Sunday, August 18, 2019

The Girls of Summer (and Their Baby Brother!)

Our oldest son and his wife, four daughters, and baby son arrived at the Pearl homestead in Upstate NY exactly a week ago, and we have been having a marvelous time.  The girls are amazed that this is the place where their Papa grew up--that he got to look out at that lake in his back yard every day, to swim whenever he wanted.  "This is the life!" one of the twins (who are eight, and the oldest of our 14 grandchildren) exclaimed, not long after they'd arrived.

Yes, indeed; this is the life.  It's like being on the best vacation ever, without ever having to leave the property--unless we want to walk all of two doors down to play at the private neighborhood beach, a wonderland of sand and waves and shallow waters filled with quick-darting minnows.

Here is a photo dump from the past week.  These pictures will tell the story better than I ever could.

In order to respect our firstborn son and his wife's wishes to keep their children's precious faces off the Interwebs, I have become adept (if I do say so myself!) at snapping pictures of them from the side or back.  I've always been a fan of such shots anyway; I consider these rather artsy poses to be just the sort of subject matter an oil painter might use as inspiration.

But whether with faces exposed or faces hidden, images of children digging in the sand at the beach or playing in the surf are pure artistic gold.  Here are some works by two of my favorite artists--Jesse Willcox Smith and Mary Cassatt--that illustrate my point perfectly.

The faces these talented artists created are as cute as can be, for sure; but they are not nearly as cute as those of my darling grandkids.  You're just going to have to trust me on this!

Saturday, August 17, 2019

The Summer of Us! (A Photo Dump)

My husband and I have been in our old hometown in Upstate NY since the beginning of July, managing our Oyster Haven VRBO rental home, visiting with family and friends still living in the area...and having a grand old time, enjoying what we have dubbed "The Summer of Us" (and if you ever were a fan of the series Seinfeld, you might know where we got the inspiration for that title).

Fulfilling a lifelong dream of his, my hubby had splurged on his first real expensive "toy" in the spring: a 20-foot pontoon boat.  So life has been good here on Lake Champlain, dear readers; it has been very good indeed.   We miss our kids and grandkids down in VA, but we really, really like each other--so we are surviving.  Actually, we're thriving, and this has been a very special summer for us.

My better half was on vacation for the month of July, so it was almost hedonistically relaxing and rejuvenating for us.  (There was a big, wild-and-crazy Pearl family reunion over the 4th, and I never got around to blogging about that extravaganza.  But I put up a few posts about it over on Instagram.)

We went out on the boat every day that the weather permitted (which turned out to be just about every day); we had cocktail hour cruises routinely; we recited our daily Rosary and novena prayers while floating in the quiet waters on the shores of the nearby islands; and we even got up before the crack of dawn one day to watch the sun rise over the lake.

One day, we drove the boat about 45 minutes to my baby sister's lakeside home, and we picked her up along with her husband and my mom, then headed out on the water to enjoy a mini dinner cruise.

It has definitely been a summer to remember!  

I adore my all my boys and their wives, and don't even get me started on my grandchildren!  But this guy has always been and will always be my #1.  

The Summer of Us.  I will never forget it!

August brought us back to the real world a bit: my guy has already had to fly two trips this month--but luckily, his airline job allows him to commute from anywhere (within reason), and although I don't have the guts to take the big boat out by myself, I've kept the home fires burning here at the Pearl homestead.  I've even managed to get out for a couple of kayak rides.

Heaven, isn't it?

And now we're sharing it with some of our brood: as of almost a week ago, it is no longer just us.  Our oldest son, his wife, and his five children are here for about a two-week visit, staying with us in my husband's childhood home (because our Oyster Haven house is being rented right now).  Our boys' four girls, aged 4 through 8, are playing every day at the neighborhood beach two doors down where my husband and his siblings used to play.  It has been a joy to see them falling in love with this lake.  (One of the twins exclaimed one day, "This is the life!")

I want to share scenes of the goings-on here lately, but I've posted enough pictures for one day; so I'll be back with pictures from "The Summer of Us and Them."

Thursday, August 8, 2019

A Sweet Little ABC Book Reader (and She's Not Even Related to Me!)

I was absolutely tickled--and touched--to receive an email from an old high school classmate, who sent me this picture of an adorable little reader flipping through her hardcover copy of My Little ABC Book.

This thoughtful woman (who was the salutatorian of our St. John's Class of 1976) wanted me to know that she had sent her not-quite-2-year-old grand-niece the book as a gift, and she congratulated me on finishing a project that had been near and dear to my heart for many years.

