Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Coffee, Coffee, Everywhere--and Lots of Drops to Drink

In December of 2011, for the first time ever I accompanied my husband on one of his overseas trips.  He was the captain of the airplane, and I sat up in business class (it's the only way to go, baby!) and flew across the Atlantic for the first time in my life.  My husband had been an airline pilot for 24 years by that point, and he'd been flying internationally for 15; yet I'd never seen Europe and didn't think I was really missing anything.  I had kids at home to take care of, and the thought of leaving them to fly off to exotic destinations terrified me. (Flying in general terrifies me, you understand.)  But when our baby left for college last fall and I found myself presiding over an empty nest, suddenly the idea of tagging along when my husband went to work sounded like a pretty cool idea.

And was it ever!  Since my maiden voyage was a four-day trip for my husband, we had two whole days to sight-see in Nice and nearby Monaco.  I wrote about this too-good-to-be-true trip extensively, and if you want to know more about it you can go back in the "Travel" archives and check those posts out.  The main reason I brought up that magical trip to the Cote d'Azur is that while we were in Monaco (and I realize that sounds very snooty, saying "While we were in Monaco") sitting at an outdoor table at the Cafe de Paris, right across from the Hotel de Paris and near the famous Monte Carlo Casino, I had the most glorious cup of coffee--that is, cafe au lait--that I'd ever had in my life.  Before tasting French coffee, I was sure that I was a dyed-in-the-wool Dunkin' Donuts/Maxwell House Lite person.  I was tres, tres naive, mes amis.  I am most definitely a cafe au lait fan.  Here in the States, I hate the way my coffee tastes with milk in it and always insist on half and half; I don't know why the milk they put in coffee over in France is so delicious, but just trust me, it is.
Here's how they serve it at the Cafe de Paris in Monaco.
Well, this morning I'm here at my home in New England, making myself a pot of coffee.  I'm not a world traveler today, so I can't expect anything as exotic as real French cafe au lait right?

WRONG!  The coffees of the world have come to my very door--thanks to my middle son, who got me a membership in the "Coffee of the Month" Club from Amazing Clubs as a Mother's Day/birthday gift--and today, I'm having a heavenly-tasting brew called "La Pastora" Costa Rica Tarrazu.  As the Amazing Clubs brochure touts, Costa Rica has some of the best coffees in Central America.  This particular variety is SHB (strictly hard bean) and EP (European preparation), and it is regarded by many coffee aficionados as one of the best coffees in the world.

Maybe it's the fact that it's EP, and I've already determined that I like coffee prepared in Europe--but I must agree: this Costa Rican coffee is fantastic.  And served in my exquisite Russian "Catherine the Great" china (which my husband brought home from a trip to Moscow many years ago), I think this cup of coffee would be able to hold its own at any cafe in the world.
Here's how we serve it at the Cafe de Pearl in the good old U S of A.
The other coffee that came with the latest shipment from Amazing Clubs is called Ethiopian Harrar.  If the five coffees I've already sampled from my "gift that keeps on giving" are any indication, I'm sure it's going to be a winner.

Drink up, coffee achievers!  (And if you're getting tired of your pedestrian brews, check out the offerings from Amazing Clubs!)

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Joy of Writing

I've said this before, but I'll say it again: I love blogging!  For so many years, I was a frustrated writer--but I was also a busy mom who was raising five sons and didn't feel like she had enough hours in the day to devote to anything so time-consuming.  At one point, on March 8, 2001 (when my oldest son was eighteen and my youngest was eight), I began writing an almost-daily "journal" on the computer, in order to get my memories of earlier times with my boys down on paper before I got too old to remember them.  Blogging didn't exist back then (heck, I was amazed enough that I could write a journal on the computer in the first place, on this wondrous and magical invention called Microsoft Word, and fix all of my typos without the aid of White-Out!); but in a sense, I was blogging.   For myself.

Here is how I began my first entry that March day in 2001: "Well, I have finally decided to do what I should have been doing all these years, while the boys were growing up.  I am going to put down some thoughts, to try to remember some of the funny and sweet things they've done, and to describe my feelings about them.  I think the reason I never did before is that it is something that could have consumed me--and when they were all little together and keeping me busy all day long, I didn't seem to have the time or the energy to do it right. I used to write down snippets in their baby books, but that's about it.  Whenever I'm trying to finish a project or I'm reading a great book, I can't seem to stop--and I'm sure if I'd started trying to do this thing justice, that's all I would've done!"  (Let me say for the record here that when I read this paragraph now, I find it needs some major polishing!)
I didn't keep up the practice of journal writing for long, though, because I wasn't good enough at budgeting my time to include an hour or so a day of sitting at the computer; in fact, I made my final entry on May 21, 2001, not long after my oldest son had gone to his first prom.  And until I started "String of Pearls" with a post called "Ready, Set, Go!" on March 7, 2011--almost exactly ten years to the day from when I started keeping that journal!--I really didn't do much writing.  (Unless you count yearly newsletters to be sent out at the end of the summer to all the football parents...or invitations to the annual fashion show/silent auction luncheon, a fundraiser for my sons' high school...or thank you cards...that sort of thing.)

In a way, I wish blogging had existed back then, in the olden days, when I was a young mom.  If it had, I think I might have been able to motivate myself to do it.  For anyone who finds joy in writing--in figuring out how to construct a sentence in just such a way that it will convey what you want it to (for the purpose of inspiring someone, or perhaps invoking laughter or tears)--blogging is an excellent tool.  There are so many young people who are doing it these days--and they inspire me!  Two blogs that you simply must check out are: my daughter-in-law's "The World Accordion to Renee" at http://accordiontorenee.blogspot.com; and "Something Ivory" at http://something-ivory.blogspot.com, which is written by the wife of my second oldest son's college buddy. They are both wonderful!

Keep on blogging, girls!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Miraculous Medal Prayer

Yesterday, I told you that I've worn a Miraculous Medal around my neck for about 15 years now, never taking it off--even when I work out or shower.  I often repeat the prayer on the front of the medal, the words that encircle the image of Our Lady of Grace: "O MARY CONCEIVED WITHOUT SIN PRAY FOR US WHO HAVE RECOURSE TO THEE."

I try to be a good daughter to Mary, my Mother; but I know I often fall very short of the mark. When we say a daily Rosary, my husband almost never dozes off.  I, on the other hand, more often than not awake with my fingers still holding bead #4 of the third decade, and I realize I've blown it once again.  (Being able to fall asleep in an upright position--any time of the day or night, in bright light or darkness, holding a book without losing my spot or a cup of coffee without spilling it--is programmed into my DNA; my whole family shares this superpower.)  They say that when you fall asleep saying the Rosary, the angels finish it for you. As if they aren't busy enough up there!  I can imagine them saying, "Really?  Again? Can't she ever get through one by herself?"  (Sorry, angels.  And thank you so much!)
(Click on the image to enlarge for easier reading.)
Anyway, I just wanted to share this lovely image of the Blessed Mother with Her Infant Son--again, a page from a free calendar that came in the mail a couple of days ago.  I love the serene faces on both Mother and Child in this piece of artwork.  And I wanted to share the prayer as well.  As a wearer of the Miraculous Medal, I would like to learn it by heart.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Thanks for Graces Received

As of today, I have finished the final editing process for my novel and it is ready to go to print.  This means that in August or September, a lifelong dream of mine is going to be fulfilled.  I am both thrilled and terrified at the prospect!

