Wednesday, April 28, 2021


About a week ago, my husband and I returned from a week-long trip to Upstate New York, where we went to get our VRBO house on Lake Champlain ready for our busy summer rental season.

We bought this one-of-a-kind former farmhouse, which was originally built in 1830 with some later additions in the 1940's, when we were still living in our New Hampshire "forever home."  At the time, we thought we might rent it out until my husband was ready to retire, and then we'd sell our NH house and move into it, using it as our home base and traveling from there to visit our far-flung grown children.

But with three of our five sons living in the same area of Virginia and looking like they were settling down for the foreseeable future, we decided to keep the NY house as a rental property, sell our NH house, and move closer to them.  When we made our life-changing move south in 2017, sons number two, three, and four were already VA neighbors; then shortly after we became Virginians, son number one moved here, too.  What are the odds?! I can't believe God arranged it so that those four boys would roam far from their NH roots and serendipitously end up in the same place, giving us the opportunity to have all 17 of our grandchildren living less than an hour away from us.  (We just have to get our baby and his wife to move here—that's still a WIP.)

Our Colonial beauty in NY (which we've dubbed "Oyster Haven") sits on a gorgeous piece of property that includes a football field-sized back yard and boasts 250 feet of lakefront, which essentially gives us our own private beach.  There are spectacular views of historic Valcour Island and its little brother, Carleton's Prize (nicknamed "Gunboat Island"), as well as the outlines of the mountains of Vermont on the other side of the lake.  It is about as idyllic and heavenly a setting as you could ever imagine.

We try to block off a week or so each summer so that our kids and grandkids can spend some time there with us, but otherwise we keep the NY house available for guests.  We spend the summer months staying at my husband's childhood home just a few miles down the road, managing our VRBO property and enjoying boating on the lake.  But the rest of the year is spent in our adopted state of VA, living in a house that has become the perfect meeting place for all the little Pearl cousins.

There is no doubt that the glorious panoramic view from the back yard patio at our house in NY handily beats the nothing-to-see-here view from our tiny side yard patio in VA.  Our modest house in a cookie cutter neighborhood on a postage stamp-sized plot of land has nothing on our spread in NY when it comes to views. Surely, it is not the most impressive place by the world's standards; but as a central location where our gang can gather easily, it really couldn't be more perfect for us.

More on our garden Sasquatch in a future post!

My husband has set up an outdoor video camera at his childhood home, so that when we're in VA we can look at the real time lake view on the big screen TV in our family room. 

And here's my usual view from my overstuffed arm chair in said cozy family room: my husband in his recliner chair over on the other side of the couch, with his nightly glass of scotch on the table beside him; me relaxing with my feet up on my ottoman, wearing my sensible shoes (the ones that navigated miles of cobblestoned streets in Rome with ease), enjoying the company of my favorite human and the peaceful aura of our home sweet home. 

Sometimes views that seem like nothing special are actually the best views of all.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Reminiscing about WIWS—and Navy Blazer Day!

Remember the good old days of blogging, when there was a link-up called What I Wore Sunday (WIWS for insiders) on a site called Fine Linen & Purple?  And people would share their Sunday Mass ensembles, sometimes with funny stories about their kids acting up in the pews, sometimes with touching essays about their deep faith experiences during Mass, and sometimes just with attached links for buying different components of their outfits?  Some of the posts were pure faith and others were pure fashion, but either way, it was a lot of fun.

But that was back in the days when everyone and her sister was a blogger, and no one had discovered the more alluring world of Instagram.

Rosie over at a blog for my mom was hosting a similar link-up in recent years, both on her blog and on her Instagram page, called My Sunday Best.  That was fun, too.

If I wasn't such an old dog, I would try to learn the new [for me] trick of hosting a link-up here at my little ol' blog. But I'm not sure I have it in me to tackle that.  (To tell you the truth, it is practically a miracle that I figured out how to set up this blog in the first place.)

So in lieu of becoming a link-up host, I'm going to give you a WIWS (make that WTWS: What They Wore Sunday) post that's guaranteed to make you smile this Monday morning, as you start your week in this crazy new era of life on planet earth.

