Thursday, March 31, 2011

Knit One, "Pearl" Two

That's the only knitting jargon I know. I'm not a knitter. I love to sew, and for a few years when my boys were young, I dabbled in cross-stitch. But for some reason, I've always been a bit intimidated by knitting. To me, it seems very hard to do.

My daughter-in-law, however, has become quite proficient with a pair of knitting needles. She has created some really awesome items: scarves, hats, beautiful knitted placemats (which I'd never seen before, but love), and adorable baby booties.

If you'd like to see some of her projects, you should check out her blog, "Mother of Pearls" ( Not only does she post pictures, but she also provides links to help you find yarns, patterns, etc. Her blog isn't only about knitting, though; it covers a plethora of topics, and it's really very entertaining and educational.

(This charming Victorian-era painting is called "Young Girl Knitting," by artist Albert Samuel Anker.)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My Pearls of Great Price

In case you're wondering how I came up with the title for my blog, I named it for my 5 boys. Their high school varsity lacrosse coach (who sometimes had as many as 3 Pearls playing on the team at once) always referred to them as a "string of pearls," so there you have it.

Here is a picture of my 5 priceless gems, rendered in cartoon form by son #4 (we all think he's uber-talented). With a few simple lines, he managed to capture everyone perfectly. We loved this drawing so much that we used it as our Christmas card "family picture" in 2007.

We need an updated drawing, though, because another Pearl--our daughter-in-law--has been added to the string. And soon, two tiny Pearl babies ("seed pearls"!) will be added as well.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Notre Dame Wins Fencing Title

For those of you who think you're dyed-in-the-wool, loyal to the core Notre Dame sports fans, I doubt that any of you can hold a candle to my husband. If ND had an underwater basket weaving team, he would follow it. He follows every sport they play, and I mean every sport.

While the rest of you were probably focused on the Irish basketball and hockey teams in recent days, how many of you were aware that last night, the Irish fencing team won the national championship? My husband was in Europe for work, yet he knew and informed me about it during our phone conversation. (In fact, he asked me if I was going to blog about it, and I said probably not; I told him that I just did a blog about the hockey team yesterday, and I didn't want to talk about sports all the time.) I've already posted one blog today, but here I am again, back at the computer. I just couldn't help myself: I felt compelled to give those lesser-known Notre Dame athletes their due.

So congrats to the Irish fencers! Well done, gentlemen.

(If it seemed like I was lumping fencing in with underwater basket weaving, that wasn't my intention. Fencing is actually one of the oldest gentlemen's sports, and I imagine it requires lots of skill and athletic ability.)

Victorian Artwork

Okay, yesterday I posted something about the Notre Dame hockey team, because I don't want to completely lose the attention of my sons who are following my blog. But today, I'm sharing something more on the girly side! (Sorry, guys.)

This adorable illustration is from a card I found and couldn't resist buying. (I seem to be on a dog kick lately, don't I?) The inside reads: "Friendship is sharing in the same simple joys."

These two friends are sharing a book--I think they've started their own little book club.

I just love Victorian artwork. There is something so sweet about it. (See the illustration from "A Morning Prayer," March 12, for another fine example.) Every now and then, I'm going to post samples of it, just because it makes me happy!

If you like this "Victorian Greetings" brand card, it's from a company out of Lenexa, Kansas called the Victorian Trading Company ( They sell a lot of other cool Victoriana, too.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Irish Skate on to Frozen Four (or: The Puck of the Irish)

If you're a Notre Dame fan, you've probably been down in the dumps since the basketball team's crushing blow last week, a disappointing loss that kept the Irish from advancing to the Sweet Sixteen (see "No Luck for the Irish," March 21). Well, this morning, you're probably feeling a whole lot happier.

As Lloyd Christmas might say, the hockey team went and totally redeemed ND last night by beating the University of New Hampshire Wildcats (who had home-state advantage for the game) 2-1 and advancing on to the Frozen Four. Huzzah!

In a way, the outcome of this game, no matter which team had won it, was going to be a little bit of a win-win for our nuclear family, as we feel an allegiance to both ND and UNH. But the entire extended Pearl family--and it's huge, believe me--is filled with manic Notre Dame fans, and we know a lot of people who are feeling pretty pumped up today.