I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to see this sweet little angel-- "A is for angel," just like the book says! --looking as if she's enjoying the pictures.  It's truly a dream come true for me.  Before I ever had children, way back in the early 1980's, I mailed two different illustrated children's book ideas to a big-name publishing house, and I received some very kind rejection letters for my efforts.  (We're talking about rejection letters composed on an old-school typewriter--so yes, I am a dinosaur.)  It is so wonderful that in this day and age, self-publishing through online websites makes humble little books like this one available to the general public.  This ABC Book was going to be mostly for my own family; but through, anyone can purchase a copy (they are printed on demand when ordered).

If you'd like to preview the book on your computer or order a copy for your own little angel(s), click on this link.  There is also a tab on the sidebar on the right that will take you to the book's page on the website.

B is for blessed...G is for grateful...T is for thankful...

Well, you get the drift.  XO

Tuesday, August 6, 2019


On Sunday, my two sisters and I took my mom over to visit two of her oldest and dearest friends, whom we call "aunt" and "uncle" even though they aren't related to us by blood.  This wonderful couple lives less than an hour away from Mom; it's not a long trip, but when you don't drive anymore, it gets harder and harder to make non-essential outings like this happen.  Mom had met up for lunch with Aunt E recently, and in the wake of that happy reunion she kept mentioning how much she'd love to see Uncle J, who has suffered from poor health and is mostly wheelchair-bound now.  She hadn't seen him since my father's funeral more than two years ago, and she missed him. We decided that since he doesn't get out too much anymore, we wanted to get her over there to visit with him, and we are so glad we did!  What a wonderful time we had.
The Three Amigos.

Aunt E had a pitcher of iced tea and a plate of pound cake and cookies ready to serve us, and we all sat around their dining room table and reminisced.  They still live on the same plot of land that my sisters and I used to visit when we were kids, but their old farm house was destroyed by a fire years ago and they have since rebuilt and created an absolutely stunning new home, a cozy nest with just about the best in-home library and reading nook I've ever seen.  (#goals)  These sweet octogenarian "besties" talked about the "old days," and how as young parents, both couples had named each other as guardians for their children, if--God forbid--they had died before they'd had a chance to raise them.  They talked and laughed about their grand plan to live on a boat together after retirement and travel the world.  That dream, sadly but not surprisingly, didn't come to fruition.  But they stayed close through the decades.

I wished so much that my father could have been at the table with us, guffawing in his inimitable way.  He just loved Uncle J, who was like the brother he never had.  The two of them grew up together.  They (along with Uncle J's brother, Uncle D) attended the same small town high school in Upstate NY.  Uncle J settled into adult life not far from where they'd grown up, but my parents started out their married life far away from the North Country.  Our family lived for a number of years in NJ and Delaware, until I was about 8.  That's when we returned to the same small NY town where Dad and Uncle J had spent their boyhood together and the old friends were practically neighbors again.  Less than two years later, however, we left my dad's beloved old hometown, but only to move about 45 minutes away.  Fear not, my parents always kept their ties with Aunt E and Uncle J, and the four of them got together frequently.

When I was a young teen, I had a few overnights, all by myself, at Aunt E and Uncle J's home, trying to determine if I would like to spend part of my summer living with them as a "mother's helper."  They had these adorable young children...but I was a shy and timid sort of girl, and I worried about getting homesick.  So I didn't do it.  At our little get-together Sunday, I reminded them about this.  And I said, "It's kind of late for an apology--but I'm so sorry I couldn't do it!"

Did I mention that Uncle J is my godfather?  I am one lucky girl, let me tell you.  I never knew my godmother, a woman with whom my mother was great friends in her youth, but whose friendship didn't survive the years.  I only heard from my godmother once that I can recall, when she sent me a necklace as a present for my 16th or 18th birthday--I can't remember which.  But I totally won the godfather lottery.  Uncle J is a brilliant lawyer known far and wide in the small towns of the North Country.  He's honorable and kind, and his sense of humor is unmatched: he's one of those proverbial  Irish storytellers who delivers his jokes with a gravelly voice and a twinkle in his eye.  His body has gotten weaker, but his mind is as sharp as ever and I could listen to him talk all day.

All of these traits make Uncle J very lovable.  But here is what happened on Sunday that made me realize just how fortunate I am that my parents named him as my spiritual sponsor for this sometimes difficult journey called life. I told my sister that I wanted a picture with my godfather; and then I told Aunt E that since I never got a chance to know the one I'd been given, I was adopting her as my godmother--so she needed to be in the picture, too.  Aunt E and I sat down in chairs on either side of Uncle J's wheelchair.  As my sister was getting ready to take the shot (or maybe it was after the pictures had been taken, I can't quite recall), Uncle J looked at me and asked, "Do you still go to church?"  "Yes!" I answered.  "I do."  He said simply, "Good."  Then I continued, "And so do our boys.  They've even gone on Catholic Match to find girls who share their Faith..." I didn't want to babble on and on, which I could have; so I just kind of thanked him by saying, "If you've been praying for me, I'm sure that helped!"  I asked him if he went to the parish we used to go to during those two years we lived in my dad's old hometown, but he said, no, there was a church closer to where he and Aunt E live.  And that was about it.

