Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Grace-filled Tuesdays (Book Club "Meeting" #32): I Think I Was Always a Blogger at Heart

There was no such thing as blogging back when I was in high school (back in the Stone Age, as it were).  There was no such thing as blogging because there was no such thing as a personal computer that you had in your house, or this magical entity called the Internet that has become such an integral part of 21st-century existence.

Back then, if you had a burning desire to write about your life the way bloggers do nowadays, you could either use a typewriter or just good old reliable pen-and-paper and keep your musings in a journal or a diary. (I did keep diaries for a while in my girlhood--until I had to destroy one in junior high, after my best friend found and read it and I realized that no one should be writing down their deepest thoughts unless they wanted the whole world to know them.)

The other thing you could do, aside from the "Dear Diary" routine, was to keep scrapbooks.  And starting at the end of 8th grade, that is what I did: I kept simple scrapbooks that were filled with oversized construction paper pages, wherein I taped all the little bits and pieces of memorabilia that seemed of utmost importance to my teenage self (we're talking things like paper napkins and still-full sugar packets from restaurant meals with my then-boyfriend/now-husband, and popsicle sticks with traces of his DNA still on them, I'll bet!).
My high school scrapbooks were stored away in boxes in my parents' attic when I left for college.  I didn't take them with me when I got married in 1980, and when my parents sold my childhood home several years later, I assumed those boxes had gotten thrown out.  It made me a little sad at first, to think that I'd lost all my precious memories of days gone by; but eventually, I forgot all about the scrapbooks.  I was busy raising my boys, keeping up their baby books, and making photo albums and scrapbooks for them, filled with their boyhood memorabilia.  Then in 2002, my decades-old boxes were unearthed in a storage unit on my youngest sister's property and my long-lost scrapbooks were returned to me.  The scotch tape I'd used had disintegrated and they were a mildewed mess, but with the tape marks to guide me I painstakingly put them back together.

Oh my, the memories that came flooding back to me!  And the things I'd kept!   Things like gum wrappers, movie ticket stubs, newspaper clippings, dried flowers.  But along with my taped-in memorabilia, I also wrote about all my activities and feelings during that time.  (I think I was always a blogger at heart, though I didn't know it yet!)

What is so funny to me is to see pages like this one, from July 1973, when my high school boyfriend and I were just beginning to realize that we like-liked each other, and we rode on some rides together at the County Fair:
Or this one, from the first time he and I ever went to a movie together (not alone, but at least we sat next to each other):
I love how I wrote, "I really like him but I doubt he'll like me for long."  Ever the confident one, I didn't believe it would last.  Then about a week later, he asked me to "go with" him (that was the early-70's term for going steady, at least in our neck of the woods).
Aug. 6, 1973, a date I'll never forget!  It was the beginning of a long life together, but at 15 we really couldn't know that yet.  (Although I tell you, by 16, I was as sure as I've ever been of anything that he was the only one for me.)  Well, my dear readers, here's how it turned out: seven-and-a-half years later, we would get married. And now we have celebrated our 37th wedding anniversary...so I would say that my fears that he wouldn't like me for long were all for naught.  :)

There are so few photos of us from our dating years, because people just weren't as snap-happy back then as they are now.  There are probably fewer pictures of us together during those seven-and-a-half years of courtship than most modern kids take in a single day, in this New Age of iPhone cameras.  But here are a few snapshots from my scrapbooking days; and as you can see from these keepers, my hubby was rocking his big mop of 70's hair like a champ.
This black and white picture was taken on the night of his 16th birthday, when we got all dressed up and went on a double date to the lakeside restaurant where he worked as a bus-boy during the summers.  (The one just above it is from the Junior Prom, when I was growing out an unfortunate short haircut that didn't suit me very well and he was sporting Elton John-style platform shoes.  We were a pair!)
Here is a photo that was in our senior year book, of the guys in our class hanging out in the hallway at our Catholic school.  (My guy is the third one in from the right.  You know, the handsome one.)
When I decided to write Finding Grace, a coming-of-age story about a shy young girl who starts high school in 1972 just like I did, I was obviously drawing upon memories from my own life.  Tom Buckley was most definitely inspired by the only high school heartthrob I could envision, my husband.  That character did become his own unique person, separate from anyone I know in real life, in the course of writing the story; but he undoubtedly shares so many traits with the only man I have ever loved.  I really didn't know how to create a different sort of love interest for my heroine. (It would make me feel almost unfaithful!)