Our daughter-in-law Ginger (wife of son #2), texts us photos every Sunday, with her boys—four of them now, aged 6 months to 5 years—in their Sunday Mass get-ups, usually sitting on their front stoop.  I look forward to these pictures every week.  Yesterday’s photos showcased only the three oldest boys sporting their Sunday best, and her comment was "today was a navy blazer on WIWS."

So I hereby give you this special episode of WIWS: Navy Blazer Day!  Featuring three of the handsomest little suit coat models you'll ever see anywhere (no exaggeration, folks!).

Is your Monday less gloomy now?  Thought so. 

Bring back WIWS, I say!  Ummm....but I'm not going to be the one to do it...[she grins sheepishly]

Have a great week!

Friday, April 23, 2021

A Shout-out to "Granny Chic" Style

Back when I was on Instagram--before my husband and I decided to delete our social media accounts a few months ago--I once posted a picture of a corner of my living room, with its pink-and-green floral couches (still in great shape after 27 years) and dark-stained wood furniture pieces, and with a pretty lace doily (remember those at your Grandma's house?) on the table, on which sat a pottery pitcher holding silk roses.  And I explained that although I loved my living room, I knew very well that it was hardly everyone's cup of tea.  I said I realized that I was very old-fashioned and assured the handful of  ’grammers who might stumble upon that post that I was not trying to pass myself off as Joanna Gaines--not by a long shot!  And some kind person commented that as a matter of fact, my rather vintage-y home decor style is actually en vogue these days, in certain circles; and it even has a name: Granny chic.

What is this "new" interior design trend called Granny chic?  Houzz describes it thus: "Granny chic style updates vintage home decor for the 21st-century gal.  It's filled with crocheted, knitted, quilted, and handmade items and includes lovely vintage touches like glass cake plates and small goblets." Another site says it's "a style that mixes patterns and colors to create a layered look filled with personality-rich items."  Bottom line: it's a sentimental, nostalgic style that reminds you of your grandmother's house.

If you do an Internet search of the term "Granny chic," you will see pictures of all sorts of cozy, colorful, pleasantly cluttered rooms, with gallery walls filled with artwork in mismatched frames, overstuffed upholstered chairs and couches with colorful crocheted blankets tossed over the arms, patchwork quilts, toile fabrics and floral wallpapers, and eclectic collections of new and antique furnishings, dishware, and bric-a-brac.  These are the sorts of rooms that speak to me; they are rooms that come together over many years of saving for special pieces, scouring thrift stores for someone else's cast-off treasures, inheriting family heirlooms, and receiving gifts that not only make your house more beautiful but have special meaning to you because they have a story behind them.  Granny chic is my wheelhouse, I believe.

I have 17 grandchildren who come to my house often for holiday family parties and random play I think the shoe fits here.

My oldest son's wife, Regina, texted me one day recently to say that she thought she'd figured out her decorating style: either Granny chic or something called Grandmillenial, which I think is similar but is created by mixing vintage and modern elements.  I told her I thought that was so funny, because of what I'd learned about myself from that IG commenter.  Our text exchange is what led me to the Internet to search for Granny chic information, and this is one of the images that popped up:

Oh my, I'm in love!  If those gorgeous vintage dishes are an example of what you'll find in a Granny chic-inspired house, then yes, Granny chic is most definitely my cup of tea [cups and saucers]!

I mean, look at some of my most recent purchases from thrift store outings with my daughters-in-law: a vintage gravy boat by an American company called Homer Laughlin, and a vintage cream-and-sugar set, made in Bavaria by a German company called Winterling.  I didn't need them...but I sure do love them.

