Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Thanksgiving 2021

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  Three of our five sons (#1, #4, and #5), nine of our 17 grandchildren, and one daughter-in-law's parents were with us for dinner, making it a grand total of 19 turkey eaters.  (And then son #2 came over later in the evening after he'd had dinner at his in-laws' house, so that he could spend some time with our youngest son and his wife, who had traveled from Nashville to spend the holiday with us.) Our middle son and his family were in FL with his wife's folks.

I cooked a 21 lb. turkey and a 10 lb. turkey breast...on Wednesday!  After it cooled, my husband carved it up on Wednesday night and then we put all the meat in a huge pan with chicken broth to keep it moist.  All we had to do was warm it up the next day.  The drippings were stored in the fridge, ready to heat up and turn into gravy; the stuffing had been transferred from the bird into a baking dish, ready for warming up with some extra butter on Thursday.  Easy peasy!

I love having the main items done ahead of time; it makes Thanksgiving day so much less stressful.  My daughters-in-law were a little skeptical about pre-cooking the turkey; but I can assure you it was moist and delicious.  And because it was already done, that left all the oven space for cooking the numerous side dishes.  (We do not have two ovens in this VA house--and we probably should!  But we make do.)

It's always a tad chaotic at our house on holidays.  In a good way.  But definitely chaotic!  I had pretty paper products for the kids and nice china set out for the grown-ups.  But big people were grabbing little people plates (to be honest, they were Pioneer Woman brand, so big that they held a good bit more food than the nice plates could!).  The grown-ups were also grabbing plasticware, instead of the sets of good silverware wrapped in cloth napkins and held together with the silver napkin rings my mother gave me many moons ago and which almost never get used.  AAAGGGHHH! Initially, I was going to have the kids sit in the kitchen and the grown-ups in the dining room, but I decided to ditch that plan pretty early on.  Everyone just helped themselves to the buffet-style fixings and sat wherever...and it all worked out just fine. 

My husband reminded me that it's unrealistic to expect Thanksgiving to look like this iconic Norman Rockwell painting, when there are 19 of us, nine of them children!

I've decided that moving forward, I'm going to use paper plates and plasticware any time there are more than 10 Pearls gathered for a meal at our house.  If we have just one family over, the good china and silverware will come out. But otherwise, I think it's just a better plan to keep it simple.

And Pioneer Woman really does make the most beautiful paper products.  Here's the style of plates I'm hoping to have for our Christmas extravaganza, when 27 of us (all but our youngest and his wife) will be gathered at Casa Papa and Grammy.

These plates are extra large and better yet, unbreakable. Not too mention disposable! And I just love Pioneer Woman’s cheerful style.

Hope you had a beautiful Thanksgiving.  And Happy Advent, dear readers!

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Happy Sunday

 And happy Feast of Christ the King!

We have an exciting week coming up!  On Wednesday, our youngest son and his wife are traveling from Nashville  to spend Thanksgiving with us.  (They will be with her folks in Michigan for Christmas.)  We will have three of our sons and their wives, nine of our grandchildren, and one daughter-in-law’s parents gathered with us at our table on Thursday, so 19 in all. Blessings abound.

And next Sunday we get to light the first candle on our Advent wreath!  I love this time of year so, so much.  

And I’ve started my decorating early, because I want our baby to come home to a Christmasy house.  Lots more to do (or overdo!); but I’m already feeling very merry.

Have a lovely, family-filled, tukey-and-gravy-filled week, my dear readers. ❤️

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Insta Inspiration

Every now and then, my daughter-in-law Ginger (wife of son #2) takes a screenshot of an Instagram post she thinks I would like.

I deleted all my social media accounts at the beginning of 2021, and while I don't miss Facebook and Twitter a bit, I do sometimes miss Instagram.  Ginger knows that I am a recovering Instagram addict who doesn't want to go on a scrolling binge, but that I miss certain people on the site--and I miss them terribly.  So she likes to keep me a little bit in the loop. There are so many wonderful writers on that platform who provide keen insights, helpful advice, and Faith-filled inspiration for women, and one of them is mother of nine, grandmother, homeschooler, writer, and Internet "influencer" Elizabeth Foss.  (If you don't know who she is, you should look her up.)