So here's to a national championship title for the ND hockey team! Go Irish!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Trio of Canine Cuties

This is my son's dog Allie, on the right, with her two miniscule best friends. (The little ones belong to his cousin.) The dorkie tan one on the left is Charlie. I'm not dissing Charlie here; that's his breed--he's a Dachshund/Yorkie hybrid: a Dorkie. I think Charlie is Allie's boyfriend.

And the one in the middle is not a Beanie Baby; it's a real dog. That's Buckley, and he's a pure-bred Yorkie. I don't think we could ever have a dog that small in our house, because there's a very real possibility that he would be crushed by one of the size 12 or 13 feet that roam around here.

Believe it or not, Allie is sort of afraid of Buckley. Allie is a bit of a scaredy-cat.

You may not be a dog-lover, but c'mon, you have to admit: this is a pretty cute picture.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

"Hachi, A dog's tale": Two thumbs up!

My husband was out of town last weekend, and I decided to treat myself to a late-night movie that couldn't quite be categorized as a "chick flick," but is definitely not the type of movie my husband and sons usually prefer. And by that I mean action-packed or sports-related. I like those kinds of movies, too; but every now and then I crave a good 3-hanky movie--you know, something heartwarming and sweet and slow-paced, without car crashes, gun fights, or explosions. (My sons would call that "something boring.")

I got the movie "Hachi, A dog's tale," even though I'd heard so little about it when it came out that I'm not even sure if it was ever in theaters or just went straight to DVD. But it stars Richard Gere, Joan Allen, and Jason Alexander (George from "Seinfeld"); I thought with a cast like that, how bad could it be?

Well, it's fantastic! You don't even have to be a dog-lover to enjoy it. (But be careful: it could turn you into one.) Plus--and here's the best part--it's rated G! Even most animated films these days are PG's, and this movie is a G. I need more G-rated movies in my life! I'm tired of watching a movie and saying afterward, "That was cute--I mean all except the 5% that was entirely inappropriate; the other 95% was great."

This movie is 100% enjoyable and 100% appropriate for all ages. I absolutely loved it.

Friday, March 25, 2011

I don't think I like bananas anymore...

Innocent looking, aren't they?

I've always liked bananas. They're tasty and they're so good for you.

Except when they're not.

Two days ago, my youngest son had a severe allergic reaction to a banana. He's never been a fan of fruits (in fact, the last time he had a banana, it was in a Gerber baby food jar), but he'd been having some trouble with leg cramps during lacrosse practice and thought he could use the extra potassium. So he'd asked me to get him some bananas.

That afternoon, he peeled one and took 3 or 4 bites--he said it was so gross that he couldn't get any more down than that--and not long afterward, his lower lip ballooned. I knew this was not a good thing and quickly gave him a dose of Benadryl. The swelling went down, but almost immediately, other symptoms showed up: nausea, severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, and then angry red hives that covered his face, neck, and back. He was sick for the rest of the night.

I had been talking with after-hours nurses at our family practice office throughout the ordeal, and by the time the hives were sprouting, I decided it was time to go to the ER. My son and I were in the car on the way as I talked to a nurse on my cell phone (not a good idea, I know, but it's still legal in our state). She was able to assure me that a trip to the hospital was probably not necessary; if the reaction was going to become life-threatening, she said, it would have happened within two hours of ingesting the banana.

My son was fine the following morning, but now we've got to take him to the allergist and get him tested, in case there are other food allergies lurking that we aren't aware of yet.

Like I said, I've always liked bananas. But that was before they'd become my son's enemy. I'm not so sure I like them anymore.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Playing the Favorite

My second son (who is still very sore, the poor guy, from the car accident he was in three days ago) likes to find ways to be called "Mom's Favorite"--even though it's just a joke, because my boys know I love them all the same. (They're all favorites.) Just the other day, though, he did earn temporary favorite status.

This son is currently interning as a high school math teacher. (He's already earned his undergraduate degree in secondary math education, and when he finishes his stint as an intern, he'll have his master's.) Periodically, the intern group meets to go over things with their advisor, and they take turns providing snacks for the meetings. My son asked if I would bake something, so I got up about 5:30 one morning and made two kinds of cookies for him to share.

That night, he told me that everyone loved my cookies--loved them so much that they told him they wouldn't mind if he brought all the snacks from now on. One of the girls, he claimed, bit into a cookie and said it was the best thing she'd ever had (it was just a basic chocolate chip cookie with white chocolate chips added--nothing special!), and she asked my son what was in my cookies that made them so good. He told me his answer was, "Deliciousness and love." he a great schmoozer, or what? I have to say, at that moment, he may have been my favorite...