Finding Grace, however, is not my story.  Poor Grace Kelly spends years pining for the boy she loves, while he sees her only as a friend.  She doesn't get to be his girlfriend, the way I did with my Tom Buckley.  But there are certainly aspects of Grace's experiences that come from my own.  She lives in Plattsburgh, NY, where my husband and I grew up and met in high school, and Grace's high school is modeled closely after the one we attended.  She lives in a home that was a lot like mine, and Tom and Irene live in homes that are a lot like my husband's and my best friend's.  Tom goes away to Notre Dame for college, the way my guy did.  But that doesn't mean the story is meant to be autobiographical.  Trust me, it is fiction.  But I think I just don't have enough talent to create whole new worlds, so I had to use the one I knew the best as a backdrop for the novel.

Well, seeing as how this is Tuesday, and I've gone off on a tangent about Finding Grace...let's make this post a meeting of the Book Club.  If you're here, and you're still reading, welcome!
Grace Kelly and Tom Buckley's story ends when they are about to graduate from college (and I won't tell you how, because I don't want to give any spoilers for those who might be inclined to read the book!).  I used to kick around the idea of doing a sequel, but I believe Finding Grace will always remain a stand-alone book.  It's a long novel--the kind you can curl up with and really sink your teeth into--and I would want the sequel to be lengthy, too.  And I just don't think I have the time or energy for that--at least not during this busy season of my life, with so much going on in the lives of my sons and their families.  Being a Grammy trumps being a writer, and it always will.  I might get around to writing a sequel to Erin's Ring one day, though; I've got an idea for one, and it wouldn't have to be more than about 200 pages.  But again: Grammy time comes first.  So we shall see.  In the meantime, there's always blogging.

It's probably a good thing that there was no such thing as blogging when I was a young girl like my Grace; I don't think I would have ever gotten my homework done!  It would have been too much for me, too soon.  But I sure am glad that I discovered it back in 2011, when my boys were grown and I felt like I had the time to really have fun with it.  Blogging has brought me so much joy over the years, and has put me in contact with so many wonderful people I would never have otherwise met.

I think I've always had the heart of a blogger.  And really, what is a blogger if not a writer?

Before we end this meeting of the club, I have a question for you.  I don't think Finding Grace is too long, because I've always liked epically long novels; but some reader feedback over the years makes me realize that not everyone is like me in that regard.  What about you?  Do you like a quick read, or do you prefer a long, involved story that doesn't end too soon?

Meeting adjourned.  Now go read a good book!  (Or if you don't have time for that right now, a good blog post!)

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Tea for Two

Look at me, I'm back already!

I've decided to try really hard to write more often here at the blog, because among other things it's such a great way of preserving memories.  I'm one of those people who sometimes hears a story from a friend or relative about something that happened decades ago and has absolutely no memory whatsoever of the event.  Zero.  Nada.  Zilch.  My baby sister was recently reminiscing about a night we spent together when I was in college (that would be back in the Jurassic Period, or thereabouts).  It was such a sweet story--a great sister bonding moment kind of thing--and I really wished my jumbled brain had held onto the memory of it the way hers had.  Maybe if I'd had a blog back then, I'd have written all about it and the memory would have stayed fresh forever.

