Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Easter Preparations

One of my favorite things in the whole wide world is hosting a holiday or special occasion party for as many members of my family as possible, given their various other commitments and individual circumstances.  On Easter, we are tickled that we are going to have a pretty big crew--three of our five sons, their wives, and the baker's dozen children they have between them--joining us for brunch after Easter Sunday Mass, along with one son's in-laws and another's very good family friend.  So we will have 11 adults and 13 little ones gathered together under our roof on the most important and joyful Sunday of the year.

Hallelujah!  Am I right?  Mom/Grammy/ReeRee is living her best life these days.

Along with hosting on the actual day itself, I absolutely love all the planning and ahead-of-time preparation that such an event entails.  That means that I am already looking through my favorite brunch recipes and figuring out the menu for our Easter celebration.  Even though it's still almost two weeks away.  And I don't have OCD.  I don't.  (I don't think I do, anyway.)  I just really, really like playing hostess and I don't like to leave too many tasks for the last minute because I find that too stress-inducing.

I have already made two batches of scones (using my daughter-in-law Ginger's amazingly buttery and delicious chocolate chip scone recipe, with substitutions).  They freeze beautifully, so I will just have to get them out to defrost the night before.  I made one batch of cinnamon chip with a cinnamon glaze, which I've made a number of times before.  But the second batch was an experiment that I hope will be a hit: Oreo scones.

These got a vanilla glaze and were garnished
with finely crushed Oreos.

Oreos are never a mistake, as far as I am concerned.  But we shall see!

Ginger is also bringing her family-famous homemade cinnamon rolls (dripping in cream cheese frosting), so that should take care of the sweet portion of the meal.  For the savory, I think I've decided on a sausage, egg, and cheese casserole that was my mother-in-law's go-to brunch dish, and also an onion, bacon, and mushroom strata.  I found the strata recipe in a magazine and ripped the page out; after I made it the first time, I noted in the margin that it was "awesome," and "like the best quiche ever!"  So I think that's a good choice.  I'm also going to make Ginger's cheesy hash brown casserole and lots and lots of bacon and sausage.  We'll have coffee--of course!--and a mimosa bar, because that's always fun.   (I'd make a pretty bowl of punch--but if you read this post, you understand why I'm not planning to serve punch at family parties for a while!). 

So I've got my menu figured out (at least for now; there's still plenty of time to change my mind...).  And my baby's Easter "basket" box of goodies has been shipped out to Oklahoma.  I know that's just what a 28-year-old married man needs: chocolate bunnies and jelly beans from his mommy.  Every year now I say to myself, "Making Easter baskets for my boys has to end!  They're all grown up and they don't need me to do this anymore!  And their kids don't need me to, either.  The Easter Bunny is taking very good care of them without me!"  And then this sort of thing happens...

These are ALMOST ready...

So how are your Easter preparations going so far?  (Or are you rightly in Lenten mode, focusing on prayer and sacrifice, as you should be--as I should be?  Mea culpa!)

[She signs off sheepishly.]

Saturday, March 20, 2021


Sometimes, hope can be inspired by the most mundane things, especially in this crazy, mixed-up world in which we're currently living.  Sometimes, hope looks like a family of nine filling up an entire pew at a weekday Mass: a mother on one end and a father on the other, with their seven beautiful children--five older daughters and two young sons--between them. 

That hope-filled sight is what my husband and I saw a few rows ahead of us when we attended Mass  on Friday morning--on March 19, the Solemnity of St. Joseph.  As if that family wasn't sweet enough already, they were joined by a grandmother a few minutes after they'd gotten seated.

But it was more than merely seeing three generations of a large, lovely Catholic family sitting together at Mass that comforted our wounded hearts and refreshed our weary souls.  It was that this particular family, which we'd never seen before that day, was there at church unmasked, every single one of them, their faces--made in the image and likeness of God--visible to all and shining with the light of faith.  In a sea of masked faces, this family stood out.  In a good way.  Such a good way. It made my husband and me wonder: is it possible that we can hope for an end to all of this, sooner rather than later?

Sunday Mass attendance is way down at our parish, even though the Covid lockdown of churches in our state ended a while back.  There are no longer pews roped-off, but the church is always far from crowded and people are careful to space themselves out from others.  There is a sign on the door saying that masks are required, so most if not all people wear them.  My husband retired early from his career as a commercial airline pilot in September of 2020, and since then we've been going to daily Mass together whenever we can.  (If ever there was a time that our country and our world needed extra prayers and sacrifices, we thought, this is surely it.) There is a core group of about 30 "regulars" who usually attend daily Mass, but even when the group is that small and that spaced-out, pretty much everyone wears a mask.