This son likes to brag about my baking. And he enjoys playing an over-the-top momma's boy (to the amusement of his friends). He's such a funny guy, and so well-liked wherever he goes, that I think if anyone can make that a cool thing to be, he can.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spring Has Sprung

Sunday, March 20 was the official first day of spring. That's what the calendar says anyway. But this is what I saw when I looked out my windows the evening of the 21st, after it had been snowing steadily all day long. Spring indeed! The snow is beautiful and everything...but come on! Enough is enough.

You gotta love springtime in New England!

This week is the first week of practice for my youngest son's high school varsity lacrosse team. Luckily, the snow doesn't tend to stick around too long when it falls this late in the season, so they were actually able to get out onto the field for practice yesterday. But there's always that possibility that Old Man Winter isn't through with us yet.

My son's lax-playing cousins who live down in Virginia and North Carolina have been practicing for awhile already. It's no wonder that those balmy states send more boys on to play lacrosse in big-time Division 1 college programs than our little Northern state does!

Oh well, in spite of our brutal and wicked long winters and our non-existent springs, I still wouldn't live anywhere else but here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Close Call

We have a lot to be thankful for this morning.

Last night, on the way back from a meeting, our second oldest son was in a two-car accident. As he was driving down a main road in our town, a minivan shot out from a side street on the right, making a left turn, with almost no time for our son to react. He slammed on the breaks, but it had been snowing all day and the roads were slippery, so he ended up crashing into the other car's driver side rear door. His airbag deployed and he was able to walk away from the crash without injury (except for some painful bruises, mostly on his legs, and we're having those looked at today just to be on the safe side). The man driving the other car, and his two young kids in the back seat, were also unharmed--in fact, our son said their car didn't look too bad either. So thanks be to God, no one was hurt! And a very good friend of our son had been at the meeting with him and was traveling on the same road behind him. When she came upon the accident, she stopped and stayed with him until everything was taken care of, let him use her phone (he always has his phone on him--but wouldn't you know, he had forgotten it at home last night), and then she gave him a ride home.

This was an accident that happened when our son was driving at a relatively low speed through town. I shudder to think of what might have happened to him if he'd been on the highway going much faster.

Our 15-year-old Honda Accord didn't fare too well in the crash, as you can see from the above photo. It was towed to a garage last night, and though we haven't gotten the official word yet, we are pretty sure it's been totaled. It has been a great car for our family, a real workhorse; all five of our boys learned to drive using that car. In recent years, it was driven almost exclusively by our second son. It had well over 200,000 miles on it, and it was his goal to drive it until it reached the 300,000 mile mark. Apparently, that isn't going to work out.

But all we care about is that our boy walked in last night, in one piece. So life is good.

Monday, March 21, 2011

No Luck for the Irish

If you've been caught up in March Madness AND you're a rabid Notre Dame fan (both of those attributes would apply to sports fans in our house), you're probably feeling a little under the weather after last night's game.

The Fighting Irish lost to Florida State 71-57 in what was a losing battle pretty much from the get-go. They played possibly their worst game of the season (both of their usual offensive superstars, Ben Hansbrough, Big East Player of the Year, and Tim Abromaitis, were just ice cold) while Florida State played one of their best--on both sides of the ball--and the combination was lethal for Notre Dame.

So our beloved Irish won't be moving on to the Sweet Sixteen; instead, they're heading back to South Bend, before the dance is over, any hopes for winning a national championship crushed.

The good news is that 3 out of the 5 starting seniors from this year's team are doing a 5th year at ND and will be back next basketball maybe next year will be ND's lucky year.

(My poor middle son: did you have to call in sick for work this morning?)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Prayer for Our Troops

I just wanted to post this beautiful image of Our Lord watching over men and women from all the different branches of our military. Looking at it reminds me that even when people we love are serving in harm's way halfway around the world, they are never alone; Our Lord is always with them.

If you have a loved one serving in the military (as we do), here is a prayer you might like:

Lord, hold our troops
in your loving hand.
Protect them as they protect us.
Bless them and their families
for the selfless acts they perform
for us in our time of need.
I ask this in the name of Jesus,
Our Lord and Savior.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

St. Joseph's Feast Day

I've already posted a blog today, but I just remembered that March 19 is St. Joseph's Feast Day. He is the Patron of Fathers and Families. Here is a powerful prayer to this great saint. It is over 1900 years old, and it is called "Unfailing Petition to St. Joseph."