And before I go on--lest you think the reason for my lack of recall has anything to do with alcohol consumption, it doesn't!  My sister and I were not at a bar that long-ago night; we were at the International House of Pancakes.  (Eating trumps drinking--always and forever.)

I suppose my almost-sixty-year-old brain is only going to get worse at retaining memories as the years go on; so before this one--about a recent girls' day out with the first young lady to marry one of our sons (the first girl to join our all-boy clan)--has a chance to fade, I thought I'd preserve it forever in a blog post.
This past Wednesday, my darling daughter-in-law and I met up in our little VA town (which is only about 17 minutes from the house she and son #1 are renting).  We did a little browsing and buying at the quaint downtown shops, and then we stopped in at Miss Minerva's Tea Room, an establishment that has intrigued me ever since we moved here not quite a year ago.  Peering through its windows, with their lace valances, I'd see the flowered chintz chair covers, damask tablecloths, and vintage-looking teapots, cups and saucers, and think, "I've got to have a proper English tea here someday!"  I thought it would be so much fun...

...and I knew just the girl who would love it as much as I did.  After all, she does something called "Teatime Tuesdays" with her homeschooled girls, where they have treats and drink from tea cups and listen to her read classic poetry aloud.

Well, the experience most definitely did not disappoint.  What a perfect place to go for lunch on a girls' day out!
After you are seated at Miss Minerva's, you are invited to go to a back room and pick out some accessories to wear while you have your tea: there are hats, scarves, beaded necklaces--even tiaras--to choose from.  We had fun trying on the various hats, before settling on these beauties.
She looks great in hats and rocked every style she tried on.

I, on the other hand, felt a little silly in mine and ended
up trading it in for a smaller vintage number with no brim.
Miss Minerva's is an old-fashioned kind of place, filled with soft pastels; but the colors are not dull and muted there.  I just decided to give my daughter-in-law and myself an old-timey, sepia-toned kind of look in those photos. I thought it was fitting, given our surroundings.

Miss Minerva does not approve of my shenanigans, obviously.
I just love this super-girly place, I really do (while at the same time realizing that I shouldn't put my husband through the torture of coming here with me--I love him too much to make him do that!).
There were dozens and dozens of specialty teas to choose from; I chose a hot cinnamon spice tea that tasted like Fireball candies and my daughter-in-law chose pumpkin spice.  We each got our own personal china pot filled with our selections and did our very best not to waste a drop of the deliciousness.  It really was delicious--and I'm a coffee person, not a tea person, so that's saying a lot.

Speaking of deliciousness...

We sipped our tea (pinky fingers raised, of course) while we feasted on a variety of little tea sandwiches, strawberries, mini desserts, and blueberry scones.  There was also jam and clotted cream to put on the scones.  It was divine.

I kind of wish I'd taken more pictures, because it was all so lovely--like something out of the pages of Victoria magazine.

And I think our older granddaughters would love it, too.  (Miss Minerva's even offers a "Wee Tea," with bagel bite pizzas and chicken fingers instead of tea sandwiches.)  I think they should come here with Grammy for their birthdays, as a special one-on-one treat.  Perhaps I can even convince their beloved Papa to tag along; after all, he's a total softie when it comes to his grandkids.  He might even drink tea for them--or at least pretend to.  And we did see some men's black top hats in Miss Minerva's back room, so...

Just as I'd like to have some precious one-on-one time with each of my grandkids, I'd like to do so with each of my daughters-in-law, too.  This place might not be everyone's cup of tea (get it?); so I don't know if this is where I should take the other girls.  But this lovely tea for two was absolutely perfect for this particular daughter-in-law and me.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Two Birthday Boys, a Week Apart

Today is the 30th birthday of my fourth-born son: a sweet, sensitive, intelligent, hard-working fella with a hilariously offbeat sense of humor, who is at once one of the most mature and responsible people you will ever meet but at the same time still just a great big kid.  He must be so happy that he is the father of five-month-old babies (triplets!), because now his love of all things Pokémon can seem like just something he's into because of his kids. :)  And I can almost imagine him being the one to wake them up on Christmas morning in the years to come--he was ALWAYS the first one up in our house!--if they even dare to think of "sleeping in" past 2:00 a.m. ;)
Here he is at four.  (Sniff!)  Look at those cheeks!