I dedicated my book to my wonderful, supportive, loving husband and my five most precious gifts from God, my sons; but although She is not mentioned in the dedication, the entire book is actually dedicated to the Blessed Mother, too.  I tried to honor Her through my writing, and I hope I have done Her justice (as if any mere mortal ever could).

I have worn a Miraculous Medal constantly for about 15 years now, to show my devotion to the Virgin Mary--and I believe that She interceded for me and gave me the aid I needed when I hit patches of "writer's block" during the four-and-a-half year writing process.  Today, as the weight is lifted from my shoulders--and I realize that even if I missed a typo here or there, I have done the very best that I can do--I wish to thank Her for being there and giving me the gentle nudges I needed along the way.

For graces received, I want to thank Mary, Our Mother (the most generous and loving of mothers!) with all my heart.
(Note that Mary is actually reading a book here !  This illustration was taken from one of the  pages of a free calendar that we received in the mail yesterday.  I thought it was the perfect illustration for this blog post.)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Bezalel Books Blog and Banter: Great New Titles

Bezalel Books Blog and Banter: Great New Titles: I just love our new titles thus far this year! We've released a wonderful new children's book by author and illustrator Sandy Mattucci: Le...

Spilling the Beans

For almost five years now, I've been living with a little secret: from August 2, 2007 until December 1, 2012, I was fulfilling a lifelong dream and working on a novel.  I was not writing (and re--writing!) non-stop; I took plenty of breaks along the way--when I came to a part of the story that was particularly difficult to write, for instance; or when several of my sons were home from college for their summer breaks, and I couldn't really buckle down because I was so happy to have them home and wanted to spend time with them.  But I finally finished my manuscript, which has a definite pro-Catholic (as well as pro-life, pro-chastity, and pro-family) slant to it, and I sent it to a traditional Catholic publishing house, from which I received my first rejection letter several months later.

I was not that surprised or upset by the rejection.  I know how hard it is to get a book published.  But instead of contacting other traditional publishers, I decided to go with a Catholic self-publishing company called Bezalel Books.  Just as I was coming to the end of the writing process, I found an article about this company on-line and was amazed to learn that Cheryl Dickow, Bezalel's founder and president, started her publishing business in 2007, the very year I began to write my book.  Her whole reason for wanting to start her own publishing house stemmed from the fact that as a teacher at a Catholic middle school, she found that her students didn't have Catholic fiction to read.  There was plenty of Christian literature, but not specifically Catholic literature.  She felt strongly enough about the need to provide young readers with this specific entity that she quit her job and started her own business.

When I read what Cheryl Dickow's mission was, it sounded very much like mine.  I wanted to write this book because I worry about the kind of literature that is being targeted at our young people, and I wanted to write a novel that would be different than the mainstream fare.

We are going through the editing process at the moment (finding nit-picky little inconsistencies in punctuation, capitalization, or what-have-you, in order to make sure that the manuscript is as perfect as it can possibly be).  That should be finished soon, and the book is slated to come out in August or September.

I was so afraid to spill the beans about my project as I was working on it, worried that I would never finish and would be embarrassed I'd talked about it.   Only my immediate family--my husband, sons, and daughter-in-law--have known about it for a long time.  But now, the beans have been spilled for me: on the blog site for Bezalel Books, my soon-to-be-in-print novel is mentioned in a July 24 article called "Great New Titles."  I have shared the link today in a separate post.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Yesterday, my husband received a glorious package in the mail: the first shipment of the "Bacon of the Month" Club from Amazing Clubs, which our middle son, son #3, enrolled him in as a birthday/Father's Day gift.  You may recall that awhile back, this son gave me a similar birthday/Mother's Day "gift that keeps on giving" (the "Coffee of the Month" Club, which I blogged about on 5/15/12).  My husband's gift package contained two types of bacon: "Sir Pigsley's," which is Honey BBQ Rub Hickory Smoked Country Bacon; and "Rita Hogsworth's," which is Maplewood Smoked Country Bacon.  They both sound delightful.
The thing I love about pigs, like this angel pig figurine that my second son gave me last year as a Christmas present, is that they are adorable.  I have a vast pig collection in my kitchen, and this little guy is my newest addition.  What he doesn't seem to get, however, is that even people like me--people who think pigs are just about the cutest animals on earth, after dogs--like to eat them.  What he doesn't seem to get, as he sits there next to those packages with a sweet smile on his face, is that someday, he could wind up as finger-lickin'-good breakfast food (or let's be honest, anytime food) himself.  Pigs are not just cute; they are delicious.

We love bacon around here.  It goes with just about everything.  You can even wrap it around a Snickers bar, as our middle son did once to prove that point.  (He claims it was delectable.)  Our family gets a huge kick out of Jim Gaffigan's comedy routine about bacon.  If you're a bacon-lover and you enjoy a good laugh, you should look it up on YouTube.  It's positively hilarious.  And very, very true--every word of it.

There are very few vegetarians in either my husband's nuclear family or mine; we are mostly unapologetic carnivores.  At the huge reunion that was held recently at my baby sister's house (where my parents, my four siblings and their families, and my eight first cousins on my mother's side and their families all gathered for our second annual camping "Palooza"), my brother-in-law cooked up 18 pounds of bacon one morning.  You read that right: 18 pounds!  There was none of this "Take two slices for now and wait until everyone else gets some" nonsense; we could pile our plates high with bacon.  It was a bacon miracle!

Have I said enough about bacon yet?  Is it possible to ever say enough?  And how do I end this post?  I guess I'll just end by saying that as long as there is bacon in the world, it will be impossible for me to give up meat and become a herbivore.  (As Jim Gaffigan would say, "Sorry, salad.")

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Birthday Doin's

Okay, today I'm the birthday girl, and it's been a busy day for me so far--so I never got around to blogging this morning.  I thought that it was a good day to post this picture of myself, taken fifty years ago--that's right, a HALF A CENTURY ago--when I was taking tap and ballet lessons.  If you needed a good laugh, you're probably having one now.  Don't feel bad about that, though; this photo makes me laugh, too.

I was four when this picture was taken, so now you know how old I am today.  I'm dressed this way because I was getting ready to perform in a number called "Donkey Doin's" at a dance recital.  My mother tells me that she signed me up for dance lessons because I was painfully shy and she thought it would help me come out of my shell.  And apparently, much to her surprise, it worked.  She said I loved being up on stage.
But who can blame me for wanting to show off this getup?  It's something else again, isn't it?

I never had any little girls of my own to enroll in dance classes, and my boys weren't showmen.  Hopefully, my twin granddaughters will have dance recitals for Papa and me to attend someday.  Four-year-old dancers must be a hoot to watch...especially when they're doin' "Donkey Doin's" and wearing costumes like this!