Oh St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the Throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires.

Oh St. Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual belssings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord, so that having engaged here below your heavenly power I may offer my Thanksgiving and Homage to the most Loving of Fathers.

Oh St. Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms.

I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart.

Press Him in my name and kiss His fine Head for me, and ask Him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls, pray for us. Amen.

The Easter Bunny will be here soon!

With Easter on the way, I've been reminiscing about how great it is to have small children in the house. I still make Easter baskets for my boys--I don't care how old they are!--but there's nothing like the faces of little ones when they discover the Easter Bunny has come. My son and his wife, who are expecting, have so much fun to look forward to.

Our boys always loved holiday celebrations and tradtions--still do--but our fourth son took it to a whole other level. We call him our "holiday boy." He was the one who was up at 1:30 a.m. on Christmas mornings (he's 23 now, but I think he just started sleeping in about 4 or 5 years ago!). He's the one who is astounded by his noisy, spark-making, T Rex-shaped gun in the photo on the bottom left, and whose mouth is stretched so wide in the one on the top right, it looks like it's got hinges--as if he's one of those snakes that can swallow a large animal. (His baby brother's no slouch himself; he looks like he could probably swallow a baby animal.)

These pictures just make us all smile, so we put them up on the fireplace mantle every Easter season.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Gone with the Wind, Revisited

For as long as I can remember, I have loved to read.

When I was about ten, I got my hands on a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird, and I fell completely and hopelessly in love with a book for the first time in my life. What amazed me was that the author of this brilliant work, Harper Lee, wrote only this one masterpiece, which has affected millions of people all over the world. To Kill a Mockingbird won a Pulitzer Prize and was made into movie that was nominated for Best Picture in 1962--one of the few movie adaptations of a novel I've ever seen that stays pretty true to the original work. I am almost always disappointed in movies adapted from books that I've read and loved; but I think this movie is wonderful. (And though the picture didn't win the Oscar, Gregory Peck won Best Actor for his excellent portrayal of Atticus Finch, one of the great characters in all of fiction, in my opinion.)

The summer after seventh grade, I went to the library and checked out a novel by a woman who, like Harper Lee, had written only one masterpiece, won a Pulitzer Prize for it, and saw her magnus opus made into an acclaimed Hollywood film: that book, of course, was Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind. I had already seen the movie at our local Strand Theater when I checked out the book, planning to spend a good chunk of my summer vacation lying on a blanket in the back yard, killing two birds with one stone by reading and sunbathing simultaneously (and this being the 70's, before skin cancer awareness and SPF 30 sunscreen, I planned to be slathered with baby oil, working on my tropical tan). Even if you never get around to making your way through the 1000-plus page book, the movie is a must-see, winner of nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture for 1939. Having watched the movie first, I must admit that when I read the book, Rhett Butler could only be Clark Gable, and Scarlett O'Hara was Vivien Leigh--those were the faces I envisioned. But in spite of having already seen the movie and knowing exactly what was going to happen, I was completely entranced by the book and read like a fiend, stopping only for bathroom and meal breaks during my waking hours. It was utterly engrossing and satisfying, and a real page-turner that ended too soon, in spite of its length.

It has been many, many years since I've re-read Gone with the Wind. This is strange for me, because I've read all of the books I've loved best--and some that I've enjoyed, but wouldn't even rate in my top ten--over and over (and over!). I can't even count how many times I've read To Kill a Mockingbird, Wuthering Heights, or Pride and Prejudice, to name a few. If the book is wonderful enough, I want to experience that joy all over again. And yet, I think I've only re-read Gone with the Wind once since that first time in junior high. I'm not sure why. It's an extremely long book, but I actually like that feature. I suppose when my kids were younger and I had only limited amounts of free time, I was drawn to shorter works of fiction.

Anyway, long story short (too late!): I've just bought a paperback copy of Gone with the Wind. I'm going on a trip by plane next month, and whenever I do that, I like to have a good book with me--to take my mind off the terrifying fact that I am flying!--so I'm saving it for the plane ride. I am so excited to start; I think it will be like visiting an old friend that I haven't seen in years.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day!


May your neighbors respect you,

Troubles neglect you,

The angels protect you,

And Heaven accept you.

May your blessings outnumber

The shamrocks that grow,

And may trouble neglect you

Wherever you go.