It was a short conversation, with just a few simple words--"Do you still go to church?"  "Yes." "Good."--employed to convey something so much bigger.  Simple words, yet profound ones.  I think Uncle J was wondering if his godfatherhood (is that a word?) had been successful.  It meant the world to me, I'll tell you.  I will never forget how he made me feel during that visit.

It made the saying goodbye part very hard, and I was choked up with tears.  I've rarely seen Uncle J during my adult life, as my husband and I settled for many years in NH, and have since moved to VA to be near our grown married children.  But we are now spending the summer months in Upstate NY every year (managing our Oyster Haven vacation rental and catching up with extended family in the area), and we're just a stone's throw from where my godfather and adopted godmother live; so I'm going to make it a point to see them as often as I can.  Also, every day when we pray our Rosary, my husband and I recite a special intention for our godchildren; from now on, we will add one for our godparents--living and deceased--as well!

God has been so, so good to me.  Sunday's reminder that I have, and have always had, Uncle J (the best godfather!) in my corner is one more blessing for which I shall be eternally grateful.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

ABC Book Update (You Can Purchase It Here at the Blog)

Not too long ago, I blogged about how I'd finished my ABC Book and had it printed up using a Shutterfly-like site called Mixbook.  I ordered a copy through them to see how it turned out, and I was thoroughly pleased with the quality (the illustrations copied beautifully).  But with the cost?  Not so much.  The regular price for one paperback copy of this 8 and 1/2 by 11-inch book was almost $70!  And even with an online 40% off coupon, it was still prohibitively expensive.

On that blog post, I shared a Mixbook link for those interested in purchasing a copy, realizing that there wasn't much of a chance that anyone would be willing to shell out that kind of money for a children's picture book--and I include myself when I say that!  I want to get copies for all my gang, and I really was hoping to figure out a way to do it so it wouldn't break the bank.  Even running off copies of the illustrations at home and putting them in a presentation binder wasn't the answer, because at 50 pages long (longer than the average children's picture book), I found it used up too much computer ink--and that stuff is expensive!

So I decided to do a little detective work.  And I stumbled upon another site where I could get the book formatted to be sold in both paperback and hardcover versions, at a much more reasonable price.  This site is called, and it appears to be the answer I was hoping for.  (They even have an option for purchasing an ISBN number so the book can be sold on Amazon for profit, but I don't think that's the route I'm meant to go with this project.)

Through bookemon, paperback copies of my ABC Book sell for $26.39 each (they are printed on demand and I don't believe I earn any royalties from sales).  That's still a lot of money--but it's the best price I could find in my travels throughout the Internet.  I was anxious to share a "Buy now" link for the book here at the blog, for anyone who might be interested; but before I did, I wanted to check out the quality of the finished product.  It looked okay on the computer screen; I just wanted to make sure it looked okay on paper, too.

I ordered a copy at a very slightly reduced "author's rate," and today I received it via UPS.  Although the color quality was slightly less vibrant than the Mixbook version, overall I was quite pleased and deemed it worth sharing here at String of Pearls.  If you're interested in looking through the online copy or purchasing a print copy (in either paperback or hardcover), you can just click on that link on the sidebar of my home page, over there on the right, and it'll take you to the site.  (Also, feel free to hit the "Share" button if the spirit moves you!)

God bless you for stopping by!  And I hope you're having a relaxing summer (with lots of beach--or poolside--reading, which is one my favorite guilty pleasures!).

**A little addendum to this post, added a day later: full disclosure--much to my surprise, I have learned that I will earn a dollar for each copy sold.  (Several copies have been purchased from the site already.)  I had no idea. I thought I had to get an ISBN and make it available on Amazon to make any profits from sales.  What a bonus!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Blog Handles for All My Peeps

I know that some bloggers use the real names of all their family members when they write about them.  But for some reason, when I joined the blogosphere in 2011 I thought it best to give all of my peeps aliases.

I was a little boring when it came to my husband (I simply call him my husband here at String of Pearls, or sometimes my guy) and my sons (#1 or my firstborn, #2, #3 or my middle son, #4, and #5 or my baby.  Pretty creative, huh?).

But in 2009, a new member was added to our original "Big 7" (shameless This Is Us reference, #sorrynotsorry), and I had to come up with a name for her.

When it came to the daughters-in-law, I was kind of forced to get more creative.  I mean, wouldn't it have been tiresome to call them the wife of son #1, son #2's wife, and so on?  I wanted to think up some fun aliases to use here at the blog.  I really put some effort into it, and here are the handles I gave to our sons' wives after they joined our clan.

