Saturday, January 6, 2018

Happy New Year! (And Is It Too Late to Talk about Christmas Ornaments?)

Happy New Year, dear readers!

It is one of my resolutions for 2018 to give a little more attention to my poor old neglected blog, which must be feeling like the cosseted firstborn child who suddenly has a younger sibling, a baby who seems to be getting a lot more attention.  (That younger sibling being Instagram, of course, where I've been spending most of my online time these days.)

Let's talk about Instagram, though.  It is a downright charming place to visit, I must admit.  There are never any of those Facebook-style vicious political rants in your news feed, just lovely photos with short-but-sweet captions or stories beneath them.  Instagram provides a quick fix for people who would prefer a lengthy novel or a thoughtful blog post, but are just too busy at the moment.  If you don't have time to read a blog post, you almost surely have time to read a few delightful Insta-posts.  Also, I find that there are so many lovely Catholic gals on Instagram who inspire me to grow in my faith, and talented designing women who inspire me to make my house more cozy and beautiful for my family.  And then there are those hashtags, which are sometimes just hilarious.

So I'm liking Instagram a whole lot these days...and unfortunately, I've been ignoring my firstborn baby, my String of Pearls.  But I'm going to try to get back into writing over here more often, because I find I just miss writing for writing's sake.  What is it about putting together words that I find so satisfying?

My twin granddaughters (who are the oldest of our 12 grandchildren, at 6-and-1/2) devour books at an impressive rate, having taught themselves how to read over a year ago.  One of them recently showed me one she'd just finished and commented, "I liked this.  It had nice words."  How I love the way she put that!  "Nice words."  That's all a writer hopes to accomplish for his readers: to not just give them a good story, but one that is told so nicely that it is a joy for them to read the words. Not that I think my words are all that nice, mind you; but that is most definitely the goal.  And String of Pearls has been a great outlet for me for the past six-plus years, a wonderful place for me to do what I like to do--to play with words.  And as a bonus, this blog has put me in contact with a whole bunch of wonderful friends I would never have met otherwise.

So God bless the Catholic blogging world, that's all I have to say.

Okay then, this is my first post of 2018, and it should be about something momentous.  But it won't be.  I find that I wish I'd done some Christmas-themed posts over the past few weeks, but I was so busy being a hands-on Grammy (and traveling to Poland to see my baby boy--now there's a subject for a future post!) that I didn't get around to it.  But luckily, for Catholics the Christmas season doesn't even start until December 25.  So I'm not too late, not too late at all.  And you know what?  I'm going to totally copy one of the ladies I follow on Instagram (Mary of Better Than Eden) and highlight some of the ornaments on my tree.  I enjoyed Mary's Instagram post about her ornaments so much that it inspired me to do one of my own.  So here we go.

Way back in 2013, during the Christmas season I ran a contest here at String of Pearls.  I had readers guess how many ornaments we had on our 9-and-1/2-foot tree, and the prize was a handcrafted painted wooden Santa ornament (holding a string of pearls, of course ;)).  The winner guessed 430 and she was close; we had 439 ornaments on the tree that year. And we've acquired plenty of new ones since then, because I have always been of the opinion that you can NEVER have too many of them.

But here's the thing: last year we sold our beloved house in NH, where we'd lived for 26 years (and where we had a converted garage-turned-man cave, with a ceiling high enough for a tree that tall), and we moved to VA to be near some of our grown sons; and our new house, while lovely and cozy, does not have such an area for such a tree.  So we had to retire our old tree, sadly, and get something smaller.

Since we couldn't have a big tree, we decided we could at least have one with an obnoxious amount of lights on it.
There are so many lights, it looked pretty even before we put the ornaments on it.

But of course, we did put ornaments on it!

There was a whole plastic storage bin filled with treasures that never made it on the tree this year, but the branches still ended up looking pretty packed.
Every year when we decorate our tree, I love to open the bins and boxes.  Each and every time, it's like Christmas morning all over again, and each precious memento feels like it's brand new.  I love that about ornaments!

I'm just going to highlight a few for you (if you're even still here; and if so, I'm sorry this post is so long!).

A few Christmases ago, our second-oldest son hand-painted two ornaments for his author mommy, recreating the cover of Finding Grace in one;
 and Erin's Ring in another.
For our last NH Christmas together in 2016, I had these porcelain ornaments made, one for us and one for each of our five boys--with a photo of our NH house on them.
After my dad died in November of 2016, I took his vast collection of NY State Lottery t-shirts (which he was always wearing, as a proud employee we called the "Lotto Guy") and made a t-shirt quilt for my mom and five of these "quilted" ornaments for my siblings and me.
I also made this "quilted" ornament, using scraps of material from our boys' old Catholic elementary school uniforms.  They wore gray pants and white oxford button-downs (see the button on that ornament?), and then maroon sweatshirts and sweatpants for gym.  I made the boys some bell-shaped ornaments out of these scraps as well, and I know how snazzy they thought their school uniforms were, so I'm sure they treasure them.  ;)  (If you'd like to see a how-to post on making ornaments like this, I did one once and you can read it here.)
Of course, no tree would be complete without the handmade ornaments the kids brought home from school in their boyhood days.  Like this one.
Or this one.
I should give the boys their TMNT ornaments, which we've had for about 25 years...but I don't have the heart to part with them.  Yet!
The same son who painted the book cover ornaments above painted this one-of-a-kind Garfield number for us back in 1997, when he was 11.  (All of my sons are quite artistic!)
I recently added a VA ornament, fashioned from a cookie cutter shaped like our newly adopted state.
Lots of our ornaments are Irish-themed. And lots of them are gifts from our kids or other loved ones. That metal and bead Claddagh ornament (right near the glass Irish step dancer) is a gift from our #4 son.  (Our boys all know what Mom likes!)
I have several ceramic mouse ornaments that I made when I wasn't even a mother yet.  There was a studio on the base where my husband was stationed, and I took classes there with several other Navy wives.  We were a crafty bunch!  (We were alone a lot, and crafting helped to fill the hours that our husbands were away.)  This little guy is hanging near two blue and gray ornaments from Salmon Falls Pottery in Dover, NH (the old world Santa and Merry Christmas ball) that are quite dear to me.
In 2013 I made eight of these stuffed "This Tree Stinks" ornaments for my husband and his seven siblings.  There's a funny story behind it; if you have the time you can read about it in this old post.  What tickles me is that now, every year each of them takes a picture of this ornament when they're decorating their trees, and they post the pictures on the family text stream.  I wasn't even sure they would like them (I mean, they're kind of tough to explain to outsiders who come to your home!); but these ornaments have become part of our Pearl Christmas tradition, and I love that I was able to contribute to that.
Okay, then...on that note, maybe I should wrap this up.  This is a long post (with links to old posts to boot!).  If you stopped by here for a quick pick-me-up, you're probably thinking you should have just gone to Instagram instead.  But bear with me.  I'm just trying to get my blogging muscles warmed up again.  After taking too much time off the past few years, I've gotten pretty stiff.

But I'm going to keep plugging away.  And maybe I'll even find more important things to talk about than what I have hanging on my tree.  We shall see.


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