May you be in Heaven a half hour before the Devil knows you're dead.

IRISH WISDOM: The best way to get rid of your enemies is God's way, by loving them.

AND THIS ONE'S FOR YOU, BIGFOOT: "We have always found the Irish a bit odd. They refuse to be English." (Winston Churchill)

Slainte! (a toast: To your health!)

Erin Go Bragh! (Ireland forever!)

St. Patrick's Day Table Setting

I've already given a nod to St. Patty's Day, but here's another. I just love setting the table for holiday celebrations, so I thought I'd post a photo of my St. Patrick's Day place settings because they look so festive (and the green beer has already been poured!).

My Johnson Bros. "Old Britain Castles" dinner plates have images of Blarney Castle on them, so I thought they were perfect for the occasion!


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Heresy Soda Bread

If you're Irish-American, tomorrow night you're probably planning to serve corned beef with cabbage, carrots, and potatoes (a dish also known as "New England Boiled Dinner") in honor of St. Patty's Day. My husband looks forward to this meal every year.

One thing he won't eat, however, is tradtional Irish Soda Bread, because of the raisins and carraway seeds. So I'm making "Heresy Soda Bread," a recipe that was given to me by an Irish friend of mine. It omits the raisins and carraway seeds and is absolutely delectable--moist, with a hint of sweetness. (This friend gave the recipe to me on the condition that I would never serve it to another mutual friend of ours, a woman by the name of Reilly--a purist who would have been appalled by it!)


Sift together:
3 cups flour, 2/3 cup sugar, 1 Tbsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. salt.

Add in:
2 beaten eggs, 1 and 3/4 cup buttermilk, 2 Tbsp. melted butter

Stir until well mixed. (Add more buttermilk, up to 1/4 cup, if necessary.)

Grease well a loaf pan or bundt pan, or shape into a traditional Irish round loaf. Bake at 350 for about an hour**. Remove from pan immediately.

**I checked my bread after about a half hour, and it looked done; when I poked it with a knife, the knife came out clean, so I took it out. My oven tends to cook things more quickly, but you may want to check on your bread after a half hour or so.
An interesting note:
I just went on-line to read more about Irish Soda Bread, and to my surprise I learned (from an article featuring a man named O'Dwyer, from Tipperary County in Ireland, who now lives in Atlanta and has founded the Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread) that TRUE Irish soda bread is very simple, like this recipe. It's made from flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. No raisins, currants, orange zest, and carraway seeds!! While those additions might make the bread tasty, they also make it inauthentic. I should retitle this recipe "Somewhat Traditional Irish Soda Bread," but I'm going to stick with the title that my friend gave it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Comedian Brian Regan: Appropriate for All Ages!

Today is my older brother's birthday. (Happy Birthday, brother!) He's a very funny guy with a great sense of humor, so in his honor I decided to write today on the subject of comedy.

If you love stand-up comedy, but are sick and tired of having to push the mute button or fast-forward when a comedian starts using foul language or making X-rated innuendos, I have just the ticket for you.

His name is Brian Regan, and if you've never heard his comedy "stylings," you're in for a treat.

He is hilarious to most adults, and even cool enough to be popular with many college-aged kids. But you can put one of Brian Regan's DVD's in and watch it with kindergarteners in the room, and you won't have to push the mute button once. Young children even get most of his humor, because he uses a lot of stories from his childhood days--which people of all ages can relate to--in his show.

Brian Regan is a true breath of fresh air in this day and age, when most comedians think that to be funny, you have to talk about nothing but sex and drugs, and of course, drop F-bombs all over the place. He's a favorite of my nuclear family, as well as the enormous, far-flung, extended Pearl family. He has made us laugh until we cried! Some of us have even seen him on stage, live, and his show was well worth the price of admission.

You can find sites for Brian Regan on-line that sell his CD and DVD's, as well as apparel and gifts with signature quotable phrases from his comedy routines printed on them. Check him out; I can almost guarantee you won't be disappointed.

TAKE LUCK! (You'll get what I mean after you've heard his CD, "Brian Regan LIVE.")

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Best Coffee Cake Ever (makes two 9" round cakes)

We used to pick up Dunkin' Donuts after Mass, or muffins from the grocery store bakery, but now this awesome coffee cake is a regular part of our weekly Sunday brunch.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare one Betty Crocker yellow cake mix as directed (sometimes I substitute the same amount of butter for the oil--either way is good).