Wife of son #1: Regina
Wife of son #2: Ginger
Wife of son #3: Preciosa
Wife of son #4: Braveheart

Here I am surrounded by these four sweet girls (first my daughters-in-law, now my precious daughters and friends) when they were all at our old home in NH for Christmas in 2014.

I have special reasons for choosing each of those names for these girls.  And now that my baby is about to get married and I'm going to have to call his gal something more inspired than my baby's wife, I wanted to come up with the perfect name for her, too.  And I think I found it.

I'm going to call her Babisiu.

As with all the names, this one has a special origin and meaning for us.  The word babisiu means "baby" in Polish.  This future daughter-in-law of ours, who is our baby's baby, has some Polish blood in her--so that's one reason I chose it; but also, in December of 2017, we flew to Poland and picked her up at the airport, and then the three of us traveled about five hours through dark and deserted rural back roads to meet up with our youngest son, who was on a deployment there at the time and had four days of leave just after Christmas. We had a short but wonderful Polish holiday together in a beautiful city called Bialystok--so always and forever, she shall be my Polish girl with a Polish blog alias.

There they are, our baby and his Babisiu, enjoying a delicious steak dinner with us on our last night in Bialystok.

Our grandkids have some interesting names here at the blog, too.  This is the line-up, oldest to youngest (so far!):

Twins: Bonnie Babe and Cutie Pie
Little Gal
City Girl
Triplets: Pumpkin, Peanut, and Paquita

I actually have a lot of fun deciding what to call everyone.  Lucky for me, because soon I'll have to come up with some more names for grandchildren who are currently in utero.  I hope I don't run out of ideas!  (But if I do, what a wonderful "problem" to have, don't you think?)

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Celebrating the Bride-to-Be (A New Pearl to Add to Our String)

Last Sunday, I left upstate NY--where my husband and I grew up and met, and where we now spend our summers taking care of our "Oyster Haven" VRBO lakeside rental home--well before the crack of dawn, and caught an early flight to DC and then a second leg out to Michigan.  That afternoon, I attended the bridal shower of our youngest son's fiancée, who will become the newest Mrs. Pearl in September.

It was the most lovely and joy-filled shower, hosted by her younger sister (the matron of honor), and celebrated at the home of one of the bride-to-be's close relatives.

One of our other daughters-in-law also hails from the Midwest, and after repeated trips to visit with her extended family over the years, I am convinced that people who are natives of that part of the country are pretty much without exception some of the warmest, friendliest, most kind, unassuming and welcoming folks you will ever meet.  And I've also noticed a trend: the women out there really know how to cook!  (They all seem to make their own homemade jams--a skill that my jam-loving husband--who has to make do with Smucker's most of the time--surely wouldn't mind me acquiring.)

The food was plentiful and delicious, the guests were friendly and delightful, and the setting was comfortable and charmingly decorated.  The converted garage where the shower was held, now an awesome party room, boasted an idyllic lake view out past the back yard.

The games were mostly pearl-themed.  (Perfect!)

There was also a "Who Knows Her Best?" game, and the bonus question was, "What is the bride-to-be's favorite thing about the groom-to-be?"  My future daughter-in-law said that she almost answered "his sweet personality," but then couldn't decide on one thing; so her answer was "EVERYTHING."  (That is the only right answer for a doting mom to hear about her beloved baby boy, I can tell you that!)

She was a very gracious receiver of gifts--of which there were many.

My gifts had been purchased online from the wedding registry and sent to the address where the bride is currently living and working, so the only thing she had to open from me at the shower was the now traditional "Little Black Apron" that I like to give my daughters-in-law.  It comes with a string of pearls attached.  ;)

I also like to bring mine to their showers and have a picture of the two of us taken wearing them.  But you probably already gathered that!

There was one gift that was definitely more for my son than for his bride-to-be.  (Yes, it was actually on their registry!!  LOL)

After the guests had all left, I sat and visited with my sweet girl, her mom, her dad, and her dad's cousin and his wife (whose party room we'd been enjoying all day) and their five young children.  When it was almost dusk, her dad's cousin took all of us for a leisurely ride on his pontoon boat.  What a beautiful way to end a beautiful day.

After the boat ride it was getting kind of late, and I had an early flight.  So I drove my rental car back to my hotel near the airport, and before the crack of dawn on Monday, I was on a plane headed back north.  It was a whirlwind trip (and one I could not have taken if it weren't for the perks of my husband's airline job), but so worth it!

I am thrilled to welcome this lovely young lady into the family.  She's a kind, hard-working, faith-filled Catholic girl who loves my son.  And bonus: she loves to cook!  (You should have seen all the wonderful kitchen gear she put on the gift registry!) So my boy will be well-loved and well-fed--lucky him!