Son #4 has taken to the role of father of multiples like a duck to water, and I am so proud of him that I can't even put it into words.

It shouldn't surprise me, though.  After all, he was always so good with his younger brother, who came along almost exactly five years after him.  He was very protective of our baby, and so happy to have someone with whom to share his love of toys when the older boys had moved on to other interests.
Here the brothers are in 1993 (or yesterday, whatever).

And on Christmas in 2016.

I didn't get around to blogging on son #5's birthday a week ago (because I am the worst at keeping up with this blog these days), so here's a belated shout-out to him, too.  He's a truly wonderful guy who has grown up to be a sweet, sensitive, intelligent, hard-working fella (you might see a pattern here), and whose dry sense of humor closely resembles that of the older brother he always strove to emulate.  He is in the military, an officer who is currently stationed overseas, and he is dating a very nice gal he met on CatholicMatch.com--no surprise that he decided to go on there, since the site led directly to the marriages of three of his older brothers (and indirectly to the marriage of a fourth).
My baby is a talented writer (and that's not just a mother's bias talking there) and has always had a passion for the movies.  He has started a blog called the Layman's Movie Corner, and you should click on the handy link I embedded there and check it out. It's fantastic.

I'm going to have to wrap this up, because I have a full day of Grammy-ing ahead of me: first babysitting for son #3's two older children while his wife takes their baby for her two month well-baby check-up, and then later babysitting for the triplets so that son #4 and his wife can go out for a birthday dinner date.  It's a busy life here in VA, and it becomes more obvious every day that we were meant to leave our house in NH and move here, where we can be a part of the daily lives of our kids and their growing families.

So, that's the way it is here at String of Pearls...as of today, I have four sons who are IN THEIR THIRTIES, and my youngest is 25!!  Yikes, I can't even believe that.  How in the world did we get here?  I can still remember chubby little lads running around the house in nothing but diapers as if it was just last week.  Life is much too short, I tell ya.

Squeeze those babies of yours, mamas.  Enjoy every minute.  (Well, maybe not every minute!  Some of those minutes are just not that enjoyable, let's be honest--sometimes bedtime can't come soon enough; but you know what I mean.)

Happy Birthday to two of the finest men I have ever had the honor to know.  The fact that I once grew you inside of me, that I was your very first home...well, God has blessed me more than I ever deserved to be blessed, that's for sure.  [Heart-eyed emojis all over the place.]

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Throwback Thursday Comes to String of Pearls

I'm on a roll here, guys.  I'm blogging for the second day in a row...using an old post from my "drafts" folder.  (I'm cheating, I know...)  Here's another one that I left half-finished about four years ago, when I was such a prolific blogger that I not only posted my musings almost daily but actually had extra posts waiting in the wings for a rainy day.  Hard to imagine!

This was originally going to be a "Throwback Thursday" post, and it's Thursday.  So what better rainy day to dust it off, polish it up, and post it than today?


Are you on Facebook? (It's not a silly question!  Some people very close to me--people lots younger than I am--have managed to keep themselves from getting sucked into that time-sucking vortex, though I have thus far proven to be too weak to stay away--even though I make plans to break up with Facebook on a semi-regular basis.  Drat!  Those Internets!   They are very seductive, are they not?)

Anyway, Facebook has this thing that people do on Thursdays called "Throwback Thursday" or TBT or #TBT, where 'Bookers post old pictures of themselves, their families, and their friends.

