Thursday, July 28, 2016

Goodwill Hunting (the Sequel)

A while back, I blogged about an English transferware bowl that I'd scored at the local Goodwill near our home in NH.  It was a steal at 99 cents, and I just couldn't leave the store without it...even though the whole reason I'd gone to Goodwill that day was to get rid of excess bric-a-brac, not to acquire more of it.  I was Goodwill dropping-off, you see; definitely not Goodwill treasure-hunting. (Here's the link to that post, if you want to click on over and take a peek at said pretty little bowl.)

Well, yesterday I did some more Goodwill hunting.  (Full disclosure: there is not a Goodwill store in this town in upstate NY, so it was actually Salvation Army hunting--but that does not sound nearly as catchy and would probably make a lousy movie title.)  I was hoping to find some kind of gently used toddler ride-on toy/wagon or baby activity chair/walker, thinking one of those items might make a nice addition to the collection of goodies I have at Oyster Haven to amuse my grandchildren, who will be coming to stay there with Papa and Grammy next week.

I did not find what I was looking for.  But I did stumble upon a small stash of lovely old transferware dishes, brown on cream, stamped "Made in England" on the bottom.  English transferware, as I have already noted here at the blog, is my Kryptonite; so as you can imagine, even though these dishes were the last thing I was shopping for, I found them very hard to resist.
There were two cups, six saucers, and two dessert plates in the incomplete set.  Only one of the saucers was tagged, and it was priced at $2.00.  Since I'd been able to get a transferware bowl in NH for 99 cents, that was almost too rich for my blood.  If each piece was priced that high, I knew I wasn't going to buy the whole set; but I thought maybe I'd take one of the dessert plates to hang on the wall at Oyster Haven.  After all, the scene printed on these dishes is absolutely perfect for our lakeside Colonial, which is located in NY and was built circa 1830!

So I took one plate to the register...and the gal behind the desk told me that the $2.00 tag on the saucer represented the price for the whole kit 'n kaboodle, and she was not allowed to break up the set.  Ten pieces of transferware for $2.00--what a bargain!  Then to top it off, she informed me that everything was half off that day!

So for $1.00 (plus 8 cents in NY state sales tax--something we do not have in the "Live Free or Die" state of NH), I took home all the dishes.  I would say that was a pretty successful episode of Goodwill Salvation Army hunting!  Wouldn't you?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Testing, Testing, 1,2,3...Is This Thing Still On?

Well, I've been gone so long that I just had to make sure blogging was still a thing.  You know, that it's still being done.

I mean, technology and social media seem to be evolving at warp speed these days, so you never know what might have become obsolete overnight.  You could go to sleep and wake up in a Brave New World-ish place, feeling like you're trapped in an episode of "The Jetsons."  (Now that TV show reference doesn't date me at all, does it?  Just a few days ago, I celebrated my 58th birthday, and it shows.  Oh, does it ever show!)

But getting back to the idea that it's hard to keep up with the latest techno-trends: yesterday, I took some pictures of my nieces and their little ones on my iPhone, and I offered to make the girls up some flash drives or CD's of all the shots I got.  That gave everyone a good chuckle.  Why didn't I just go ahead and put them on a 90's-era floppy disc while I was at it?  (The photos got sent via text messages, so I didn't even have to make a trip to Best Buy to hunt down some storage paraphernalia from the Stone Age.  Easy peasy.)

Here are a few of the pictures I took, just to give you an idea of the sort of cuteness by which I found myself surrounded yesterday afternoon, lakeside.

My sister-in-law has four of her five kids staying with her this week, and all four of her grandchildren.  She lives next door to my husband's childhood home, where he and I are staying for the summer so that we keep an eye on nearby Oyster Haven and clean it in between rentals.  (Our fourth set of week-long renters are there as I write this!)  Spending time with her crew, and seeing how much they enjoy the lake, gets me so excited for next week--when all five of our boys, our four daughters-in-law, and all seven of our grandchildren will be with us at Oyster Haven for a big family reunion of our own.

In anticipation of feeding my little army, I have been baking goodies ahead and freezing them.  So far, I've got two coffee cakes made, and two pans of caramel brownies.

Oreo brownies are in the works this morning.  (Those are the roses my hubby sent for my birthday, which he spent flying some lucky folks to Rome.)
My daughter-in-law Preciosa is busy making special "team" shirts for the whole family to wear when we have professional pictures taken together during our vacation week.  The numbers on the backs, 1 through 18, have been assigned according to when each member officially joined the family, whether by marriage or by birth.  Here is my husband's, being held up by son #3.

Anyway, I'm hoping the blog hasn't gone the way of the floppy disc or the dinosaur, at least not yet.  After I finally got around to cracking open my laptop for the first time in ages, I realized that I MIGHT just have more to say, even though you wouldn't know that by the radio silence over here at String of Pearls this summer.