Here is a recent Elizabeth Foss Instagram post that Ginger texted me a few days ago, with this note: "a little Insta inspiration for this Wednesday morning."  


Inspiration indeed!

It's hard for me to describe how much I love this essay on the value and dignity of stay-at-home motherhood.  I remember hurtful comments over the years, even by several people close to me, not-so-subtly insinuating that the only reason I didn’t have a job was that my husband made so much money that I could be spoiled and lazy and “do nothing.”   (I think some pictured me spending my days lounging on the couch, eating bon bons while I watched soap operas on TV.  Seriously!)

The sacrifices my husband and I made were not apparent to anyone on the outside looking in, because we didn't talk or complain about them.  We made them freely and joyfully, believing that our household would not run as peacefully and efficiently as it did if I tried to work outside our home while raising our boys.  I am not judging those moms who do work; some have to, for financial or other personal reasons, and I applaud the sacrifices they make for the good of their families.  But fortunately, we could make the choice to live on what my husband made--in certain seasons, it was paycheck to paycheck, but even then it was doable.  So we did it, and we never regretted the decision we'd made to have me concentrate my energies on keeping the home fires burning.  

My life’s work might not have looked like much in the eyes of the world.  But this gem from Elizabeth Foss says it all: “So much of what is valuable about your life is done in secret.”

Wow.  That is the most profoundly true statement.  Beautifully put. Some people have the gift of arranging words so perfectly that you want to reread them just to enjoy their beauty.  Elizabeth Foss is one of those people.

I do sometimes miss Instagram, especially when I read posts like this one.  Keep those screenshots coming, Ginger!

Have a great weekend, everyone.  

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Happy Decorating

My daughter-in-law Ginger, the wife of son #2, has been redecorating their home, employing a combination of amazingly beautiful and inexpensive thrift store finds, DIY projects that the two of them can accomplish together, and a whole lot of good taste and creativity.  She's making a bit of a break with the monochromatic modern look and adding a lot more color and pattern (Wallpaper! A floral couch! An antique dresser painted in a vibrant shade of green and repurposed as a coffee bar in her kitchen!  Multi-hued vintage mismatched plates instead of all-white!); she calls this sort of thing "happy decorating."

Ginger's eclectic collection of vintage plates, purchased for next to
nothing at the thrift, certainly makes me happy!

Our homes should make us happy—or at least, as happy as it is possible to be in this life.  Even if there's nowhere else in this crazy, mixed-up world where we can feel warm, safe, nurtured, and loved, we should be able to feel that way inside the walls of our own homes. (It's the #theologyofhome mindset.)  So do what makes you feel happy when it comes to feathering your nest. Who cares if what you happen to like isn't in style these days?  If it isn't, it will be at some point in the future; just hang onto it long enough and it will once again be the "in" look.   (Or not.  But it doesn’t matter.  You do you!)

I've had my pink-and-green floral couch and loveseat set since 1994; and apparently, its style is coming back (“Granny chic" or "Grandmillenial” for the win!).

It makes me happy that this living room set has been with us for 27 years, that it's a part of our family’s history.  I remember how excited I was when we found it at Costco for $600 (which, at the time, was quite a splurge for us!).  I had painted the living room in our NH Colonial green just because I loved the color, even though we didn’t have a stick of furniture in that room for about three years after we moved in. (#housepoor) So the main reason I just had to have this couch and loveseat set when I saw it was that it matched those green walls so well. (Isn't that how everyone chooses furniture?  Or do most people get the furniture first and THEN paint the walls to go with it?   Asking for a friend.)  In an all-boy house, where for the most part the decor could be summed up as “leather and sports,” that living room became my calm and soothing feminine oasis.

The amazing thing is that when we bought our house in VA, the living room walls had already been painted almost exactly the same shade of green as the NH house! It was like this new house was made for us.  (If you have begun to guess that I am not a fan of change, you would be right.)