Grease and flour two 9" round cake pans and pour half the batter into each one.

Bake cakes until about 2/3 done--maybe 17 or 18 min. (Let them cook until somewhat firm; if you add the streusel topping when the middles are too gooey, it will sink into the cakes.)

Prepare streusel topping while cakes are baking.

Streusel Topping (make up two batches of this in separate bowls, one for each cake):
To top each cake you will need:
2/3 cup Bisquik
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 Tablespoons firm butter

Mix all dry ingredients with a fork. Then cut butter into small pieces and add, and work it into the dry ingredients using a pastry cutter (or two knives) until it's nice and crumbly.

Remove cakes when about 2/3 done and cover with streusel topping, then continue baking until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean (about 6-8 more minutes).

This is insanely good! (And you can eat one this Sunday, and freeze one for next!)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Morning Prayer

Dear Lord,

So far today, God, I've done all right. I haven't gossiped, haven't lost my temper, haven't been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or over-indulgent.

But in a few minutes, God, I'm going to get out of bed, and from then on, I'm probably going to need a lot more help.

Thank you.

In the spirit of Lent, I thought I'd post this little morning prayer. I can't remember where I found it--I've had it for years. It's only funny because it's so true.

Along with giving up Diet Pepsi and desserts this Lenten season, I'm going to try to devote more time to prayer; because once I get out of bed each day, I could use all the help I can get!

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Parent's Parting Words to an Adult Child Leaving the Nest

Years ago, before my first son left for college, I found this in one of the Catholic publications we receive. I thought it perfectly captured what I wanted to tell him as he set out into the world on his own for the first time, so I ended up making a tiny laminated copy of it, and I asked him to carry it in his wallet. My fifth son--my baby!-- is three months away from his high school graduation. He will be leaving us soon, and I can't imagine how we're going to stand having him seventeen hours away from home. We've always been there to guide and protect him--is he ready to be on his own? I don't care how many times you go through the process of leaving a child off at college, it doesn't get any easier. But I think it will make me feel better if I give my boy a copy of this to carry around with him.

If you have a child who's getting ready to leave the nest, you might want him to have a copy of it, too.


A Parent's Parting Words to an
Adult Child Leaving the Nest

Always remember, I love you. It's real, unchanging, and unconditional!

I believe in you! You are a child of God and He has a purpose and a mission that only you can fulfill. He promises to give you the grace and strength necessary to meet whatever challenges you face in life. All you need to do is ask.

I expect great things from you. While others may lower their standards or reduce their expectations, not me! I expect your best because I know that you can do your best and be the best! Never settle for mediocrity--you'll always be disappointed.

Always remember: God loves you. Even when you fall or fail, as we all do, God loves you and will forgive you and heal the hurt. Just ask Him.

I'm praying for you. Your leaving is surrounded by prayer, and we will continue to call upon your patron saint and guardian angel to watch over and protect you in all that you do.

Keep your eyes on the prize. Your real goal is not a perfect test score, a college diploma, a successful career, or a carefree life, but Heaven. Stay clear of anything or anyone that attempts to pry you away from or rob you of that prize--everlasting life with Jesus! Remember: "Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love him." (1 Cor. 2:9)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

30th Anniversary

Thirty years ago, I married my best friend. (Not thirty years ago from this date; our 30th anniversary was actually a few months ago, on December 27, 2010...but I hadn't yet become a blogger when we hit that milestone. This is a belated shout-out.)

You can tell how very LONG ago we got married by the fact that everyone threw rice at us as we came out of St. John's Church for the first time as a married couple. I've heard that this is no longer considered an animal-friendly thing to do; but back then, we had no idea that rice expands in birds' bellies and can cause them to explode.

Sorry, birds. :(

This was the happiest day of my life, so happy that I was oblivious to the fact that it was bitterly, bitingly cold outside--even though all I had on over my gown was my grandmother's lightweight fringed shawl, which she'd loaned to me for my big day to use as my "something borrowed."

My husband and I are even more in love now than we were back then (it's a tired cliche, but it's so true)--so here's to thirty more years!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

If you're thinking about getting a dog...

This is Allie. My third son got her this past summer--he sort of "adopted" her from his aunt.