I keep most of my cherished breakables in safe places, and I hang favorite collector plates on the walls, far from the hands of my curious young grandchildren. But those shelves positively crammed with vintage china in that photo above...😍

I’ll be back soon, I think, to show you more nooks and crannies in my house that illustrate just how chic we Granny-types can be.  (Because apparently, I’m fancying myself a home decor blogger or something...NOT!  🤣)

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Sugar and Spice

I have always been drawn to vintage artwork that depicts children.  Images of little girls playing tea party are particularly endearing to me.  Having been blessed with only boys to raise, I didn’t see this sort of scene very often in our truck-and-dinosaur-littered house (or I should say I NEVER saw it):

A few weeks ago, the daughters-in-law who are married to sons #3 and #4 were over at our house for a play date with their eight children, five of them girls.  And all of a sudden I looked over and caught the two youngest lasses in the bunch, 18-month-old cousins whose birthdays are only two weeks apart, doing this:

I promise you, no one set them up like this for a photo-op.  They just decided all on their own to sit across from each other at the picnic table in our basement playroom, each holding a little plastic tea cup and pretending to take sips. Aren’t they just the cutest?! What sweet little ladies. 😍😍

My husband and I have lots of sugar and spice and everything nice in our lives these days, with nine of our 17 grandchildren being girls.  Our playroom is stockpiled with toys favored by boys, many of them saved from when their daddies were little fellas; but we also have plenty of girly stuff now, too, like tea sets, a play kitchen stocked with play food, doll houses, and multiple baby dolls—the kinds of toys which we didn’t have in our “testosterhome” (to steal Rachel Balducci’s term, the title of her blog back in the day) before we became grandparents.

I can't think of anything cuter than seeing a
baby girl playing mommy to a baby doll.  

I never minded being surrounded by snakes and snails and puppy dog tails, not one bit; in fact, I took such delight in raising my boys.

But I also must admit that the infusion of sugar and spice into our lives is a pretty sweet development.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Junior’s Guest of Honor

This past Monday, I was the guest of my 5-year-old grandson, Junior, at his pre-school.  Junior is the oldest of my second-born son's four boys.  He and his classmates were told that they could invite one special grown-up in their lives to come to their school for an hour, for songs and storytime and a spring flower planting project, and Junior chose me.

I'm “Grammy” to the other three families of grandchildren, but when he was a novice talker Junior dubbed me "ReeRee" and somehow it stuck, so that’s what he and his younger brothers still call me.  I don't know if that title will stand the test of time, with all of the other Pearl cousins calling me Grammy; but I kind of hope it does.

I can't tell you how honored I felt to be the guest of this little guy, an outgoing dynamo of a boy who has the biggest heart and loves both sides of his family with a passion that I've rarely seen in anyone of any age.

He was so excited when he saw me, and I believe I now know what it feels like to be a celebrity.  He enthusiastically introduced me to everyone there, saying, “Hey [so and so], this is my ReeRee!  Do you know this is my ReeRee?” When he and his classmates stood on the stairs at the entrance to the church that is the home of his pre-K school and sang for their guests, he was literally jumping up and down at the end of each song.  He couldn’t contain himself.  

That sweet kid...I have a big spot in my heart reserved just for him.  

I am so fortunate that we were able to move down here to VA four years ago, as hard as it was to leave the house we'd lived in for 26 years in NH, the home where we'd raised our five boys.  We live less than an hour from Junior now (and even closer to his 13 Pearl cousins), so spur-of-the-moment invitations like this one can be accepted with joy. Hopefully these everyday yet oh-so-special times spent together will become lifelong memories for Junior and the rest of the precious little people on our lengthening string of Pearls.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021


I was at the sink washing dishes one night last week, and suddenly I was struck by the most intense feelings—of gratitude for the many blessings in my life, and of joy for the privilege of being alive and having so, so many people to love. These emotions were triggered by the simple tableau right before my eyes on the kitchen counter: gorgeous blooming roses, given to me as a hostess gift from my daughter-in-law Braveheart's mother on Easter, when she joined us here for brunch; and nearby, a candy dish filled with chocolates, because we were still in celebration mode in this house, at least until the end of the octave of Easter.  (We're still in celebration mode!)