Speaking of the radio...I did recently do a radio interview with Allison Gingras, on her "A Seeking Heart" program (which is a sort of on-air Catholic book club).  Ten days ago I included a link to the program--wherein we discussed Finding Grace, Erin's Ring, and marrying our high school sweethearts, among other things--in a 7QT post; but if you missed that and are interested in listening, here's the archived link to the podcast.  Since I didn't get around to doing a Grace-filled Tuesdays post yesterday (because I've become a bit of a blogging slacker as of late!  I blame the heat and humidity, and the fact that my husband and I are busy managing our VRBO property), this should fill in nicely for my own online book club.

Well, I hope you're having a great summer, dear readers.  Mine has been spent visiting with lots of special relatives on both sides of our family tree and looking forward to having a whole glorious week with my own nuclear family.  And also, I must admit, it's been spent feeling a tad jealous of the renters who are staying at our beloved Oyster Haven!

But truly, my accommodations have been absolutely stellar.  Here's the view from the deck of the Pearl homestead, where I've been privileged to spend my summer.
There's nothing like getting up and having a relaxing cup of coffee, while enjoying a view like that!  (Another fun thing to do with your morning coffee might be to listen to Allison's radio show, if you're so inclined...)

Okay then, until next time...

Sunday, July 17, 2016

7 Quick Takes Friday (Playing Catch-up...on Sunday!)

I haven't done a 7 Quick Takes Friday post in ages.  But then again, I haven't blogged in ages either!  (At least it seems like ages, when I think that for the first three or four years of String of Pearls' life, I was here just about daily, hardly ever skipping an opportunity to share my thoughts the way we introverts like to share them best--from the safety of our laptop computers...)

Anyhoo, I thought it was time to get back into the 7QTF routine. I'm already two days late to join Kelly et. al. for the link-up, so I better get to it lickety-split and keep these takes short and sweet.  Quick, that's what they'll be.

My brother-in-law died just over two weeks ago, but I don't feel able to write about the events surrounding his premature passing just yet.  His last days were filled with heroic acts of humility, acceptance, courage, selflessness, faith, hope, and love, as well as some truly extraordinary supernatural signs and tender moments of grace that have left all who were a witness to them forever changed.  I did blog about this beloved man, who is a hero and a role model for us all, in a recent post, just days before he died.  When I can manage to do it, I'd like to tell you more about him and his beautiful and holy death.

One great blessing, for which my sister-in-law and our whole family feel extremely grateful, is that before he died, my brother-in-law was able to realize his dream of opening a craft brewery/tasting room/ restaurant/event center/B & B in a Civil War-era structure known as the "Old Stone Barracks."  Valcour Brewing Company is located in Plattsburgh,  NY, with a bird's eye view of Lake Champlain, on what was once a large Strategic Air Command Air Force Base.  My brother-in-law had a vision for transforming this historical building--overseeing and doing much of the gutting of the interior himself, and then along with my sister-in-law designing what has become, just in the few months since its doors have been open, the popular place to be in Plattsburgh.  If you're ever in the area, you must stop by to enjoy one of their signature brews and soak up the Barracks' one of a kind ambience.  (And the food is as good as the beer!)

Our 40th high school reunion was at the end of June.  (My husband and I started dating in 1973, the summer after our freshman year, and graduated together in 1976).  One of the weekend's events was held at VBC's Old Stone Barracks.
It was so much fun catching up with dear old friends, like this beautiful lady.  (Thank goodness for Facebook, which has been helping us to stay in touch between reunions!)
My baby sister also had her 35th  high school reunion gathering at the Barracks recently.  My husband and I crashed the party.  (We can do this, you see, because we know the owner.  We have an in.)

My high school boyfriend and I are actually spending the whole summer in Plattsburgh (except for the times when he's commuting to work or we're off visiting with our kids and grandkids), staying at my husband's childhood home on the lake (which he and his seven siblings decided to keep after their parents both died, forming a family LLC to maintain its upkeep).  So needless to say, our date nights are usually spent at--where else?--VBC!

One of the reasons we're staying here, besides the fact that it gives us the opportunity to visit with both of our families, is that we're keeping an eye on Oyster Haven, our VRBO house located just several miles down the road.  Our first renters came for a week in June, to participate in a big bass fishing tournament on Lake Champlain.  One of the six professional fishermen who stayed at Oyster Haven was Andy Morgan, who ended up winning the FLW Tour's 2016 "Angler of the Year" award.  (He also won the title in 2013 and 2014).

I don't know if it's the luck of the Irish or what...but it seems that we have a lucky house.

Speaking of Oyster Haven, I really must do some posts about it, complete with pictures.  It is such a charming old house on such a glorious piece of lakefront property.  We have our third set of renters staying there as I write this.  So far, we have six weeks booked this summer, and inquiries are coming in all the time.

But I ask you: who could resist this view?

I was honored to be a guest on Allison Gingras's "A Seeking Heart" radio show (a sort of online Catholic book club) on July 15.  She was kind enough to have me on to talk about my Catholic YA novel, Erin's Ring--although we covered a lot of other topics as well, including the fact that we both married our high school sweethearts.  It was so much fun to talk to Allison.  I was a bundle of nerves beforehand, per usual.  I thought about backing out and seeing if we could reschedule for a later date.  But I overcame my fears, thank goodness.  And once we got started, I felt as if I was just chatting over coffee with an old friend.
If you're interested in listening to the podcast, here's the link.