I was a lot cuter back then than I am now...a lot more dewy-skinned and less wrinkly.  And I could get away with short hair at four, too, though I've worn it long most of my adult life.  At four, most hairdos work.  (I could even get away with crooked bangs--bangs that I decided to trim myself, right before the big recital, much to my mom's chagrin!)

This morning, our youngest son (who's been working at the movie theater this summer) got free tickets for my husband and me, and the three of us went to a showing of "Batman--The Dark Knight Rises."  What a great birthday treat!  You might have thought that I'd want to go and see the latest romantic comedy to hit the big screen, but remember: I raised five sons (and no daughters--no dance recital participants).  So mother-son movie dates are usually action films!  But I really enjoyed it.  If you haven't seen it yet and you enjoyed the first two Christian Bale "Batman" movies, you'll love the third installment of the trilogy.

Well, that's about it from here.  Soon, my husband and I are going to head out for some steak doin's at the Texas Roadhouse.  But don't worry: I won't be sporting a cow costume.  

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Guys and Dolls

I am the mother of five sons (no daughters).  They are all grown now, ranging in age from 19 to 28, and they are an absolute delight to me in every way.  My husband always promised, when they were young whippersnappers and resembled a litter of very energetic and noisy puppies, that one day I would be surrounded by strapping young men who treated their mother like a queen.  That day has come, my friends, and I am the luckiest woman who ever walked the earth.

When my boys were little, I spent a few years taking a weekly porcelain doll-making class. The first step was to pick out--among the many antique reproductions and modern dolls that my teacher had in her shop--the head, hands, and legs that I would use.  Then I would smooth and clean these fragile green ware pieces to prepare them to be fired in the kiln. Next, I would paint the hardened pieces to prepare them for the second firing.  And finally, I would construct a body for them out of wire, cloth, stuffing, and glue.  The process of completing one doll took weeks, and by the time I was done I had fallen in love with each and every one of them.  They were like my babies.  I found doll-making to be a very satisfying craft, particularly because I've always loved dolls so much myself but had no one to buy or make them for.  So I made them for family members and friends...and I made them for me!

One of the first projects I worked on was making a porcelain image of each of my boys, ostensibly as something for them, something to take one day when they got married and had houses of their own.  (Now, I'm afraid I love them too much to see the set of five get split up; so they may not get them until after I'm gone!)  Here are my guys, as dolls:
That's son #1 in the back row, left.  The mold I used is from an antique German "Character Doll" made by Simon & Halbig in the early 1900's.  I chose it for this son's doll because it resembled him a little.  It has a rather long face and eyes that turn down a bit at the corners--features that run in my husband's family and have been passed down to my firstborn.  I dressed my oldest boy's doll in gray pants and a white button-down shirt, because that was the uniform they all wore at their Catholic grade school.  I cut up an old shirt and pants that my guys had actually worn to school to make these tiny clothes. Since he's dressed like a schoolboy, I gave him a tiny backpack (with a tiny lunch bag in it!) and a math book to hold.

In the middle of the back row is son #2's likeness.  This doll is also an antique German "Character Doll," but I don't know the name of the company that produced it.  I chose this mold for my second son's doll because it reminded me a bit of him--especially because it had his round cheeks, a feature that runs in my family. He is dressed in jeans, a sweatshirt, and a baseball cap (which began its life as a key chain), since that is the uniform this son wore when he wasn't in school.  The jeans and sweatshirt were crafted from old clothes that my boys had worn.  He holds a football in one hand and a paint palette in the other, because he was really into both sports and drawing.

Son #3 is in the back row, right.  I used the same mold for his face that I used for son #1, because the two of them have similar Pearl features.  I dressed him in the maroon sweatshirt and sweatpants that was the gym uniform at their Catholic grade school (and again, I cut up an old uniform they'd worn to make a tiny replica of this ensemble--which I found adorable, but by junior high the boys unanimously viewed as hideous).  There is a backpack over the doll's shoulder, since he's wearing a school uniform.  And he's holding a basketball and a baseball bat, because this middle son of mine was/is an ESPN-watching sports nut of the highest order.

In the front row on the left is son #4.  I chose this mold for his doll because the face reminded me of his, right down to the deep dimples in its cheeks.  This German doll was originally made in the 1920's or 30's, and my teacher always referred to it as "Laughing Child."  My fourth son is dressed in a tiny handmade sailor suit, because when all of my boys were little, I had their photo taken in the same sailor suit...and I just like how little boys look in sailor suits!  This son went through a nutcracker-collecting phase, so I gave him a little nutcracker to hold.  He's also holding a sneaker, because by the time this boy went off to college, he had amassed an impressive collection of funky, brightly-colored athletic shoes.

And finally, that's my baby in the front row, right.  I used the same antique German mold for his doll that I used for son #2, because he, too, had very round cheeks when he was a little munchkin and the two brothers had a definite resemblance.  I dressed him in a tiny sweatsuit with Simba on the front of the hoodie and lion's ears on the hood, trying to replicate a favorite Lion King outfit from his toddler years.  He holds a dinosaur, a soda fountain drink, and a pail filled with legos and a miniature King Mufasa figurine--and now you know what his great loves were when he was a little guy.  You also know which classic Disney animated movie was his favorite.

In truth, all five of my sons were so crazy about many of the same things growing up--dinos, Jurassic Park, drawing, Disney movies, football, and lacrosse--that I could have given them all similar accessories to hold. But with these dolls, I tried to capture their unique personalities.  So that's it, then; these are all my guys, as dolls.

(And lest you think that I never made a porcelain likeness of my #1 guy, my husband, guess again.  But that's a subject for another post.) 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Feeling a Little Rusty...

Well, after what I believe is the longest hiatus I've taken to date (at least it feels like the longest), I'm back.  I've been neglecting my "String of Pearls," but I've had some very good excuses.  They're so good, in fact, that I'm going to list them here.

1. I'm away from home, staying at my husband's family homestead in Upstate NY, and it's always harder to sit down at my computer and write when I could be chatting with my Pearl in-laws over a cup of coffee at the kitchen island instead, or over an adult beverage on the new enormous inflatable "Caribbean island" we have moored out in the lake.  (Islands are playing a big role in the festivities this summer.)

2. From this past Friday through yesterday, my husband and I and the two of our sons who could make it (#2 and #5, or as we're calling them for the time being, "our favorites") have been enjoying long, fun-filled days at my family's second annual camping "Palooza"--with my parents, my four siblings and their families, and all eight of my first cousins on my mother's side and their families.  Just like last year, my baby sister and her husband were kind enough (or crazy enough) to let everyone camp out on their property--an awesome expanse of land right on the lake--and take over their lovely house.  When I say everyone, however, I do not include my husband, my sons, and myself; we are what you might call...indoorsy. (And my husband and I have never taken our children camping.  You know why?  Because we LOVE them!)*  So when the partying ended each night at my sister's, we did not retire to a tent.  We drove the half-hour back to my husband's childhood home and slept on cushy beds in air-conditioned comfort.  But my sister, God bless her, had two RV campers, a port-a-potty, a pop-up camper, and about a dozen tents set up in her yard.  And there was still room at the campground for the kids to play games of "man hunt" and kickball!  If she doesn't watch it, passers-by are going to see all this going on and start calling to see if they can rent a campsite from her for their summer vacations.  And you couldn't blame them.  It's absolutely idyllic there, and our family couldn't ask for a better location to get together and enjoy boating and swimming in the lake, making s'mores by a campfire, and catching up on each other's lives.
The campsite out back...
...and the lake view out front.
Okay, now for more excuses (as if the Palooza isn't enough).