But it was more than just those two items that stirred my soul.  It was what I could see beyond the blooms, adorning the walls of our family room: family photos, many of them of our five boys in various stages of growth (five of the most lovable people in the universe, and that's no exaggeration); a poster-sized enlargement of a photo I took of the Pantheon in Rome, when my husband and I were there on a once-in-a-lifetime trip almost exactly two years ago, staying in a tiny apartment just around the corner from that iconic building; a small replica of the Pieta resting on the ledge of the transom window, a group gift from my sons for Mother's Day many years back; and two signs that were gifts from son #3 and his wife to reflect the reasons we relocated to this VA house four years ago, one that reads "Papa and Grammy's House, Where Cousins Become Friends" and another that says "Our Greatest Blessings" and has pictures of our boys and their families hanging from it, as if on a little clothesline.  From my vantage point at the sink, I could also see my husband's navy blue leather recliner, a gift I gave him for his 50th birthday in 2008; it's the chair he sits in when we watch a show or movie together, and when we pray our daily Rosaries and novenas.  (Okay, full disclosure: it's also where he sits to eat his dinner most nights, with a tray on his lap, while I eat mine in my comfy armchair on the other side of the room.  Yes, we are those old people you swear you'll never become!)

Every single item I looked at gave me pleasure. Everything I saw warmed my heart.

There are less pieces of religious artwork in this room than in most of the other rooms of the house, and yet I was seeing God everywhere I looked.

And I thought to myself, "God, why have you given me so much, when so many have so little?  What can I do to deserve this?"  Of course I realize that no one "deserves" anything, and sometimes the best souls have to endure the worst deprivations and trials.  But still...I did ask Him anyway.  And I think He gave the answer I knew already: to whom much has been given, much will be required. (Luke 12:48)  So I've got some work to do!  

I really don't know why I've been fortunate enough to live the life I've lived—the very life I dreamed about when I was a little girl. I have a husband who loves me as Christ loves His Church and gave Himself up for Her, as St. Paul instructed all good husbands to do. I've been a mother to five sons whom I adore, and now I'm a grandmother to the most eclectic and adorable assemblage of little people on God's green earth, 17 of them here with us (so far!) and five in Heaven.  Blessed. That's what I am.  So blessed.

My whole life has revolved around what was going on at home, and I have never felt like my triple vocation of wife, mother, and homemaker was not “enough.”  It was enough and then some.  I always felt privileged that I was able to focus my energies on the needs of my family (especially since I'm just not as good at juggling lots of balls at once as some people are), and I will be eternally grateful to my husband for making it possible for me to do so.

I believe it's part of the Theology of Home philosophy that your home, your domestic Church, should be a reflection of what is most important to your family, and that it should provide an oasis of peace and tranquility for its members—even when the whole world outside your door seems to be in chaos and turmoil.  Home has always been an oasis for me, no matter where we've lived;  I can only hope that it was the same for our boys when they were growing up and sleeping every night under our roof.  I hope they felt safe, cherished, and as happy as it is possible to be in this imperfect life on earth.

I stood there at the sink, deep in thought, looking like I was wasting time staring out over that counter at our family room; but really, I was doing the very important work of trying to unlock all the mysteries of the universe—and specifically, trying to understand how God would like me to spend the years I have left in my life, for His greater glory and the good of my own soul.

And all of these deep thoughts were inspired by a vase filled with roses sitting next to a bunny dish filled with chocolates!

Sunday, April 11, 2021

The Eighth Day of Easter

I can't believe it's already been a week since Easter Sunday!  So on the last day of the octave of Easer, I thought I'd share just a few images from our Easter brunch/egg hunt, when we had three of our boys and their families in attendance, with 13 children between them.

My favorite picture in that second collage just might be the one of our oldest and our fourth-born sons giving each other a goofy hug.  They’re 37 and 33, but still boys at heart.

I didn't think I was tired that day...but when I look at this picture of me with my little grandson, who is the youngest of our 17 grandchildren, all I can think is "Grammy/ReeRee looks like she needs a nap!"  (I also think, "Wow, Grammy is getting old!")

 Wearing apron. Check. Holding baby.  Check.
Business as usual in this pic!

But as my dad always used to say of getting older, "It's better than the alternative!"  So true!  (BTW: isn't that little guy ridiculously adorable?)

Happy Easter, dear readers!

