something, doesn't it?  The Little Oar House at Oyster Haven.  And the above photo would make the perfect book cover for it!

Well, it's not a book title--at least that I know of.  If it is, I can tell you that I didn't write it.  And if I ever do get around to dipping my toes into the world of fiction writing again, it will be to produce a very long-overdue sequel to Erin's Ring, with a focus on a true story about Our Blessed Mother and Her miraculous help.  (I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for that one, though; because for now, life seems just a tad too busy for writing a novel.  I've got all I can manage trying to find time to finish an illustrated ABC Book for my grandchildren.)

There might be some toe-dipping going on, however; but it will not be metaphorical in nature.  It will be actual toe-dipping in an actual lake, because this week my husband and I have been working hard to get our Oyster Haven house on the shore of Lake Champlain ready for its first VRBO renters of the season.

Boo-yah!  How's that for a segue?

(Full disclosure: my delicate toes will probably not get anywhere near that icy cold lake.  Not until at least July!)

Anyway, we've been busy getting the place looking ship-shape.  We had it professionally cleaned and prepared for the next renters back in February, after our last guests departed.  But it's been sitting empty through the winter months, and the inside needed a bit of a spring cleaning to get it up to snuff (think dust bunnies, cobwebs, and dead bugs!).  The outside needed some TLC, too, including adding a new railing to the new Trex deck we had built over the winter.  (More on that in a future post, methinks.)  We also had to haul out, wipe down, and set up all the deck and patio furniture as well as the boating equipment and the gas grill.

While my husband was working on building the deck railing (the parts that didn't require a second set of hands to help him), I decided to spring clean an ancient little outbuilding that we like to call the "oar house."  This is where we keep the oars for our canoe, kayaks, and paddle boards, as well as various and sundry other items such as boogie boards, beach chairs, water shoes, and outdoor toys.  I love, love, love this little building!  It is one of the things that made me fall in love with the property the first time we toured it with the real estate agent.
Isn't that just the sweetest little building?

The inside of the oar house is always a mess in the spring, because mounds of dead leaves blow in through the open doorway.  Also, all sorts of critters make nests there in the winter.  The bird droppings I found yesterday didn't bother me too much.  The family of dead mice in a plastic bin in the corner, on the other hand...yikes, that was a different story.  I couldn't even get myself to pick up the bin once I knew they were in there, and had to call my hero over to throw the pathetic little carcasses into the woods--while I shivered and gagged.

So how do you like this post so far?  I hope I didn't lose you with all that talk about dead mice.  Try to forget about them and take a look at how sweet this little oar house looks once it's been cleaned up.
Those three colorful  boogie boards were once used by my boys, to ride the waves at
York Beach in ME during the years they were growing up in NH.

We only had one paddleboard the past two summers, but decided to add another this year.
(You're welcome, renters!)  The shark kite hanging on the wall behind the two boards
was left by the previous owners--and we think it gives this little building character.
The striped chairs hanging on the wall have spent many a summer day planted in the sand at
York Beach, as well as other beaches on the NH Seacoast.  And the pair of indestructible
Little Tykes trucks were favorite Christmas gifts of sons #3 and #4, way back in the 90's.

The two nautical-themed  paintings-on-wood were childhood works of art created by my hubby (and passed on to me by
his mom many years ago).  I thought this was the perfect setting for them.
Last night, when we'd punched the clock at the end of our work day, we spent a little time enjoying the fruits of our labor.  We pulled two Adirondack chairs up to the edge of our lawn and had a cocktail while we enjoyed this glorious view.
It's hard sometimes, putting so much effort into making this lake house so perfect, and then giving it over to other people to enjoy.  Hopefully, as the years go on, we'll be able to block off bigger and bigger chunks of time to spend in it with our family.  We have so many great memories of the week we had at Oyster Haven with everyone two years ago.  (Yes, we had everyone!  All of our boys, all of their wives, and all 7 of the grandchildren that had been born at that time!)
We do have a week in August blocked off this summer; but we won't be able to have everyone together this time, because our youngest son is stationed overseas and can't get home that week, and our oldest son's wife will be giving birth to baby #5 (which is grandchild #13 for us) just a few weeks before the planned get-together.

But we're hoping for an updated Team Pearl picture in August 2019--and by that time there will be 7 more little players added to the line-up!

Which reminds me: just next to the oar house, you can see the remnants of a cinder block foundation, partially hidden and overgrown with weeds and grass.  Talking with one of the neighbors (who used to play at this house when she was a little girl), we learned that some former owners who lived here for many years once had a sleep cabin on that spot.  At the rate our family is expanding, I'm thinking we may have to erect a new sleep cabin for our grandkids.  We are quickly outgrowing this house!
Hmmm...I guess you should stay tuned for a future post title with a similar mystery novel vibe: The Little Sleep Cabin at Oyster Haven.