3. I was afraid I was boring you anyway, and felt I might be running out of interesting things to say; so I thought it was a good time to give you a break and recharge my batteries.

4. The WiFi at my husband's family home was on the fritz for a bit, and I saw it as a sign that I should take some time off from blogging.

5. The sun was in my eyes.  (It was!  It's been sunny, blue-skyed, and gorgeous every single day since we've been here.)

6. I tripped on a rock.  (I did!  It happened when I was walking on the rocky shore, making my way out to the floating Caribbean island last night to join my Pearl relatives for one last hurrah before we get back on the road and head home this morning.)

I can probably come up with plenty more, but that's enough excuses for now.  The WiFi's working again, so here I am.  I'm feeling a little rusty...but I guess I'm back.

Before I go, though, I'd like to give my daughter-in-law's new blog a plug.  She's been a blogger for years, but when her old blog stopped working recently because too much space had been taken up with photos, she decided to start a whole new one with a whole new concept.  It looks like it's going to be a real winner.  It's called "The World Accordion to Renee," and you can find it at accordiontorenee.blogspot.com.

*You won't get this if you aren't a dyed-in-the-wool Jim Gaffigan fan (which is a bit of a prerequisite for being a member of our family).  Jim Gaffigan is not a camper.  And if you've never heard his comedy, you should check him out!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Pen Fit for a Writer

When we were in Boston Sunday (soaking up all the rich history concerning Colonial Boston and its huge role in the American Revolution), my wonderful sister-in-law bought me a little gift at one of the souvenir shops, a gift that I just love: an old-fashioned looking feather pen.

I already have an antique ink well, courtesy of my mother.  Now I have a quill pen to dip into it.  Well, I can pretend to anyway...and now my little writing desk really does look quite Jane Austen-esque, doesn't it?
It's a pretty cool-looking pen, but the best thing about it is that it really works...without the ink well.  So I may not use my laptop computer anymore.  Instead of blogging, I may just begin keeping a journal--old school-style.
Yeah...that's not going to happen.

As much as I complain about my trials and tribulations in Cyberville (the way-less-fun cousin of Margaritaville), I can't imagine scratching out my thoughts laboriously, in my messy cursive...having to break out the old White-Out bottle instead of merely backspacing to delete errors...mailing out hand-written copies of my musings to my usual list of followers...

I think I'll just keep on blogging.  But don't you just love my new pen?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Summer Fun Addendum

Earlier today, I blogged about an awesome trip that my husband and I took yesterday with two nieces and a nephew (triplets who are ten-years-old) to the science center at Odiorne State Park in Rye, NH.  I mentioned a blue lobster we'd seen--and just in case you thought I was making that up, I thought I'd post a picture that my husband captured on his iPhone of this amazing and delicious sea creature.
Take a good look, because these guys are really rare.  In fact, among the lobster population, the chances of this mutation occurring are only one in five million.

Another rare occurrence would be meeting Bill Nye, the Science Guy in person...and wouldn't you know, he was there visiting the science center when we were!  He was talking about lobsters, and during his talk, he held a blue lobster, but not the one behind glass in the aquarium area of the center (the one my husband took a picture of, above).  This was yet another blue lobster that the science center had in its possession...so my husband was wondering: "What was all that one in five million stuff?"--to paraphrase Lloyd Christmas in "Dumb and Dumber."

Anyway, here is a picture of our niece and nephew with Bill Nye, who we had no idea would be at the science center on the very day we chose to visit it.
What are the odds that we would run into the famous Science Guy himself?  I bet they're about one in five million, right?  But as my husband always says, "I'd rather be lucky than good."  And yesterday really was our lucky day!

Summer Fun

My Florida sister-in-law just packed up her mini-van (with six kids, three dogs, and lots of packages, boxes, and bags) and pulled out of our driveway, after an awesome three-day visit.  She has this traveling-with-her-gang thing down to a science.  It's amazing what she fit into that vehicle of hers; truly, it seemed to expand as necessary as she continued to fill it.  Well, I don't even have to try to describe the scene to you; here are some pictures I took as she was loading everybody and everything up.

We were sad to see everyone go, but so thrilled and happy that they stopped in their summer travels to spend some time with us.  I blogged yesterday morning about our Sunday trip to Boston, where we walked along the history-filled Freedom Trail and soaked up the sights and sounds of the big city.  Today, I'll tell you about yesterday's summer fun activities.

My sister-in-law took the three older boys (two of whom are in high school) on a historical walking tour of Cambridge and Harvard, and from there over to take a look at the Boston College campus.  While they were doing that, my husband and I took the three younger kids (the triplets, our 10-year-old nieces and nephew) to Odiorne State Park in Rye, NH, where we had a picnic lunch by the ocean and then set out to hunt for crabs hiding out in the rocks and tide pools along the shore.  There is also a science center at the park, where the kids saw an extremely rare blue lobster and were able to pick up small sea creatures such as star fish.  And--you're not going to believe this!--Bill Nye, the Science Guy (of public T.V. fame) made a visit to the science center while we were there, and we were able to get a picture of the kids with him.  After a long and exciting afternoon at Odiorne, we got ice cream and saw the latest "Ice Age" movie at the theater where our youngest son works.  What a perfect day, huh?  And the weather was ideal, too.  It doesn't get much better than that.

It is so wonderful to have people come and stay at our house!  I am never happier than when I can "do" for members of my family.  This past year, as the reality of the empty nest began to sink in, I would often feel a little blue about the fact that my husband and I have this big house that is perfectly suited to hosting a crowd, but we rarely get much traffic from our out-of-town relatives.  I'm on a cloud today, because my sister-in-law's gang had such a good time that they're planning to make a summer stop at our house a yearly event.  Woo hoo!  I was worried that since we don't live on a lake, like my husband's family did, and we don't even have a pool out back, we wouldn't have a "draw" that would bring our kids back home.  But it turns out that there's so much to do around our area, we didn't even get to do it all!  So any family members out there who are reading this, take note: come and see us, anytime!  We promise to make the trip worth your while!  If you're looking for some summer fun, we've got it here in spades!

Monday, July 16, 2012

History and Hip-Hop in the Big City

My husband's sister is here visiting with her five children, a nephew, and her three dogs, and we are so busy and having so much fun that I forgot all about blogging yesterday. Well, I didn't really forget; it was more like I played hooky. We had a full day, though; there wasn't much time for sitting at my laptop.  There was a lot of bacon to fry in the morning, of course, as well as a lot of chatting to do with a dear sister-in-law with whom I don't get to visit often enough.  And after a huge Sunday brunch together in the dining room, our seven house guests, my husband, my youngest son, and I all set out for a day exploring nearby Boston.  (The dogs stayed home and held down the fort.)