Well, I've noticed a trend.  There have been a lot more "likes" for old pictures of my family (we're talking 80's- and early 90's-era) than there ever are for the more recent photos I post.  So I can only conclude that people like the way we looked a long time ago much more than they like the way we look now.

Can't say that I blame them, really...I mean, there was a lot of cuteness going on in our house, back in the day.

Today's #TBT offering on Facebook was this photo of my two oldest sons.
This priceless pic was taken by some talented Sears photographer in 1987--when I guess I was under the misguided delusion that they were twins or something.  Matching clothes, matching haircuts.  I thought they looked totes adorbs,and it never occurred to me that the day would come when they would look back at this picture and think they looked anything other than awesome. (Silly mom...)

While chuckling heartily as he looked at this photo the other day, my #2 son asked, "How could you think those haircuts looked good?  They're ridiculous."  What, wait--is there something wrong with the Lloyd Christmas-inspired bowl cuts we used to give these guys?

And while we're at it, is there anything wrong with dressing two little boys who are 15 months apart in age as if they're identical twins?  (Those striped tank tops--or I suppose "muscle shirts" sounds a bit more manly--were made by yours truly.  Back when I could still sew clothes for my boys and make them wear them, and they really didn't have any say in the matter.)

Not long after they posed for this picture, these two adorable fellas had regulation little boy haircuts, administered by a barber (before we got smart and bought a clipper set, and set up shop at our own house).  It was the end of the bowl-cut era.  It was also nearing the end of the home-sewn shirts era.  I was still dressing them like twins, but now they were wearing store-bought matching button-downs.  [Sigh...]  They grow up so fast, don't they?


I had no idea when I started that just how fast they really do grow up.  Of course, a lot has happened since that photo of those two cutie-pies was taken 31 years ago. 
But in just the four years since I started writing that post and filed the draft away, there have been some enormous changes for sons # 1 and 2: the older one has added two daughters to the twin girls he already had at the time, and the younger one got married and became the father of two wee boys who are about as close in age as he and his older brother.  So much can happen in four years!

Life is such an amazing roller coaster ride--much too fast at times, and much too scary.  And sometimes you wish that for just a minute or two, you could go back in time to simpler days.  You wish you could have your needy little boys back, with their soft little arms and their wonder-filled blue eyes and their blond bowl cuts...just for a minute or two, mind you.  Or maybe a day.

But you wouldn't really want to go back for good.  You'd just want to visit briefly; otherwise you would miss the upstanding young men they've become and the beautiful wives and children they've brought to your family.  You'd miss them unbearably.  Unspeakably.

So thank goodness for photos like the ones above: they keep your precious memories of your children's early years alive forever, and whenever you look at them you are briefly transported back in time.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Art Imitating Art

Back in the early days  of this blog, I had so many ideas for posts in my head and so much to SAY (or so I thought, anyway) that I actually not only blogged daily, but often had at least a few partially written posts languishing in my "drafts" folder.

Well, this morning I was looking through that folder and decided to finish an almost completed post that I began way back on March 11, 2014.  (Yes, you read that right--we're talking four years ago!)

Here's what I had all ready to post, but for some reason never did:


If you're new here, you might not know this about me--but I love art.  Love, love, love it.  (Unless it's modern art, where cans of paint are hurled haphazardly at a canvas--I don't love that.)

Aside from looking at truly great works of art, such as this,
Sybil of Delphi, from the Sistine Chapel murals, by an artist who's somewhat well-known.

I also enjoy creating truly not-great imitations, such as this.
From a girlhood sketchbook, by someone a lot less famous than Michelangelo. 

My artwork will never hang in the Louvre, but that's okay.  Even if the works I manage to produce aren't on par with the masters, the fact that I enjoy the process of producing them should be enough.  And it is.   Working on them has made my life so much richer, if only for the joy of the creative process.  And if art doesn't produce joy, then what is it for?