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Just Because: My New Favorite Heroine, ST. RUTH!

This is becoming a huge favorite of mine--this "Just Because" link-up with Rosie over at A Blog for My Mom. Back in 2011 when I started my little String o' Pearls (the blog formerly known as String of Pearls), Rosie was one of the first Catholic bloggers I discovered, followed, and corresponded with.  I'm so glad that she's still here, when so many of the other gals I used to hang out with in the blogosphere have abandoned this platform for the more popular, higher visibility world of  Instagram (which I kind of did, too, I must admit--that is, before I decided to give up my other social media accounts, cold turkey).  Thanks, Rosie, for sticking around, and for giving the rest of us die-hard bloggers a place to connect each week! 

I mentioned in a post not too long ago that my husband and I are doing Ascension Press's Bible in a Year with Fr. Mike Schmitz.  Wow!  Just wow.  I can't recommend this podcast series highly enough; I'm telling you, it has been kind of life-changing for me.  As a cradle Catholic who loves and tries to live her Faith, it's embarrassing to admit how little time I have spent in my 62 years on this planet actually reading the Bible (and I'm a person who LOVES to read!).  I am learning so much, and I can't think of a better teacher than Fr. Mike, who explains each day's readings with gentle humor and enormous compassion.  And boy oh boy, do we humans need a lot of compassion and forgiveness!

Human beings being prone to sin is not a new concept; one need only to read the Old Testament to understand how very fallen our nature really is, and how much we need God.  I look around the world today and am shocked and dismayed by how far from God and His teachings it has wandered; but reading the Bible makes me realize that what we are seeing these days is nothing new.  From the earliest days of human life on earth (pretty much on day one we had the Adam and Eve debacle), this turning away from God has happened over and over and over--indeed, we are a "stiff-necked people."   God's chosen people, the Israelites whom He brought out of slavery in Egypt and promised a land flowing with milk and honey,  kept messing up--big time!--and then desperately beseeching His forgiveness and help.  And time after time, God in His infinite mercy saved His people from utter disaster.  The tale of human history that the Bible tells illustrates beyond a shadow of a doubt that God gave us the Ten Commandments for our own good, not to make our lives harder but to make them infinitely easier.  It's only when we break those commandments that we suffer in body, mind, and soul.

Anyway, today is day 97 out of 365, and we've already read through Genesis, Job, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Judges, and Ruth, with portions of Psalms and Proverbs mixed in there, and we are currently going through the first book of Samuel. And I have to say, I have become a great fan of Ruth, about whom I knew very little before starting this Bible in a Year study.  The Book of Ruth is just four chapters long, but it made quite an impact on me.

You probably know the story of Ruth already; but I'll give a quick synopsis of it here anyway.  An Israelite man named Elimelech (husband of Naomi) and his two sons, Mahlon and Killion, all die, leaving three grieving widows.  Ruth, the widow of Mahlon, is a Moabite.  She was raised in a pagan family but is drawn to the faith of her husband's family. Naomi loves her daughters-in-law very much, and they in turn love her; but nonetheless after her sons' deaths she encourages both of them to return home to their parents, so that they will not be destitute.  But Ruth is so devoted to Naomi and her new faith that she refuses to return to her own people.  "Whither thou goest, I will go.  Thy name shall be my name, and thy God my God," declares Ruth.  

Ruth is considered a model of bravery, faith, and obedience, and she is rewarded for these traits.  She is determined to support herself and Naomi and goes to work for a man named Boaz, who is a kinsman of her late husband, toiling in his fields from morning 'til night.  Boaz ends up marrying Ruth, and from their line comes their great-grandson,  King David.  And of course, this means that Jesus is a direct descendant of Ruth's.

After we finished the Book of Ruth, I told my husband that I thought I should make my five daughters-in-law read it, if they haven't already.  You know, as a reference, as a guide for how to act if you want to be Mom Pearl's favorite.  Ha ha!  (Seriously, though, I would never ask my girls to leave their people for my sake; but I know that they would do just about anything for me other than that, and I am not exaggerating when I say that I am an exceedingly lucky mother-in-law. And I have five favorite daughters-in law.)