We rode the T in and took a Freedom Trail tour, which is a walking tour that highlights different historical spots throughout Boston--the city that is known as the birthplace of the American Revolution.  We started the tour in Boston Common, led by an enthusiastic tour guide dressed in Colonial garb.
We saw such sights as the Old State House, in front of which the Boston Massacre took place.  In 1776, the Declaration of Independence was first read to the citizens of Boston from the balcony of this building.
Just after the tour ended, we happened upon a street show that was, as true Bostonians would say, wicked awesome.  There was a group of young men (eight of them, I believe)  break dancing and doing the kind of forward and backward flips, handsprings and whatnot that you see in the floor routines of Olympic gymnasts--and they were doing it without mats!  At one point, they lined up four young ladies and had them bend over, and one of the guys got a running start and flipped in the air over the girls' backs (sort of like Evel Kneivel jumping his motorcycle over four buses in a row).  That show was the icing on our cake.
Our adventure in the big city ended at Faneuil Hall, where we got some dinner and ice cream before heading back to the T for the trip home to NH.  We'd seen a lot of history--such as the Old South Meeting House where the Boston Tea Party was planned, Paul Revere's grave, and the Old North Church of "one if by land, two if by sea" fame--and then at the end of our historical tour we were fortunate enough to be entertained by a group of thoroughly modern, athletically gifted (and wicked funny to boot) hip-hop dancers.

It's because of 18th century Bostonians like Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, and all those "Sons of Liberty" who roused up their fellow Americans to fight the tyranny of the British government that we live in the freest country in the world...a country where dancers and other artists have the freedom to perform on the streets of our cities any time they wish.  The American Revolution was fought and won by all those brave Patriots long ago, so there's no need for a Dance Dance Revolution today.  (Bad joke.  I'm sorry.  I'm going to go now.)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Remembering Taffy

If you read this blog regularly, you already know that I have a real soft spot for our canine friends.  (For cats, not so much.)  I've already shared with you a favorite quote I got from one of my sisters, but it bears repeating: "May you be half the man your dog thinks you are."  Ain't it the truth!  Dogs are so non-judgmental.  They don't see your flaws--heck, to them, you have none!--and they adore you with manic intensity.  They are the most loving, loyal creatures on earth.

Of course, some dogs are better than others.  There's Allie, son #3's uber-affectionate dog, who I'm convinced is half-human.  I've written about her often enough, so you know how I feel about her.  Then there's Shamus, the former member of our family that I wrote about not long ago, in a May 4 post called "Remembering Shamus."  She was an outstanding dog, too.  My #4 son's sweet dog Finny shows the promise of becoming an awesome companion as well, when some of his puppy energy burns off (and when being left alone, unattended and bored, doesn't make him decide to chew things...like cell phones).  I've written about all of these dogs, but not about my own childhood pet--and in fact, I don't believe my boys have ever really heard much about her, either.

This is Taffy (who had some Pointer in her, and who knows what other breeds), a sweet female mutt who became part of our family when I was about eight years old.
Taffy in her later years.
When Taffy was young, she had a litter of six puppies before we had her spayed, and what a good mommy she was!  (Those pups ran her ragged, though, and the weight dropped off her until she was practically skeletal.  I was never able to lose my baby weight post-partum as quickly as Taffy did; but then again, I never gave birth to sextuplets.)

Neither Shamus nor Allie, with their tendency to bolt on occasion, would ever have survived on the busy main street where our house was located.  But Taffy never ran out into the street.  All you had to do was say, "Taffy, stay!" and that dog wouldn't move a muscle.  She used to sit out in front of our house when we'd leave in the morning to walk the few blocks to our Catholic grade school, and every now and then she'd get up as if she was dying to follow us; but if we looked back and reminded her to stay, she would sit there like a statue, following us only with her big brown eyes.  She was the most obedient dog.

My four siblings all had twin beds, but somehow I ended up with a double.  It just seemed way too big for one little girl, so Taffy usually slept in my bed with me (and if you've read the Shamus post, you'll see a disturbing pattern here).

As we kids got into the teen years, Taffy's devotion to us was rewarded with benign neglect; we had better things to do than stay at home and cuddle with our dog.  I continued to throw her a bone (did you see what I did there?) by letting her sleep with me, but for the most part I didn't give her much attention in her later years.

But how sad I was when I found out shortly after my marriage that my parents had had to have Taffy put to sleep.  She'd been a part of our family for 14 years, and she'd loved us with every ounce of her being.  Movies like "Marley & Me," "My Dog Skip," and "Hatchi" really get to me, because they remind me of how wonderful it is to be loved by a dog like Taffy.  There really is nothing like a good dog, is there?

P.S. A word to my sons (#3 in particular): don't take this post as a hint that Mom wants to be surprised with the gift of a puppy, the way I sprang Shamus on Dad.  We're on the road too much these days visiting all of you kids.  The poor thing would be at the kennel half the time.  So I mean it: no doggies!    

Friday, July 13, 2012

Going Green!

The title of this post probably made you think that I've decided to become a card-carrying member of the Sierra Club or something, but I was just referring to my gardening thumb...which has always been very brown...but which I'm trying to turn green.

Vegetation tends to die under my care.  I don't know why this happens.  I was able to grow five children successfully, but I can't grow plants and flowers.  So in my garden areas outside, I have nothing but perennials, such as day-lilies (which I just love!), because they come up on their own each year and flourish under my regimen of benign neglect.  

A couple of years ago, at an end-of-season clearance sale, I bought four decorative planters at the Christmas Tree Shop for a ridiculously low 97 cents apiece.  I thought some pots of lush, colorful flowers would spruce up the front walk and porch nicely.
Do you see that green stuff growing in those pots at the bottom of the steps?  Were you thinking that perhaps I planted some herbs instead of flowers this year?  Well, I'm ashamed to admit that those are just weeds in there--because up until yesterday, I hadn't gotten around to planting any flowers in my bargain basement flower pots.  Those pots had been sitting there with nothing but dirt in them (until the weeds took over); because up until yesterday, I hadn't gotten around to planting any flowers.  That's right: summer's half over, and I've just begun my summer gardening.

I feel like I have a million good excuses, though.  I've been out-of-town more than I've been home so far this summer, with trips to VA, AL, and Upstate NY behind me already--and two more trips to NY coming up pretty soon.  I've never been one to enjoy working in the yard in the first place (I've never fantasized about having a cleaning lady, but I sure would like to have a landscaping crew at my beck and call); but this year I've really neglected it, and the weeds and the crab grass are growing...well, they're growing like weeds.  (L, not quite OL.)

There's nothing like having company coming to make you get off your tushie and get to work, though, is there?  Today, my sister-in-law (who lives in FL) and her family are coming for a visit, and therefore it was suddenly obvious to me that things were looking pretty sad around here.  So yesterday and the day before, I worked like a dog outside--weeding, edging, cleaning off the deck furniture, and filling my pots with flowers.
...and after.
I know petunias and marigolds aren't exactly cutting edge, and my house isn't going to make it onto the 2012 Garden Tour...but those pots sure look better with flowers in them!  