That being said, I'm taking a few days off from blogging about doing artwork...so I can actually, you know, DO artwork.  I have an ABC Book to finish for my grandchildren!  (And thankfully, one need not be a Michelangelo to create illustrations that might appeal to little folks.)   So I'll see you in a few days...and hopefully by then, the E and F pages will be completed!


Well, I'm happy to say that in the four years since I wrote that unfinished post, I have completed the E and F pages, as well as the pages for some of the other letters.

I've still got a long way to go before the book is finished...but now I'm feeling motivated.  ABC Book, here I come!
You will be seeing illustrations for new pages in the months to come...I hope!

Otherwise, it will end up being a book for my great-grandchildren!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Happy New Year! (And Is It Too Late to Talk about Christmas Ornaments?)

Happy New Year, dear readers!

It is one of my resolutions for 2018 to give a little more attention to my poor old neglected blog, which must be feeling like the cosseted firstborn child who suddenly has a younger sibling, a baby who seems to be getting a lot more attention.  (That younger sibling being Instagram, of course, where I've been spending most of my online time these days.)

Let's talk about Instagram, though.  It is a downright charming place to visit, I must admit.  There are never any of those Facebook-style vicious political rants in your news feed, just lovely photos with short-but-sweet captions or stories beneath them.  Instagram provides a quick fix for people who would prefer a lengthy novel or a thoughtful blog post, but are just too busy at the moment.  If you don't have time to read a blog post, you almost surely have time to read a few delightful Insta-posts.  Also, I find that there are so many lovely Catholic gals on Instagram who inspire me to grow in my faith, and talented designing women who inspire me to make my house more cozy and beautiful for my family.  And then there are those hashtags, which are sometimes just hilarious.

So I'm liking Instagram a whole lot these days...and unfortunately, I've been ignoring my firstborn baby, my String of Pearls.  But I'm going to try to get back into writing over here more often, because I find I just miss writing for writing's sake.  What is it about putting together words that I find so satisfying?

My twin granddaughters (who are the oldest of our 12 grandchildren, at 6-and-1/2) devour books at an impressive rate, having taught themselves how to read over a year ago.  One of them recently showed me one she'd just finished and commented, "I liked this.  It had nice words."  How I love the way she put that!  "Nice words."  That's all a writer hopes to accomplish for his readers: to not just give them a good story, but one that is told so nicely that it is a joy for them to read the words. Not that I think my words are all that nice, mind you; but that is most definitely the goal.  And String of Pearls has been a great outlet for me for the past six-plus years, a wonderful place for me to do what I like to do--to play with words.  And as a bonus, this blog has put me in contact with a whole bunch of wonderful friends I would never have met otherwise.

So God bless the Catholic blogging world, that's all I have to say.

Okay then, this is my first post of 2018, and it should be about something momentous.  But it won't be.  I find that I wish I'd done some Christmas-themed posts over the past few weeks, but I was so busy being a hands-on Grammy (and traveling to Poland to see my baby boy--now there's a subject for a future post!) that I didn't get around to it.  But luckily, for Catholics the Christmas season doesn't even start until December 25.  So I'm not too late, not too late at all.  And you know what?  I'm going to totally copy one of the ladies I follow on Instagram (Mary of Better Than Eden) and highlight some of the ornaments on my tree.  I enjoyed Mary's Instagram post about her ornaments so much that it inspired me to do one of my own.  So here we go.

Way back in 2013, during the Christmas season I ran a contest here at String of Pearls.  I had readers guess how many ornaments we had on our 9-and-1/2-foot tree, and the prize was a handcrafted painted wooden Santa ornament (holding a string of pearls, of course ;)).  The winner guessed 430 and she was close; we had 439 ornaments on the tree that year. And we've acquired plenty of new ones since then, because I have always been of the opinion that you can NEVER have too many of them.

