Thursday, October 18, 2018

Creative Pursuits (Including Some ABC Book Updates)

Before I get started, I wanted to thank all of you sweet readers who have left comments here at String of Pearls in the last month or so.  My husband and I have been so busy lately, between road trips out to Notre Dame (we are going to every Fighting Irish home game this season, five so far with one more to go in November!) and helping out our kids, who are currently in the crazy season of raising toddlers and babies and need a helping hand every now and then, that I don't spend much time blogging or checking my blog's combox.  I just saw some lovely comments readers left on a recent post about our dining room, and I finally responded to them today.  I really do love hearing from you, and please forgive me for taking so long to let you know how much I appreciate it when you take the time to comment.

I do miss keeping up with the blog; writing is one of those "blue flame" activities that keeps me balanced and content.  (I know I probably don't need to elaborate on where that term comes from, but just suffice it to say that if you haven't read Jennifer Fulwiler's One Beautiful Dream, you should.)

Actually, when I do anything creative, that is when my blue flame burns the brightest.  Just yesterday morning, I was puttering around in my basement, looking through my big plastic bins filled with fabric and sewing stuff to see what I had.  One of the bins is filled with all kinds of antique goodies gifted to me over the years, along with some linen-and-lace pillow shams that belonged to my mother-in-law (and from which I have made christening dresses for my grandchildren in years past).  I found one piece in particular that intrigued me--I'd forgotten I even had it, so it was a bit like Christmas morning when I rediscovered it yesterday.
It appears to be a circular tablecloth, with a wreath-shaped Battenberg lace insert hand-sewn into the middle.  It's obviously very old and there are lots of small holes in the linen; but I saw all sorts of possibilities for that insert, so I carefully removed it from the surrounding fabric.
I am trying to figure out what I can make with this.  I might frame it with green velvet behind it and add a red satin bow, and then use it as a Christmas decoration.  What would you do with it?  I am open to ideas!

Another activity that feeds my soul (lights my blue flame, tickles my fancy, revs my engine...you get the drift) is working on the ABC Book that I hope to finish for my grandchildren by Christmas.  (Fingers crossed!)

The other day, I decided to tweak the cover a little.  It's a minor change, but I like it much better.  It used to be orange.
Now it looks like this.
 I guess I like my book covers to be green...


Not too long ago, I shared the Q pages in a post here at the blog.  But I've added a small update to them.  Here's how they look now.

I've also finished the I pages.
What a shocker that I included a page about Ireland in this book, right?

Not only do I like book covers that are Emerald-Isle green, but I also love Irish characters--so it's no surprise that they populate my two novels.

Well, that's about it from my neck of the woods.  I hope that wherever you are, you're tending to your own blue flame.  Our hearts all burn for different things and they're all good, as long as we're using the gifts and talents the Good Lord gave us in a way that brings honor to Him.  Amen?

I'll be back soon (hopefully!) with more ABC Book pages.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

ABC Book Update

I'm on a roll here--back at the blog for the second day in a row!  (Shake and bake!  That. Just. Happened!)

I'm sitting in our home office at my desk, getting ready to break out the colored pencils and work on the ABC Book that I'm hoping to have ready for my grandkids in time for Christmas--you know, the same book that started out as a project for my youngest son, the 25-year-old Army lieutenant who is just a tad too old now to appreciate it the way he would have if I'd actually finished it while he was still in diapers.

But better late than never, I always say!  And I've made so much progress on it this year.  I've now finished the illustrations (two pages for each letter--except for X, Y, and Z, which will be condensed into a two-page spread) for A through I, as well as L and M, P through U, and Z.  One of the J pages and one of the W pages have also been completed.  Several pages of drawings are currently works in progress, but right now there are 37 finished pages out of a planned 48, with three others very close to completion.  I can see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel!!

When I started this book back in 1993, I was using very large art paper and hand-lettering the text.  I also had three pages of illustrations planned for each letter--biting off way, way more than I could chew, as it were.  That was too ambitious a project for a mother raising five active boys (at least it was for this particular mother, who was never very good at juggling a lot of balls at once).  I only completed 10 pages before I shelved the project until 2013, when I realized it might be fun to dust it off and finish it for my grandkids.

This time around, I decided to use 8 and 1/2 by 11-inch card stock, cut back to only two pages per letter, and print the text on the computer using Word.  Initially, I painstakingly recreated the illustrations I wanted to use over again, making them smaller to fit the new page size; but I have since decided to photocopy some of my original artwork wherever possible, in order to make sure that I actually finish this book before I become a great-grandmother.