Hey, this old thumb of mine may turn green yet.  There's always hope!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Feast of St. Veronica

Today is the feast day of St. Veronica.  In reading about her this morning, I just learned that she is the Patron Saint of Photographers and Laundry Workers--which makes perfect sense, as an image of the face of Our Lord was imprinted on her veil (just as modern-day images are caught on film) and this miraculous "stain" never came out of the cloth.  So St. Veronica has been helping me out over the years, and I never even knew it.  Because although I'm not a professional photographer, I am an incurable shutterbug.  I also raised five active sons who generated mounds and mounds of dirty clothes for me to wash.  On top of that, I washed the Varsity football uniforms at their high school after every game...for eight years in a row...and if that doesn't make me a laundry worker, I don't know what does!  So thank you, St. Veronica!
I have often thought that St. Veronica was one of the luckiest human beings who ever lived.  On the day of Christ's Passion and Crucifixion, she personally--with her own two hands--offered Him what comfort she could.  Moved by His great suffering as He struggled under the weight of His Cross on the way to Calvary, she removed her veil to wipe His face.  Imagine that!  Imagine being able to show your love for Our Lord in such a real and tangible way...being able to actually touch the face of God.  Nowadays, we must show our love through fasting and prayer and through trying to live the Faith fully.  And sadly, in this day and age--when secular politicians are trying to remove God from the public square completely--the great sacrifices He made for our salvation are often forgotten or scorned by many as mere fiction.

It is said that St. Veronica's veil possesses miraculous qualities, being able to cure blindness and sometimes even raise the dead.  The fact that this veil with an image of Christ's face on it even exists--along with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Juan Diego's tilma, and the image of Christ's crucified body on the Shroud of Turin--makes me believe that God used St. Veronica as a vessel to provide visible proof to those of His children who would be "doubting Thomases" otherwise.

What I wouldn't give to have the opportunity to gaze upon St. Veronica's veil!  I've never really had a "bucket list," but if I did, that would be on it.   

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

On This Date in History...

Sometimes you wake up on a day like yesterday, and--unless it was your birthday or something--you probably thought, "Nothing very important ever really happened on July 10."  I mean, it's not like June 6 (D-Day), or July 4 (Independence Day), or December 7 (Pearl Harbor Day), or February 14 (Valentine's Day).  Would you like me to go on listing other important/noteworthy dates for you?  No?  Okay then, let's just say that July 10 is a random, mundane, ordinary date, with little or no significance tied to it...right?

But on any given date in history, the most amazing things have happened.  I went on a website called Hisdate.com this morning to see if I could get any inspiration for a blog topic, and I was surprised to see some of the world-changing events that have taken place over the centuries on July 10.  Here is a sampling of them:

1040: Lady Godiva rode naked on horseback to force her husband, the Earl of Mercia, to lower taxes.  (Do you think that would work in our current political climate?  And did you know that Lady Godiva wasn't just a character from a fairy tale, or merely the inspiration for some seriously delicious chocolate treats?)

1212: The most severe of several early fires in London burns most of the city to the ground.  (Is this where the song "London Bridge is Falling Down" came from?)

1692: The first Salem "witch," Bridget Bishop, was hanged.

1797: The first U.S. frigate, the "United States," was launched in Philadelphia.  (Dad, this one's for you; GO NAVY!)

1892: The first concrete paved street was completed in Bellefountaine, Ohio.

1914: The Red Sox purchased Babe Ruth from the Baltimore Orioles. (This was wicked GOOD.  When Ruth went to the Yankees, that was wicked BAD.)

1938: The "Yankee Clipper" completed the first passenger flight across the Atlantic.  (A world-changing event that made my husband's future career as an airline pilot a possibility!)

1940: The Battle of Britain began when Nazi forces attacked by air. 

1949: The first practical rectangular T.V. tube was announced in Toledo, Ohio.  (Woo hoo!  Yay for T.V.!  This historic date is sure to be celebrated by one of my sisters-in-law, who has seven T.V.'s in her house!)

I could keep going, but I think you get my point.  And now I have to sign off, because I have some things to do. I'm going to drive over to the store on the smoothly paved roads of my little city and grab some Godiva chocolates.  When I get home, I'm going to sit around eating bon-bons while I channel surf to see what's on the tube.*  And none of this would be possible if it weren't for July 10!

*Not really!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Good Morning, Coffee Achievers!

I got up at 6:00 a.m. all on my own today, 45 minutes before my personal assistant, Siri, had promised to jolt me awake with the loudest, most annoying sound I've ever heard in my life.  Let's just say that even if I'm in a coma-like sleep, my iPhone alarm always does the trick.

I should have stayed in bed and caught a few more Z's, but I was so excited to blog at my new bird's eye maple writing desk (Did you see it in yesterday's post?  Is it beautiful, or what?) that I popped out of bed and went down to the kitchen to put on a pot of coffee.  And now here I am, all settled in with a cup of Sul de Minas, one of the two new types of coffee that I received recently in my second "Coffee of the Month" Club shipment from Amazing Clubs.  My middle son gave me what Cousin Eddie would call a "gift that keeps on giving" when he enrolled me in this club as a Mother's Day gift, and I'm really enjoying it.

Sul de Minas is a Brazilian coffee.  As the Amazing Clubs brochure touts, this brew is "high in antioxidants, naturally low in caffeine, and has mild acidity.  The roast is a rich Vienna shade and offers good body and smooth, sweet flavor with a crystal clear finish."  Okay, let me give it to you in layman's terms: this coffee is delicious.  I'm not enough of a connoisseur to be able to pick out things like "body" and "crystal clear finishes," but it's smooth and tasty and if you like coffee as much as I do, chances are you wouldn't turn down a cup of this liquid nirvana.  You'd probably like the other flavor I got in this shipment, Triple Pick Sumatra, too.  That one is an arabica blend from Indonesia that is "pungent with a spicy flavor...full bodied and rich."  The acidity level is low, but the aroma is "bold and intense."

Okay, you may have noticed I really, really like coffee.  I need coffee.  If I go a day without it, I'll get a mild headache by day two, so I guess that means I'm somewhat addicted to the caffeine.  But I'm not one of those people who is so miserable before she has her first cup in the morning that you better watch out or I'll bite your head off.  Like this gal, for instance.
But I am a coffee achiever.

Recently, I read that drinking beer makes people more creative and better at solving problems.  Well, drinking coffee supposedly makes people higher achievers.  Do you remember those T.V. commercials from the 80's, where rock stars and other celebrities (the kind of folks who would never, ever lie) proclaimed that coffee drinkers (or coffee achievers, as they called them) were the movers and shakers of the world?  I considered myself a coffee achiever then, and I consider myself one now--even though I'm not really sure what that means.  But maybe drinking coffee really does make people achieve more. Anything's possible, right?  Coffee (and the caffeine associated with it) used to get a bad rap, but these days they say it has some major health benefits.  So I say drink as much coffee as you like!  That's what I'm going to do! 

