Saturday, November 19, 2016

Blog Blessings (Books and More Books!); and Dumpster Diving's still a thing, right?  I hope so!

I just don't seem to have the time (or maybe it's the energy, or the mental focus, or a combination of all those factors) to write lately, in case you're wondering why things have been so quiet here at String of Pearls.  Life seems a bit too hectic and out of control these days--even though these are supposed to be the slow-moving empty-nest years, when we finally get to kick back and relax, because we no longer have school and sports schedules to keep up with and the care and feeding of five growing boys to worry about...

Wait, is that how it's supposed to work?  Because the opposite seems to be true, and my husband and I seem to be busier than we ever were when our five sons lived under our roof with us.

When we're not on the road, for any number of reasons (visiting our boys and their wives and children, going to Notre Dame games or family weddings, taking care of my aging parents as they become more and more dependent on the help of my siblings and me, checking up on and/or cleaning our VRBO house on Lake Champlain, etc.), we're home in NH, working to get our house ready to sell--after calling it home for the past 26 years. 

Phew!  Do you think we're tired?  We are!  (And by the by: there will be some fun posts in the near future, with before and after photos to show you how our house renovation projects are coming along.  As I write this, laminate wood flooring is being installed throughout our upstairs, replacing the sad and tired 26-year-old gray carpeting that my husband and I tore out ourselves.  Our bedrooms are going to be absolutely beautiful!)

Anyway, as hard as it is sometimes to find the time to write a new post, I really want to do my best to keep at it, because in the five-plus years that I've been a blogger I have received an inordinate amount of blessings.  Through this little blog of mine, I've made online friends that I truly cherish, some of whom I've had the pleasure to meet in person, and others whom I would love to meet one day.  And I've been contacted by folks who never would have known I existed if not for String of Pearls.

For instance, not too long ago I got an email from a young gal at Beacon Publishing, who'd stumbled upon my site while doing a Google search for potential Catholic bloggers who might make good book reviewers. What was really neat and almost unbelievable is that in a true "it's a small world" coincidence, this girl wrote that she had actually gone on a date with my youngest son, when he was a senior at Notre Dame and she was a junior, about a week before his graduation.  She went on to thank me for raising a respectful and chivalrous, Godly and genuine young man.  She said that I must be a proud mama (oh, I am!).  The purpose of her email was to ask me if I would be willing to accept a review copy of one of Beacon's titles, and of course I was thrilled to do so.  But it was what she said about my son that made my eyes well up with tears--THAT was the real gift.

Not long after I wiped my eyes and blew my nose, look what showed up in our mailbox (two books, not one!)--and this never would have happened if I hadn't shyly dipped my toes into the populated waters of Catholic blogging back in 2011, with the encouragement of my first daughter-in-law.  I am one lucky blogger, and don't I know it!
Stay tuned for reviews of these two books (Matthew Kelly's
Resisting Happiness and Danielle Bean's You're Worth It!)
in the near future!
So I do love blogging, both for the writing outlet it provides and the opportunities it gives me to connect with readers, other authors, and other moms with whom I share so many common interests and experiences.  Realizing that this cyber-community existed back in 2011 was life-changing for me, and I've loved being even a small player in the Catholic blogosphere all these years.  But about a year or so ago, I noticed that many of my favorite bloggers had made the switch to Instagram, and at first I didn't understand the appeal.  However, as my life has gotten busier lately, I find that I'm much more likely to 'gram than to blog.  It's so much quicker!  So I get it now.  (BTW: when there's nothing going on here at my blog, you can click on the Instagram icon on the side bar and check out my Insta-posts, if you're so moved.)

As if my blog blessings haven't been abundant enough, there have been Instagram blessings, too.  This social media phenom has put me in touch with people I might not have otherwise met.  One of them is Catholic author Stephanie Engleman, with whom I recently did a book exchange.  I sent her a copy of Erin's Ring (and threw in one of Finding Grace, for good measure), and in return she sent me her highly recommended YA novel A Single Bead--which looks SO GOOD.  I can hardly wait to read it.
Stay tuned for a review of this one, too.
So I've got some reading to do--which is always a treat for me rather than a chore.  The trick will be trying to find the time for such a guilty pleasure in the midst of the chaos and demands of my current life.  Right now, my husband and I have a huge dumpster sitting in our driveway.  We've already loaded it with the sad old carpeting that we tore out of our upstairs bedrooms and the outdated toilet, vanity, and tile flooring from our recently demolished upstairs bathroom.  Now we're going through our garage, basement, and attic and disposing of all the junk we've managed to accumulate in the past quarter of a century, items that are too mildewed or broken or rusted or worn-out to donate to charity.  Sometimes it's a bit painful ("You want to throw out those plastic sleds?" I ask pathetically, remembering the little boys who once sat on them, red-cheeked and smiling), but other times it's the best feeling ever ("I had no idea how we were going to dispose of those broken mirrors, and those remnants of construction materials from long-finished house projects!" I say, relieved beyond measure).

It's a process.  And it's coming along.  And I will write more about our renovations and preparations for the big move, I promise; but today, I just don't have the heart.  So I'll leave you with a few pictures that tell the story better than I ever could.
This bathroom was good enough for five growing boys to
share; but it needed a facelift for sure--it was hardly ready
for its HGTV close-up.

My husband and I tore up all the carpet in the upstairs
ourselves, and removed every tack and staple.  (Ugh!)  But 
we saved $1,000 on the new floor installation by doing so. 

First thing in the dumpster: that nasty carpet!

Try as I might, I could not come up with a good reason to keep
this catapult project that our youngest son made for his high
school Latin class.  (Note the TMNT cereal bowl--a
nice touch!)   So into the dumpster it went...sniff!!