Some of the illustrations I did for the 1993 version didn't make the cut.  This one, for instance.
It was inspired by a photo I had of son #2 when he was about four or five, wearing his dinosaur jammies and standing next to a giant inflatable T-Rex he'd gotten as a Christmas gift.  I would have used it again for the new book, but when I decided to do two pages per letter rather than three, I had to come up with new rhymes and this illustration didn't fit as well.  (This boy of ours now has a mini-me of his own, a junior; and he looks an awful lot like this little fella pictured here!)

This page of illustrations for the letter C didn't make the cut either, even though it had been one of my favorites the first time around.
If you've been following along with the ABC Book posts, you've probably figured out by now that two of my favorite subjects to draw and paint are children's faces and furry animals.  Inanimate objects never get me as excited as living, breathing examples of cuteness.

Even though that old illustration won't appear in the final version of the book, you can be sure that there will still be plenty of chubby little cheeks involved (like you see here on this precious face, still a work in progress, inspired by a newborn photo of my youngest granddaughter).
I'm so pleased to be working with these new, smaller pages!
Someone asked me, "Why Nancy?"  The answer is simple, really: I needed an N name, and my paternal grandmother was named Nancy.  She had just five grandchildren, my four siblings and myself; she was our champion, always--she thought we hung the moon.  We all loved her dearly, and I thought this was a nice way to honor her memory.

Okay then, if I really intend to finish this thing, I better sign off and get to work!  But I thought you might be interested in a little update on how things are progressing.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Just Checking In

Testing, one, two, three.  Testing...is this thing still on?

I'm pretty sure that I've used that lame joke here before, when I've been away from my little String of Pearls longer than intended.  But you know how old folks are: they repeat their jokes and stories, over and over and over.  And I am 60 now, after all, so I get to do that.

Anyway, I thought I'd just check in to let you know that I'm still alive and kicking.  Just busy living life, that's all.

I know I promised to write part two of this relatively recent post about celebrating our kids' differences, but I haven't gotten around to it yet.  (Shocker, right?!  I haven't been a very dedicated blogger lately, have I?  However, if you want to know what's going on in the Pearl clan, you can always click on over to my Instagram page...because that is apparently my social media home base these days.)

But phew, you guys.  Life is busy, busy, busy!  I know I'm a grandmother and heading into my restful "golden years," where the bulk of the hard work of raising a family is behind me...but it seems that in some ways, I'm busier than ever!  I mean, if I really think about what a typical day was like when our boys were all living under our roof, in school and playing sports, I know that things have slowed down considerably and my calendar is a lot less filled with reminders about practices, games, dentist and orthodontist appointments, etc. etc. etc.  (My grocery bill is also most definitely smaller!)  But still...

For instance, yesterday my husband and I watched three of our granddaughters for several hours while our oldest son and his wife took one of their girls (and their two-month-old son who is nursing exclusively and therefore can't be left with us yet) to an appointment.  So this is what our basement looked like.




These three cutie pies were reading books that belonged to their daddy and his brothers, making forts out of chairs and bean bags, drawing, and playing with our massive collection of Lion King toys (most of them saved from when our boys were young).  We not only have a whole slew of different toys from the 80's and 90's that I couldn't bear to part with (even when we were downsizing for the move), because they belonged to our crew; but we also have a lot of new playthings picked up at consignment stores during the year-and-a-half we've been living here in VA.

In case you were wondering, this basement is not finished yet--and still, it is the place all of our grandkids like to hang out when they come to Papa and Grammy's house.  We've had a full bathroom  put in and plan to finish off the rest of the space as soon as we can; but for now, it at least has a vinyl floor, some furniture, and a TV.  Oh yes, and plenty of toys!

When I look at these photos, it makes me more confident than ever that the move we made in the spring of 2017 was a smart one.  To be able to be involved in the day-to-day lives of our 13-going-on-14 grandchildren (whose parents miraculously all ended up settling in the same area of the country!) is the most wonderful gift imaginable.  We feel extremely blessed.

As you might know if you come here often, we started out our life as grandparents back in 2011 with the arrival of our firstborn's identical twin girls. In August of 2017, our fourth son's wife gave birth to triplets--two boys and a girl.   Here they are at a photo shoot to celebrate their first birthday.
Son #4 and his wife decided to have DNA testing done on the boys because they looked so much alike.  And it turned out their hunch was right: they are indeed identical.  Isn't that crazy?!  We have two sets of identical twins in the family.  As the triplets' mom, Braveheart, warned her sisters-in-law: Pearl women, watch out!  You might be next!  :)

Now that I've helped you to forget all of the bad things going on in the world these days (because who could look at that picture of the triplets and do anything but smile?!), I'm going to sign off and get ready to do a little visiting with these three doll babies and three of their sweet cousins who live near them.

Bye for now!