Monday, July 9, 2012

In Praise of Hand-Me-Downs (The Sequel)

On June 19 of this year, I blogged about a cherished hand-me-down I'd been given by my mother--an oak sideboard that had been in our dining room while I was growing up and therefore plays a large part in some of my fondest memories of my childhood home.  Well, while my husband and I were recently in Upstate NY at a Pearl family gathering, I was given another spectacular hand-me-down: a bird's eye maple writing desk, a piece that was special to my late mother-in-law and which I'd always admired.  In an effort to clear out some of the clutter in the family homestead (the place to which the many members of the Pearl clan migrate every summer to enjoy the lake and each other), my sisters-in-law are trying to find new homes for some lovely but unwanted pieces of furniture that need to go.

No one expressed any interest in this desk, and the girls pretty much forced me to take it.  "Okay, okay; you don't have to twist my arm!" I said, and I did them a great big favor and took it off their hands.
I love, love, love this desk!  It has drawers and a pull-down writing surface, and best of all, these adorable little cubbies for storing things.  I love, love, love cubbies!  I have always wanted a little writing desk like this one.  I have priced them at furniture stores and found that even shoddily crafted modern reproductions, made out of pressed wood with stapled-on backs, were prohibitively expensive.  This one is a solidly built piece of antique furniture, with dovetail joints and everything--something I can imagine Jane Austen sitting at while she penned Pride and Prejudice (one of my favorite novels of all time).  Can't you just picture her working at this desk by candlelight, scratching away on a pad of paper, dipping her quill in an inkwell?
I do have an antique brass inkwell on top of my new desk (another treasured hand-me-down from my mom), as well as a framed photo of my own personal Mr. Darcy, my husband (taken about thirty-six years ago when the two of us young lovebirds were a heck of a lot less wrinkly than we are now).  But unlike Jane, I'll be writing by soft lamplight...on my trusty laptop computer.

Hey, what can I say?  I'm a modern gal, and--despite my love/hate relationship with technology and my fascination with anything old and history-filled, like this wonderful hand-me-down writing (make that blogging) desk--I enjoy the conveniences that electricity provides.  But I believe if Miss Austen was alive today, she would be a blogger, too.  So I'm keeping two excellent biographies of the famous author--Becoming Jane Austen, by Jon Spence and Jane Austen: Her Life and Letters, by William Austen-Leigh and Richard Arthur Austen-Leigh--close at hand on my desktop to provide me with the inspiration to keep on blogging.

I don't have the kind of writing talent that Jane Austen had; but now at least I've got the right kind of desk!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Neglecting my Blog!

I've been neglecting my blog for the past few days, but this is the backyard view I've been lucky enough to gaze upon ever since we arrived at my husband's family home Thursday night and were welcomed by a slew of Pearl family members:
Can you blame me for being distracted while I've been here in paradise?  If you were me, wouldn't you have trouble sitting at a computer when you could be sitting on the deck with an adult beverage, enjoying this spectacular view and surrounded by cherished loved ones (who happen to be some of the sharpest, funniest, most loving humans on God's green earth)?

It's been a true vacation--even a vacation from this virtual "String of Pearls" so that I could spend time enjoying a real one.

It's been sunny and gorgeous the whole time we've been here.  Last night, a big group of us adults swam out to the huge green and white floatee on the bottom left of the picture, with a floating cooler of Mike's Hard Lemonade and Miller Lite in tow, and we sat there with our legs dangling in the water, talking for hours.  I'm telling you something: if we'd all spent a bundle to fly off for a Caribbean vacation, we'd have been wasting our money.  It was absolutely heavenly...it couldn't have been more perfect.

So that's why I've been neglecting my blog for the past few days.  But we head back home tonight, where real life awaits, and I'm going to try to get back on a regular blogging schedule.

Hope you're enjoying your summer as much as I am!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Patriotic Kicks, Adult Beverages, and Heroics on the Sea

I hope your Fourth of July celebrations were fun, patriotic, light-filled and sparkly, loud and booming, and cooked-out-on-the-grill delicious.  Ours was relatively quiet, but wonderful.  Our second oldest son and his girlfriend came for a dinner of hot dogs, hamburgers, pasta salad, and corn on the cob, and then we watched Jim Gaffigan's "Mr. Universe" comedy show on Netflix, planning to go to our town's fireworks display (which started at 9:15) afterward.  But by the time the show was over (and my husband and I--who have become a couple of old geezers, I guess--had napped through portions of it), we all decided that we were too tired and it wasn't like we'd never seen fireworks before, so maybe it would be okay if we missed them this year.

So my husband didn't get a chance to show off his patriotic kicks to the masses last night, but he wore them all day long nonetheless.  As I think I've told you before, from the time I first met him as a high school freshman up to the present, my husband only wears one type of shoe: black, low-cut Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers.  If he's not on the job or dressing up for Mass or a wedding, that is what he has on his feet.  But July 4th is a red letter day--er, um...a red, white, and blue letter day; so once a year he breaks out his special, uber-patriotic high-top Chuck Taylor's.   (He breaks out his patriotic boxer shorts, too; but I don't think I'm going to show you those.)
My better half had a college buddy who worked as an accountant for Converse for a number of years, and he was able to procure this pair of American beauties (which he bestowed upon his old roommate as a gift).  My guy breaks them out of the closet once a year only; at that rate, fortunately, they will never wear out--because I don't even know if these were ever sold in stores and I doubt they can be replaced.  

Our real Fourth of July celebration will take place this weekend, when we travel to Upstate NY to stay with a bunch of my husband's siblings and their spouses and kids at the Pearl family homestead on Lake Champlain.  The weekend will be kicked off with the annual round-robin golf tourney (an event held yearly as a memorial to my late father-in-law, the duffer extraordinaire).  Then there will be an after-golfing party.  A keg will be tapped, beers and other adult beverages will be consumed, voices will be raised in storytelling and laughter, and we will all be in Heaven.  We are so spread out across the U.S. that whenever we can get together, the good times roll and we have a ball--just soaking up the pure joy of each other's company.

We need to make room in the trunk for our contribution to the festivities.  I know this looks like overkill, but there are going to be a lot of people up there.  People who really, really like beer.  Miller Lite beer.
And by the way, we got some good news for beer drinkers in an e-mail a few days ago, from "Doctor's House Call" (featuring a web doctor named Al Sears).  The title of the article was "Can Beer Make Your Brain Better?"  A new study has been done, reports Dr. Sears, and apparently it shows that beer can improve your mind by increasing your ability to solve problems.  It also brings out your creativity.  Add that to the fact that it has already been determined that moderate amounts of beer can reduce the chance of heart disease by 41% and even lower the risk of cancer, and all of a sudden, beer sounds like a health food that should be part of a person's daily diet.  I rarely drink beer, preferring the occasional Mike's Hard Lemonade; but I may have to start increasing my beer consumption!