For a family with NO baseball players in it, we sure had a lot of
gloves!  I was going to donate them, then realized that they
were covered with mildew and into the dumpster
they went, to join all the moldy, deflated footballs and
basketballs that we found in every nook and cranny of the

Our master bedroom floor, ready for its make-over.

Oh, baby!  Aren't these floors gorgeous?!

Our whole upstairs is getting floors  like this! 
As if I didn't love this house enough already,
it now has the floors of my dreams!

So that's a taste of what's to come.  I'm going to post before and after pictures of all of our bedrooms; my husband and I are trying to give them a "Fixer Upper" vibe that will appeal to savvy house-hunters.  (We'll see how we do with that...)

Until next time, you can find me on Instagram.

Monday, November 7, 2016

My Sunday Best: The Usual, with a Dash of Panache (and Also Nerdiness!)

I'm linking up with sweet and adorable Rosie, a fashionable mom of five-soon-to-be-six little ones, over at "a blog for my mom"--to show you the Sunday Best outfit I wore to Mass this week.  (I was going to say this morning; but it's almost midnight right now, so by the time I get this finished and posted, it will actually be Monday.)
I was feeling like quite the fashionista by the time I had put my church ensemble together, I tell you.  I mean, it's true that I was wearing what I almost always wear: a black skirt, black tights, and black leather flats.  I could just about live in black skirts, truly; I have six of them, in different lengths and styles, but I think the one I wore this Sunday (a TJ Maxx find from years ago) is my all-time favorite.  It's swingy and comfortable and slimming, all at the same time.
I often pair my usual black skirt with a colorful sweater, and that's just what I did here.  This soft, cowl-neck beauty (east 5th brand, from JC Penney a few winters ago) is such a glorious shade of royal blue--the picture doesn't do the color justice.

But here's where the panache part comes in: I almost never wear belts; but for this Sunday Best ensemble, I added a wide, stretchy belt (a bargain from--where else?--TJ Maxx) at the waist.  I had forgotten I even owned this snazzy accessory; but we've been cleaning out all of our closets in order to rip up the carpeting in them (we're having new wood laminate floors installed throughout our upstairs--woo hoo!!), and guess where I found it?  That's right, it was buried in the back of my closet, where it just might have languished yet another 26 years if we weren't in the process of getting our home ready to sell!
As if the groovy belt didn't add enough panache to my outfit, I decided I needed a little bling, too.  So I broke out my 14-carat gold charm bracelet (the one filled with charms my husband has picked out for me himself as gifts over the years), which I don't wear nearly often enough, as the T-Rex tail tends to get snagged on loose-weave fabrics.
But it wasn't all flash and panache, glitter and gold; there was a pretty nerdy-looking accessory involved in my get-up as well: my Grace Kelly-style glasses, which I've been forcing myself to wear more lately (even though I don't think they are all that becoming on me), because my husband loves them so much.
I know large plastic frames are the "in" thing for glasses right now (it's like we're back in the 80's--an era not exactly known for its fashion "do's"!),l but I still can't help but feel nerdy in them.  Kind of like this lovable but very nerdy guy here.
Seriously, though, I do love to dress up for Mass.  And I know there are plenty of other gals who enjoy putting on their Sunday best every week, too.  Why, you could meet some of them if you head on over to Rosie's.  So off with you now.  And God bless you.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Grace-filled Tuesdays (Book Club "Meeting" #25): Giveaway Winners!

Hi, readers!

I haven't been here for a whole week.  Sheesh, I don't know why it's become so hard for me to keep up with this blog on anything even close to resembling a daily basis, which is the way I started out five years ago!

Or perhaps I do know...Let's just say that there's a lot going on in my life right now, making it so that I am rarely in my own home and able stick to any sort of regular routine.  Tonight, however, I am actually in my house in NH, after lots of time spent on the road visiting elderly sick parents and tall strapping sons and wee adorable grandchildren. (Not to mention Prague. Which was amazing.)  It's so good to be home!  But it isn't exactly relaxing: my arms and shoulders are aching tonight, after a long day of painting one of the many rooms that I intend to paint in the coming weeks as part of our valiant effort to get this house we've lived in for 26 years ready to sell.


I do have time for a quick book club "meeting."
Especially since I need to announce the five winners of the Erin's Ring giveaway!  Thank you to everyone who helped me to spread the word about the contest on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter during the past two months.  I am more grateful than I can ever tell you, and I wish I had a copy of the book for everyone who pitched in.  But here are the winners:

Micaela Darr
Christine (Epiphanies of Beauty)
Aileen Searles
Amy Cattapan
Marlin Weenie

If your name is on the list, please contact me, using the "Email Me" button on the sidebar on the right, to provide a mailing address for your copy of Erin's Ring.

I am especially happy to announce the winners of this particular novel, featuring some plucky 19th-century Irish-Catholic immigrants who made a huge difference in the New England town where my husband and I raised our five sons, on this particular date; because it's not only All Saints day, but also my late mother-in-law's birthday.  She was an Irish lass through and through, with a father who came from County Cork at the age of 19 and never went back to the Old Sod.  (He is mentioned in the dedication at the front of the book.)  Mom's father died when she was only 10 and she missed him terribly her whole life; I like to think of them together now, in a place even more beautiful than the Emerald Isle.
Again, thanks to all who shared my posts.  Hopefully, this contest helped to give Erin's Ring some added visibility that it might not otherwise have gotten.  I dearly hope that all who receive a copy will enjoy it and pass it on.

And happy birthday to my beautiful, beloved mother-in-law, with her smiling Irish eyes.  She is sorely missed, never forgotten.