Our son was planning to live with us for most of the summer, as he had just finished a few months of Army training out in Arizona (he is in the Army Reserves) and was in the midst of a job search but wasn't yet employed. When he called to warn us that he would be bringing Allie with him, I thought, "Oh, no." Our family had only had one dog, a Black Lab/Golden Retriever mix named Shamus, from 1983 until 1988, and then we'd had to find her a new home because our oldest son was allergic. I felt like I was too old to adapt to having a dog in the house again and was not at all looking forward to the experience.

I was so wrong to worry!

Allie is hands down the sweetest, gentlest, most affectionate dog in the universe. She kisses constantly, and her tail is never still (it's amazing that she doesn't break it, the way it slams into every obstacle in its path). She craves belly rubs; in fact, she does this bit we call "stop, drop, and roll," where she just flops down by your feet and rolls immediately over onto her back, sometimes even throwing herself head-first on the floor and pivoting on her head to do a high-speed flip. It's hilarious. This dog would never hurt a fly--in fact, she's quite docile and timid. And she absolutely lives for HUMAN CONTACT. This, I found out via the internet, is a common trait of her breed, the Plott Hound. Actually, she's part Plott Hound and part something else--possibly Lab. But I'm tellling you, if you are looking for a dog, I would highly recommend getting one with some Plott Hound in it.

When our son had to go south for a few weeks of Reserve work during the summer and left her with us, my husband and I fell so in love with Allie that I half-wished our boy would come home and say, "I've made a huge mistake. Could you guys keep her?"

She really is a special dog. Did you notice that she's smiling in the picture? That's right, this dog actually smiles. And did I mention her pretty brindle coat?

We don't blame our son for wanting to keep her. But if I ever find her clone, that's it: we're getting a dog. I mean, we're not thinking about getting a dog, really, but if you are...

Making Christening Dresses

My late mother-in-law was a gifted seamstress. She was also a talented smocker, and hand-smocked many heirloom dresses: prom dresses for her daughters; Flower Girl/First Holy Communion dresses for her granddaughters; baby and christening dresses. She adored fabric and had amassed an enormous collection of it over her lifetime; she believed that beautiful pieces of fabric are true works of art, and just looking at the patterns on them brought her joy.

In three lifetimes, she never would have had enough time to use up all the fabric that she'd collected, but I know that when she looked at a piece she loved, she could see its potential and in her imagination had planned out exactly what she would make out of it when she got the chance.

Recently, I went "fabric shopping" at her house, hoping to find some pretty white material to make two christening gowns for my oldest son and his wife, who are expecting twins. I came upon a plastic storage container filled with a neat stack of pristine, still-in-their packages, white linen pillow shams (twelve in all), replete with decorative cut-outs and delicate embroidery. They are just exquisite--which is probably the exact reason why they were never used for their intended purpose. I'm sure my mother-in-law was saving them because she saw the potential for creating something wonderful out of them. It wouldn't surprise me if she was thinking about using them to make christening gowns for her great-grandchildren. It seemed that they were just what I was looking for! I got permission from my husband's sisters to bring them home with me. Then I picked up two different patterns at JoAnn's. (I couldn't make up my mind which one I liked better, so I bought them both, as they were on sale for the unbelievably low price of 99 cents apiece. My mother-in-law, who was the bargain shopper extraordinaire, would have been proud!)

I will have to carefully take apart the seams of the pillow shams and then figure out how to piece them together to best showcase the embroidered areas on the dresses. I wish my mother-in-law was here to guide me, because she was an old pro at this sort of thing. I usually sew using large flat pieces of fabric cut from a bolt. But I'm really anxious to see if I can create some heirloom christening gowns for my first grandchildren using the beautiful linen pillow shams that belonged to their great-grandma.

Later on, when I'm finished, I'll post the "after" picture.

Where has all the glamour gone?

I love to take pictures--especially of people (my children in particular). I have taken thousands of pictures over the past thirty years. I started out with a cheap Instamatic camera, then advanced to a cheap Kodak 35 mm one. Every time I took my film in to be developed, I ordered double prints so that I could send photos of my kids on to their grandparents--crossing my fingers, hoping that there were some decent shots in there. (There were usually some real duds, and even the good ones were often dark, overlit, or just plain blurry and grainy.

I thought I'd died and gone to Heaven when my husband gave me my first digital camera as a Mother's Day gift in 2003. To be able to delete the bad ones and zoom and crop the good ones--what a joy! The clarity! The color! The instant gratification! (All little ones nowadays immediately say, "Let me see!" and grab for the camera the second you've taken their picture!) How had I survived twenty years of raising my beautiful boys, I wondered, without this marvelous invention that would have captured their every expression so perfectly? But better late than never. When I looked at the digital action shots I snapped during my boys' high school lacrosse games, I felt like a Sports Illustrated photographer. I could never have gotten pictures like those with my old-fashioned cameras.