Both my husband and I tested positive for Covid in early December of 2020, and we spent about 10 days battling what felt like the flu.  We both ran slight fevers, were tired, had body aches and headaches, and had mild coughs.  Neither of us lost our sense of taste or smell, but we both felt our sense of taste was "off."  (For me, it was like being in the first trimester of pregnancy, when your stomach is queasy and nothing tastes good. I couldn't even stand the taste of my beloved coffee and was drinking cinnamon tea instead--so you know I was sick!)

Once we'd recovered from Covid and knew that we couldn't contract or spread the virus, we thought maybe it was okay to forget about masking up for Mass.  But our parish priest made a comment about obedience and pride during a homily, and we asked ourselves if maybe that message applied to us.  So on went the masks again.  We suspect that Father believes the pandemic is over and is anxious for people to get back to living normally and attending Mass regularly, but he wants to be obedient to the instructions of his Bishop.  So in a way, we feel that wearing our masks in church makes his job easier, and we look at it as a sacrifice we can offer up; but in another way, it seems so very wrong on so many levels, and we think it's doing so much harm--to individuals and to society as a whole. 

So you can imagine how thrilled we were to see this unmasked family.  (I want to be them when I grow up!) They did not seem disobedient or prideful; on the contrary, by their humble demeanor they exuded an aura of piety and grace.  And courage.

In this day and age, oddly enough, walking around without a mask on is courageous.  You can get yourself into a whole lot of hot water with some folks if you do. But how crazy is it that even if people have gotten the vaccine, or better yet, if they've developed the antibodies from having fought off the virus, they are still required to wear masks and keep "socially distant" (ugh, what an awful term!) until...well, until when? When will we decide that this virus with an extremely low mortality rate has run its course and herd immunity has been achieved?  When will we decide that we can live again--fully live, without our humanity covered up by pieces of cloth that many scientific studies have shown don't really work against viruses but instead merely give the pretense of protection? When will we stop being afraid of other people?!

"We have spent a year being so afraid of dying that we've been afraid of living."

I saw that quote somewhere, so I can't take credit for it. However,  I agree with it wholeheartedly.  In the words of George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life, "I want to live again!  Please God, let me live again!"  Our family has been unusual in that since the end of the initial "15 days to flatten the curve" lockdown, we have not let Covid keep us apart.  We have not stopped seeing each other. We get together to celebrate birthdays and holidays. Our grandchildren come over to our house routinely to play in our basement.  We shop, we go out to eat, we go to the gym.  In our own little world, we have been living as normal a life as possible.  But when the greater world outside your door has gone mad, it can't help but affect you.  

When I get depressed, I remind myself that all the people I love most and I are living here now, in this time in history, for a reason.  God put us here at this strange time, so this is where we're meant to be.  In my lifetime, I have never known real suffering; but throughout history, so many have had to endure unimaginable horrors--wars, famines, plagues, and worse.  We will get through this; and perhaps with the help of the heavy crosses we will be asked to bear, we will even become saints in the process.

But it will take a lot of daily Masses.  And Rosaries. And novenas.  It will take faith in God's will for our lives and faith in His boundless love and mercy.  It will take courage.  And it will take a lot of hope.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

St. Patty's Day Chez Pearl (2021)

We had our whole VA gang over for an early St. Patrick's Day celebration on Saturday the 13th: altogether, we had 10 adults and 17 children gathered in our cookie-cutter cottage.  It was a bit crazy and chaotic, but in a good way.  And although I am actually more of a fan of rooms with walls and doorways than I am of the whole open floor plan craze, I must admit that it's a good thing this house was built with the latter design in mind.  I don't know that we would be able to have our huge and ever-expanding crew gathered comfortably in our home at one time otherwise.

I love planning for parties.  I love decorating and setting the tables and deciding which dishes and desserts to make.  I love cooking ahead of time, so that I can relax the day of the party (relax being a relative term, when you've got 17 young grandchildren running about the house!).  I always start out with somewhat Pinteresty ideas of what it will all look like and how it will all go.  Then soon after everyone arrives, I realize that Pinterestiness (that’s a word, or it should be!)  is unrealistic and overrated.  But that doesn't stop me from puttering around in happy anticipation, trying to make things look festive and pretty.  

And it doesn’t stop me from making a lovely rainbow of layered fruit (that few will even be tempted to eat; for fruit, I believe, is overrated as a party food--at least at our parties!).

I was hoping we would get family pictures of everyone standing in front of the large green cloth I tacked up on the wall, wearing some of the Irish-themed photo booth props I've collected.  Alas, that did not happen.  We did manage to get a few pictures, but not of everyone in attendance.

I used photos of our youngest son, who could only be with us in spirit, as party decorations--like this one of him dressed up as the Emerald Isle's beloved patron in his second grade All Saints Day parade (at the Catholic school he attended until we pulled him out and homeschooled him from 4th grade through 8th). 

I also froze my electronic photo frame slide show on a picture of him looking quite apropos for a St. Patty's party.  It was originally the serious "tough guy" photo used in the football team's programs his senior year of high school, but his older brothers decided to tease him by doctoring it up on the computer a number of times and turning him into, among other things, a leprechaun.