I've got to sign off, because soon we have to pack up those cases of Miller Lite--along with our suitcases, of course--and get on the road.  But first I wanted to share a story with you about a true American hero in our family.  My niece--who is an intelligent, vivacious, absolutely stunning, blond and blue-eyed, petite dynamo--is a Navy helicopter pilot who recently began a nine-month deployment on an aircraft carrier.  She'd been gone less than two weeks when she was called on to fly the helicopter that was sent to rescue a French pilot who'd had to eject from his airplane and was stranded in the ocean.  I can't even imagine how happy that pilot was to see my tres belle niece's helicopter arrive on the scene.  The Pearl family is so proud of this niece, whose service makes it possible for all of us back home to enjoy the freedoms we sometimes take for granted.  When we're together this weekend, we'll all raise our frosty Miller Lite's and make a toast in her honor.  I should have dedicated my post to this heroic girl yesterday--that would have been a truly  fitting way to mark America's Independence Day.
My niece when she was in flight school.
Please remember this brave Navy pilot, and all of our troops, in your prayers.  God bless her...and God bless America!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Our Magic Blanket(s)

Yesterday, I talked about my granddaughters' "magic blanket"--a big, soft, fleecy, olive green blanket that they love to dive onto whenever they see it spread out on the floor.  When my own boys were sprats, we had a magic blanket, too; actually, our family had three of them, exactly alike: they were comforters designed to resemble football fields, which we bought for the twin beds of our three oldest sons when they were very small.

We used these blankets on the beds for many years.  When they began to wear thin (and we replaced them with brand new, Notre Dame-themed comforters for all five boys) they became our T.V.-watching "couch blankets," and we used them for many more.  We still have at least one of them up in the attic, and I may be forced to break it out when the grandkids come to visit.

Here are some classic shots of our boys under our family's magic blanket(s):
1989: Snug as four bugs in a rug.
1993: And baby makes five--there are now five bugs.
1995: One little baby bug--at home, napping on the go (while the big guys are at school).

Does your family love blankies as much as ours does?  Are they draped over the backs of all of your couches and overstuffed chairs?  That's the way it is around here, even though there is no longer any one, specially designated "magic blanket"...and even though the bugs are considerably bigger than they used to be!

P.S. Happy 4th of July, fellow patriots!  And Happy Birthday to the greatest nation on earth.  Hope you're all having a great holiday, and that the fireworks in your town will not disappoint!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Where Are Grammy's Toes?

I'm going to post a picture today that's kind of weird, but kind of neat, too (at least I think it is).  This sweet vignette presented itself as I sat on the floor with one of my darling granddaughters lying between my legs, so I grabbed my trusty iPhone (which is never far from my person at any given time) to capture it.  Do you ever like to snap unconventional pictures, deluding yourself for a moment that you're some kind of artsy professional photographer?  Well, I do.  It's my shameful secret.  It wouldn't be so shameful if I was better at it, I suppose.

Oh, well.  Anyway, here's my latest attempt at using my iPhone camera to create "art."  (I adjusted the color to soften it, thinking this effect would increase the artsiness* factor.)
Last week while we were down in Alabama staying with our son and his wife and their completely beguiling and edible one-year-old twin daughters, my husband and I spent a lot of time on the olive green fleecy blanket pictured here, playing on the floor with the twins (it was so much fun on this blanket that we started calling it the "magic blanket").  Those girls love this blanket; when you spread it out on the rug, they run over to it, plop down and do a face plant, and then they snuggle right into it and roll all around.  Papa and I liked to position ourselves on it whenever possible, knowing it would draw them to us.  Having this picture of Kewpie Doll and me hanging out on this blanket will keep those memories alive for me when she and her sister are too big to want to hang out on the floor playing with Papa and Grammy.

And when they're too big to be interested in playing with Grammy's toes.

Right now, the girls are very into learning body parts.  Kewpie is especially funny about eyes, which she loves to point out to you, with her chubby little thumb straight up and her index finger straight out (the two digits forming a little pointing "gun").  Of course, she likes to show her open mouth to you as well, pointing into it while she says "eye."  (She's hilarious, by the way.)  We talked a lot about eyes, noses, mouths, toes, and belly buttons while we were hanging out with our two miniature buddies down there.  If Papa and I could have gotten the girls to show us their belly buttons on command before we left the South, that would have been the proverbial icing on the cake.  ("Where's your belly button?" was always my favorite question to ask our boys when they were one.)

I don't think I asked "Where are Grammy's toes?" right before I snapped this picture.  But Kewpie probably sensed that I was wondering if she knew where they were, and she read my mind.  Because she and her identical partner-in-crime are a couple of little geniuses.  That's right, my granddaughters are geniuses.  You heard it here, folks--and I wouldn't lie to you.

*Artsy is a word, but apparently, artsiness is not.  However, I decided that it should be and just ignored that annoying little squiggly red line. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

I've Been Experiencing Some Technical Difficulties...But I'm Back

Okay, after experiencing some serious technical difficulties, I've finally got my eBlogger page back up and running (thanks to my own personal Geek Squad guy, my hubby).  I don't know how I manage to get things so messed up when it comes to computer stuff, but I do.  I open up a once-familiar page and it suddenly looks different, and severe panic sets in.  The screen asks me questions that I don't know how to answer, and I answer them anyway, five different ways--which takes me to five different pages that ask me more questions I can't answer!  And before you know it, I don't know who I am anymore.  What's my username?  What's my password?  I thought I knew them, but suddenly I'm at a loss.  I have different ones for e-mail and Facebook, so when things got messed up with eBlogger down in Alabama, I thought I had different ones for that, too.  And the more I tried to remember what the heck they were, the more confused I got...

Long story short (although it's too long already), I was half-ready to just give up on this whole "String of Pearls" business--but my hero got everything all squared away, just in the nick of time.  Things are back to normal and I know what to do again--for the time being, anyway.  So now I can not only write a blog post, but add pictures as well.  Thank goodness!  Because when I was experiencing all those technical difficulties down in Alabama, I wasn't able to post photos of my darling little granddaughters!  And boy, did you guys miss out!  I felt bad for you, I really did.  You must have been experiencing some serious FOMO--because there was a whole lot of cuteness happening down there, every minute of every day.

We got back home last night, and I tell you, Papa and Grammy are missing those two little cutie pies!  I keep humming their favorite little songs, ("Old MacDonald," "Doe, a Deer," "Elmo's Song," "Elmo's Ducks," "Rubber Duckie," "Me and My Teddy Bear," "Goodnight, My Someone"...the hit list goes on and on).  I keep thinking of their soft, kissable cheeks, their heavenly-smelling heads, and their room-lighting smiles.  I miss playing "Peek-a-Boo" and "Patty Cake" with them.  And I especially miss lying on the floor on a big, fleecy blanket and having them crawl all over me...and show me where my eyes are with their chubby little pointer fingers (after they pull off my glasses, of course).  How special that was for my husband and me, to have ten whole days with them when they're at such a wonderful age (they turned one on June 2)--when everything is new and exciting and there's so much to learn.

Doesn't Papa look exceptionally happy in these pictures?  He was!  I didn't get any pictures with the girls on this trip, but I think my smile was just as big as his the whole time we were there.  Grandchildren make you very, very happy--I highly recommend them.  They make you forget all your troubles and cares (like computer glitches that you don't know how to fix), and they fill your life with sunshine.