We think we've come such a long way with photography, and it's true, we have. But my very favorite portrait photos will always be those glamourous black-and-white head shots from the forties and fifties. Just look at the picture of my mom.  She looks like a movie star in her engagement photo.  Of course, she would have been gorgeous no matter what type of camera snapped this shot (she's 75 now and still gorgeous), but still!

And this my mother-in-law, a light-eyed, dark-haired stunning Irish beauty. So classy and elegant. Was everyone a movie star back then?

I've always thought I was born a little too late, that the world has gotten too modern for me. When I look at these beautiful images of the women in my family, I am transported to another time. I wish I had just one fifites-style black-and-white photo of myself to put beside the ones of these women; but I'm not very photogenic, so even fifties photography may not have been able to give me that aura of glamour! 

Well, the glamour may be gone, but all in all, I'm glad we're in the age of digital photography. I have two grandchildren on the way, and I hope they're ready for their close-ups!

Monday, March 7, 2011

My Favorite Person

This is my favorite person in the world.

He is my best friend--my boyfriend since 1973 and my husband since 1980.

He is the father of my sons.

He is the rock upon which our family is built.

He is my hero.

And he's all mine, which makes me the luckiest person in the world.

The Most Important Person

I absolutely love this! It was my late mother-in-law's favorite, and she made copies of it for her four daughters and four daughters-in-law. It meant so much to her that it's what her children had printed on the back of the prayer cards at her funeral. It not only reminds me of what a great privilege it is to be a mother, but also of my husband's wonderful mother, a woman who played a huge role in my life and whom I will miss 'til the day I die. I decided to put it on the wall right next to the mirror over my dresser, where I would be sure to see it every day.

Instead of framing, it, though, I tried to make it look like an old document tacked up on the wall. (I have some decorating tendencies that are sort of weird--faux finishes and trompe l'oeil are my bread and butter, so almost nothing in my house is "real.") I employed some tea dyeing and edge burning to give the paper that aged look (hopefully), and then I glued it right onto the wall with some wallpaper paste. If I decide to remove it later, it should come off as easily as any wallpaper border.

I must get away from this computer and get some work done! I just had to try out a post with a photo attached before I could call it quits for today. No one told me how addictive blogging would be!

I'm a blogger! I blog!

I am so excited! It worked! I just checked out my blog and the first post is there, the profile picture's there. It's like magic. I'm a blogger! I blog! (For those of you who haven't seen the movie "What About Bob?", that's a reference to Bill Murray shouting, "I'm a sailor! I sail!" Very funny--you should check it out if you've never seen it.)

I just tried to find an image of that scene from the movie on the web that I could add in here, thinking it would be a nice touch; but I can't figure out how to manage that...yet. There's so much to learn!

Ready, set, go!

On a whim, after talking on the phone last night with my daughter-in-law (who's far more computer-savvy than I can ever hope to be, and has been blogging for some time), I decided to start this blog! (Gulp!) I hinted about it to my husband, and he was (as always) very encouraging and supportive; but not one of my five sons has any idea yet. I am, as they are quick to point out, a total "n00b" when it comes to computers. So I'm not sure what I've gotten myself into here. But after becoming a follower of both my daughter-in-law's blog and Ree Drummond's "Pioneer Woman" blog, I thought it might be fun to give it a shot.

Well, I've just spent the last five minutes shutting down my computer and starting it up again, because the first time I was working on the above paragraph, I hit some key that froze everything and I couldn't get the little arrow to go where I wanted it to go. This may be a sign that perhaps I'm not cut out for life in the blogosphere--but I'm stubborn and I'm going to stick with it, at least for a while.

I was thinking that it's too bad that I didn't have the opportunity to do this while I was raising my five boys, because there was at least one good story every day back then. The first four were born between 1983 and 1988--there were times when we had three in diapers at once--and then the fifth came along in 1993. My four oldest are now in their twenties and my baby is going off to college in the fall. But I am about to become a grandmother--of twins!--so that should provide some good material!

After another five minutes spent trying to figure out how to edit out a mistake from what I'd just written (as an English major, typos that look like grammatical errors make me crazy!), now I think I'm good to go.

Wish me luck!