But here's the thing: last year we sold our beloved house in NH, where we'd lived for 26 years (and where we had a converted garage-turned-man cave, with a ceiling high enough for a tree that tall), and we moved to VA to be near some of our grown sons; and our new house, while lovely and cozy, does not have such an area for such a tree.  So we had to retire our old tree, sadly, and get something smaller.

Since we couldn't have a big tree, we decided we could at least have one with an obnoxious amount of lights on it.
There are so many lights, it looked pretty even before we put the ornaments on it.

But of course, we did put ornaments on it!

There was a whole plastic storage bin filled with treasures that never made it on the tree this year, but the branches still ended up looking pretty packed.
Every year when we decorate our tree, I love to open the bins and boxes.  Each and every time, it's like Christmas morning all over again, and each precious memento feels like it's brand new.  I love that about ornaments!

I'm just going to highlight a few for you (if you're even still here; and if so, I'm sorry this post is so long!).

A few Christmases ago, our second-oldest son hand-painted two ornaments for his author mommy, recreating the cover of Finding Grace in one;
 and Erin's Ring in another.
For our last NH Christmas together in 2016, I had these porcelain ornaments made, one for us and one for each of our five boys--with a photo of our NH house on them.
After my dad died in November of 2016, I took his vast collection of NY State Lottery t-shirts (which he was always wearing, as a proud employee we called the "Lotto Guy") and made a t-shirt quilt for my mom and five of these "quilted" ornaments for my siblings and me.
I also made this "quilted" ornament, using scraps of material from our boys' old Catholic elementary school uniforms.  They wore gray pants and white oxford button-downs (see the button on that ornament?), and then maroon sweatshirts and sweatpants for gym.  I made the boys some bell-shaped ornaments out of these scraps as well, and I know how snazzy they thought their school uniforms were, so I'm sure they treasure them.  ;)  (If you'd like to see a how-to post on making ornaments like this, I did one once and you can read it here.)
Of course, no tree would be complete without the handmade ornaments the kids brought home from school in their boyhood days.  Like this one.
Or this one.
I should give the boys their TMNT ornaments, which we've had for about 25 years...but I don't have the heart to part with them.  Yet!
The same son who painted the book cover ornaments above painted this one-of-a-kind Garfield number for us back in 1997, when he was 11.  (All of my sons are quite artistic!)
I recently added a VA ornament, fashioned from a cookie cutter shaped like our newly adopted state.
Lots of our ornaments are Irish-themed. And lots of them are gifts from our kids or other loved ones. That metal and bead Claddagh ornament (right near the glass Irish step dancer) is a gift from our #4 son.  (Our boys all know what Mom likes!)
I have several ceramic mouse ornaments that I made when I wasn't even a mother yet.  There was a studio on the base where my husband was stationed, and I took classes there with several other Navy wives.  We were a crafty bunch!  (We were alone a lot, and crafting helped to fill the hours that our husbands were away.)  This little guy is hanging near two blue and gray ornaments from Salmon Falls Pottery in Dover, NH (the old world Santa and Merry Christmas ball) that are quite dear to me.
In 2013 I made eight of these stuffed "This Tree Stinks" ornaments for my husband and his seven siblings.  There's a funny story behind it; if you have the time you can read about it in this old post.  What tickles me is that now, every year each of them takes a picture of this ornament when they're decorating their trees, and they post the pictures on the family text stream.  I wasn't even sure they would like them (I mean, they're kind of tough to explain to outsiders who come to your home!); but these ornaments have become part of our Pearl Christmas tradition, and I love that I was able to contribute to that.
Okay, then...on that note, maybe I should wrap this up.  This is a long post (with links to old posts to boot!).  If you stopped by here for a quick pick-me-up, you're probably thinking you should have just gone to Instagram instead.  But bear with me.  I'm just trying to get my blogging muscles warmed up again.  After taking too much time off the past few years, I've gotten pretty stiff.

But I'm going to keep plugging away.  And maybe I'll even find more important things to talk about than what I have hanging on my tree.  We shall see.