They did this to him years ago, and posted their doctored pictures on Facebook.  
He wasn't as amused by it then as he is now!  (Sometimes it's tough being the youngest brother!)

Aside from the cooler filled with Guinness and other beers and sodas to drink, I made a big bowl of green citrus punch for the party.  It's my mother-in-law's signature party punch, simple and delicious: one can of frozen lemonade or limeade, one cold 2-liter bottle of ginger ale, and some frozen strawberries floating on top.  (I added green food coloring for St. Patty's Day.) This punch is great for kids, but it also works as a tasty adult beverage, spiked with either whiskey or white wine.  

I wish I'd gotten a "before" picture of the punch bowl. Here's the "after" shot, taken after our 3-year-old grandson, one of son #4's mischievous triplets, quietly added all the missing ingredients I never knew it needed (including small toys, cheese slices, crackers, sun-dried tomatoes, cans, bottles, cups, and other assorted garbage items).

Pinterest fail!  

That photo is not a set-up.  That is really how I found the punch bowl, after the little dickens went unsupervised for just a matter of minutes and used the opportunity to quietly work on his masterpiece. Luckily, this was towards the end of the night and I'd already made a second batch of the punch, the first having been consumed earlier.

If you are curious to know what our house looks like after one of our family shindigs, just imagine the rest of the place in not much better shape than the punch bowl!  Ha ha!

I think that all in all, the party was a success, with plenty to eat and drink.  For dinner, we had corned beef and cabbage (plus Chick Fit A chicken nuggets as a back-up, for the kiddos), with mashed potatoes and Irish soda bread; for dessert, there was Bailey's Irish Cream cake (using a recipe from Emily Stimpson Chapman's "Around the Catholic Table" cookbook), along with shamrock-shaped cookies and my daughter-in-law's famous cinnamon rolls.  There were lots of kids playing together in the basement, and other kids chasing each other around on the first floor; there were big girl cousins holding their little baby cousins...and as for all the grown-up herselves and himselves, there was lots of craic (as in enjoyable conversation, entertainment, and fun).  So yes, I'll count it as a success indeed.

Speaking of craic: here’s a taste of what it's like for the wee folks when we party chez Pearl, in a video taken by my daughter-in-law (the mom of the triplets plus one more).

Good times!

I hope you had a wonderful St. Patrick's Day, too.  Slainte!

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Flying High Again

Hey there!   Did you miss me?  I haven’t been here much the past few weeks, because my husband and I have been out of town enjoying precious time with family (yay for the retirement life!).  About a week ago, we returned from an action-packed 12-day trip: first we flew down to visit a couple of my husband's siblings in sunny FL, and from there out to OK to spend a week with our youngest son and his bride of 18 months.

We had a ball hanging out at an open-air beach bar, 
enjoying the fresh air, sunshine—and some cold beer!

Brunch at our son's country club--la did da!

I love this boy!

We had a two-leg trip down to FL, then two legs out to OK, and finally two legs on the return trip home.  Most of the airports we walked through to make our connections resembled ghost towns.  It’s so strange...being married to a commercial airline pilot (who took an early retirement last Sept., after 32 years of flying for the same major airline), I’ve spent an awful lot of time in bustling airports, both at home and abroad.  I hadn’t flown since last Feb., when I accompanied my husband on a working trip to Rome just before the first “15 days to flatten the curve” lockdown started.  And it was eye-opening to see how Covid has changed the face of air travel—just as it has changed the face of humanity, with the ongoing mask mandates. 

Our youngest son is following in his father’s footsteps: he flies for a regional airline, hoping to get on with one of the majors as soon as possible.  He was a relatively new captain when the virus hit and people stopped traveling, and although he didn’t get furloughed, thank goodness, he did spend the past year downgraded to co-pilot.  Not too long ago, he was upgraded back to captain, which gives me hope for the travel industry in general and my hardworking pilot son, a father of five, in particular.

I love this boy, too!

On a recent trip, a young passenger gave our boy a thank you note (written on a paper airplane—how adorable is that?) as he was getting off the plane.

I second this 8-year-old’s opinion that anyone who doesn’t appreciate what an airline pilot does is either “meen” or “krasy.”  😁 As a mostly recovered white-knuckle flyer, I depend on their unique skills to get me safely where I want to go, and they are all superheroes in my book.

Let’s hope and pray that we’ll all be flying high again soon—whether that means actually flying, or going to school in person, or sitting in the crowded stands at a football game, or even just smiling at strangers on the street, unmasked and unafraid...

Okay, that's it for me today.  But you might want to check out Rosie's link-up, Just Because (just because there are a lot of interesting bloggers out there whom you might not have "met" yet!).

P.S.  Happy St. Patty’s Day!  ☘️ I’ll tell you all about how we celebrated Ireland’s patron saint tomorrow!