Okay, that's it for me.  Now maybe you should head on over to Kelly's (if you haven't been there yet)!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

An Open Book: Sunflowers in a Hurricane

I haven't been doing a whole lot of blogging lately (which you may or may not have noticed, depending on how often you stop by this little old blog of mine); but a bookworm's got to talk books.  She's just got to.  And what better way to do that than to link up with Carolyn Astfalk et. al. for An Open Book discussion?
So books...books.  Let's see, what have I read lately?  Hmmm...

I did finish this one (at 30,000 feet, because that's where I spend half my life).  I had started it back before the June link-up and mentioned it there, because I thought it was going to be amazing; but I didn't end up enjoying it as much as I thought I would.
I loved the WWII-era parts of this novel that goes back and forth in time between the 1940's and the present, the well-rounded and very believable characters, and the engaging writing style of this talented author.  I didn't like the way-too-detailed descriptions of intimate scenes--that always ends up turning me off.  And there is one particularly disturbing scene involving a sexual assault.  So I can't in good conscience give this book a big thumb's up.  But I admit that it kept me turning the pages, because I had to see how it all turned out.

So I did read that one book.  But aside from not blogging much in recent weeks, I haven't been reading much either.  I have a list of books as long as my arm that I'd like to get to (Anne of Green Gables--how in the world did I grow up without ever having read that one, even once?  I started it while out visiting our oldest son's family earlier in the summer, and after sampling 40 pages of my daughter-in-law's copy, I knew I needed to get my hands on that whole series of novels by Lucy Maud Montgomery, which I have no doubt are destined to end up on my "favorite books of all time" list); but the list of those I've actually read is very short.


There is one book that I'd like to tell you about, a wholesome work of Catholic fiction that I think you'll really enjoy.  Although it has only recently appeared in print, I had the rare privilege of reading it months ago, while it was still in manuscript form, and giving feedback to the author (who has become an online friend of mine over the past few years).  Here is the Amazon review I wrote for that recently published novel:

I was honored to receive a pre-publication copy of Anne Faye’s latest novel, Sunflowers in a Hurricane.  Having read—and very much enjoyed---The Rose Ring, I was quite excited to read the latest offering by this talented author of Catholic women’s fiction.  Sunflowers in a Hurricane is a short novel, at about 50,000 words; but it is by no means short on substance.  If you are able to clear your calendar for an afternoon, you could devour it in one sitting—which is exactly what I did!  I dare say you won’t be able to put it down once you start it.
There's my endorsement on the cover!
As I was reading along, I could clearly picture every scene of this sweet and uplifting novel, and the thought occurred to me more than once that it would make an excellent Hallmark channel movie.  Faye has woven a compelling tale here, with engaging characters whose flaws and struggles are so painfully real that any reader can relate to them.

George is an elderly gentleman who still misses the beloved wife he lost tragically during childbirth when they were both very young.  Long ago, he was also forced to make a decision no one should ever have to make, and he’s had to live with the consequences of that heart-rending decision every day since.  Cheryl is a bitter single mother who has been raising a teenage daughter on her own, far from the town where she grew up.  When her estranged mother dies, Cheryl returns to her hometown to take care of her mother’s affairs and is ultimately forced to confront her own mistake-filled past.  Cheryl’s daughter Ruth is a confused and mildly rebellious thirteen-year-old who didn’t want to move away from the only home she’d ever known, has never met her father, and can’t understand why her mother won’t allow her to even talk to boys.  She develops her first crush, and becomes intrigued by her late grandmother’s kindly next-door-neighbor, George.

George and Ruth develop an unlikely friendship, which leads to some wonderful developments—not only for the two of them, but for other characters in the story as well.

The writer’s tools of first person point of view and time shifting are deftly employed by Faye in this novel.  Each chapter is told from the first person perspective of one of the three main characters, so the reader is able to really get inside the heads of George, Cheryl, and Ruth and see what makes them tick.  Aside from changing speakers, the story also bounces back and forth in time, from 1935, to 1972, to 1986, and back to 1935 again, which allows the reader to experience all the events that drive the plot right along with the characters who are experiencing them.

While Sunflowers in a Hurricane clearly illustrates the sad reality that life here on earth is filled with trials and tribulations, with loneliness and sadness, with tragedies and tough choices, it is ultimately a story about faith, hope, and love. It is a story about sin, yes, but also redemption.  It is a story about the healing power of forgiveness.  As a Catholic, I was especially touched by the way George’s deep faith—his daily Mass routine, for instance—influences his young friend.  But a reader of any faith should appreciate the positive messages conveyed in this book.

In a nutshell, Sunflowers in a Hurricane is a wholesome and inspiring novel, one that I highly recommend for teens and adults alike.

Okay, that's it for me.  Now head on over to the An Open Book link-up, to find out which books everyone's noses are in this summer (and maybe discover your next great beach read!).