Here at the blog, I've named my girls Regina, Ginger, Preciosa, Braveheart, and Babisiu. I think perhaps I shall rename them Ruth 1, Ruth 2, Ruth 3, Ruth 4, and Ruth 5 (with their numbers corresponding to their husband's birth order).  What do you think?

I wish I had a picture of all five of my daughters-in-law together, but unfortunately I don't.  (Babisiu/Ruth 5, in those last two pictures, just joined us in 2019, and she and our youngest son are the only ones who don't live close-by in VA. YET.  #goals)

I'm ashamed to admit that I always thought that familiar line, "Whither thou goest, I will go," was meant to be romantic.  It reminded me of something one of the Bronte sisters might have penned for a desperate female character to say to a handsome and mysterious love interest who was about to leave her behind.  But instead, it is actually a much more deeply meaningful sentiment than any you might find in a fictional love story.  Ruth's refusal to leave Naomi is especially poignant when you realize that at that time, in that part of the world, if a widow didn't return to her family in order to find a new husband among her kin, she would be destined to a life of poverty and loneliness. Ruth was brave enough to face such a future if necessary, out of love for Naomi and devotion to her God.

I just love hard-working, self-sacrificing, God-fearing Ruth.  She's my new favorite Biblical heroine.  And I bet she was Naomi's favorite.  [Insert winky-face emoji here.]

That's it for me. Now whither shall thou goest?  How about thou goest on over to Rosie's?  

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Just Because: Happy Holy Saturday, 2021

Happy Holy Saturday!

This Easter is going to be so much better than it was last year, isn't it?  On Easter 2020, my husband and I got all dressed up and watched Mass on TV in our family room—just the two of us—live-streamed from the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at the University of Notre Dame.  Our little local parish church here in semi-rural VA is not nearly as spectacular as that glorious basilica...but we are just over the moon about how much more special this holiest of holidays is going to be in 2021.  We are over the moon that we are going to be in the actual presence of Our Lord at Mass in our church, that we will receive Him in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, that we will be gathered together with our fellow parishioners, after spending so much of the past year starved of these experiences that we used to assume would always be available to us and will certainly never take for granted again!  Hallelujah!!

My husband and I are planning to go to the Easter Vigil Mass, and then on Sunday at noon we will have more than 20 loved ones at our house for an Easter brunch (I already mentioned these plans on the blog, I know!). By the way, I was asked in the comment section of that post for a couple of recipes, so here they are.  (You’re welcome! ;))

I always thought Christmas was my holiday wheelhouse...but what I am beginning to realize is that although it tends to come with a good bit less hoopla and much lower expectations of awesomeness than Christmas (just simple Easter baskets instead of major gifts, and not nearly as many decorative elements about the house), Easter might be my favorite holiday of all.  The fact that Christ rose triumphantly from the dead on Easter, and through His Crucifixion and Resurrection redeemed all of mankind is obviously the main reason; but I also love everything about Easter and the Easter season: the warmth of spring and flowers blooming; Easter egg hunts and Easter baskets; bow ties on little boys and bonnets on little girls; and bunnies, bunnies everywhere.  Oh yes, and CHOCOLATE!   Easter makes me 100% happy.  It is the most stress-free, joyful celebration of the year, IMHO.

We gave our kids/grandkids their family Easter baskets early, and the 3-and-a-1/2-year-old identical twin boys, the sons of our fourth oldest (who have a triplet sister and a younger sister), were utterly fascinated with the cheap wind-up dinosaurs we hid in plastic eggs. Like I said: there are lower expectations of awesomeness on Easter, and it costs next to nothing to give gifts that make the little ones happy.

I decorate the house for Easter, but as I said, not nearly as much as I do at Christmas. 

Just looking at that collage makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.  What's not to love about Easter?  It's just the best, in every way.  God bless us every one.  This Easter and always.

(P.S. At Christmas, I'll probably be telling you all about how I love that holiday the most!  Fickle, fickle.)

(Linking up with Rosie et. al., here.)