When Ginger bought her lovely new floral couch—for only $75, from either Craigslist or an estate sale, I can't remember which—my son teased, "This couch is definitely channeling my parents' living room."  LOL, son; yes, it's scary when you start to become your parents, isn't it?   But seriously, I find it kind of sweet that when our boys think of our living room, they think of our decades-old floral couches.  And I bet if we got rid of them and upgraded, they'd miss them.  (Well, maybe not...?)

Happy happy decorating, dear readers! 

(And just a quick postscript here: if you’re planning to start decorating your house for Christmas before Thanksgiving, like I am, you are not alone.  And we will be happy about that together!)

Friday, November 12, 2021

7QT: Family, Favorites, Film, and a Sad Farewell

These Takes this Friday are going to be QUICK, I mean it.  (I can do quick if I put my mind to it!) It's been a busy week and it's not over yet.

Take 1

I've gotten behind on updating my "Sewing with Grammy" series.  A few weeks ago, the girls finished up some simple sundresses for their American Girl dolls (the only "pattern" needed was a sheet of computer paper!); unfortunately, I didn't remember to take pictures of those.  But this past Monday, they started sewing together squares for a small patchwork quilt for their baby sister, who will be joining the family in February.  Each girl is responsible for a row of three squares.  The twins (10) used the sewing machine for theirs, but the younger two (8 and 6) started stitching their seams up by hand.  It's impressive to see what tiny, neat stitches they can do--they almost look like machine stitches.  It's slow-going for them, but it's satisfying and they enjoy it.

 Take 2

This was a big birthday week for the Pearls.  First, Junior (the oldest of son #4's four boys) turned six.  He is the most enthusiastic kid, a huge (I mean HUGE) fan of both sides of his family tree.  I try to make birthday cakes for all the grandkids each year and decorate them according to their wishes or current passions.  An animal lover, Junior requested a zebra for his cake.

Junior's mom, our daughter-in-law Ginger, told us the sweetest story via text: Junior was very excited about every aspect of his birthday celebration; talking in the car with her a few days beforehand about his cake, he told her what a great baker I am and then added, "She is actually like a CHEF!" (Current favorite grandchild?)

Take 3

A few days later, our little Hermanita (the youngest of son #3's four) turned two.  She is crazy (I mean CRAZY!) about a show called "Cocomelon," and even if she hadn't requested a JJ cake, that's what I would have assumed she wanted.

This little cutie-pie has taken to answering almost every question with "Papa Grammy's house."  Here's another sweet story relayed to us via text, this time by our daughter-in-law Preciosa: The other day Hermanita was licking a lollipop and her mom told her it looked delicious.  Then Preciosa asked her what flavor it was and Hermanita's reply was "Papa Grammy's house!" (Now the current favorite grandchild?  Sorry, Junior! But don't worry; it changes just about hourly, as it did for your dad and his brothers.)

Take 4

On the same day that we celebrated Hermanita's birthday, we visited Junior's school for a moving Veteran's Day Mass/assembly/brunch celebration. His Papa, a former Naval aviator, was Junior's special guest for the event.  My husband now has a "brick" on the wall and will be a part of the Veteran's Day display in the hallway of Junior's Catholic elementary school for as many years as he and his brothers are students there.

Take 5

This guy.

My favorite husband, dad, grandfather, former Naval aviator and airline pilot, and all-around human.  (He never has to worry about losing or sharing that spot, like his boys and their children.  It's a permanent status.)

Take 6

We really don't have favorites, I hope you realize that!  The big joke when our boys were growing up was that they were constantly vying for and earning the favorite spot.  But it was truly a five-way tie.  With the grandkids, we've currently got 17 (soon to be 19) favorites.  (This subject has come up now and then here at the blog over the years; here is one post, and here's another that you could check out, in case these takes are so quick that you need more reading to do. Sorry, you probably didn't know there would be homework when you came here--LOL!)

Take 7

Our youngest son was an Army officer for six years and is currently getting a graduate degree in fine arts.  He is learning all about film production--screenwriting, filming, editing, etc.  This has been a passion of his since he was a young boy, enthralled by the movie magic of Jurassic Park.  I mean, just to give you an idea of how far back this goes, for career day in 3rd grade he went as a movie director.

Son #5 started a blog a few years back to post movie reviews.  He hasn't had the time to update it in a while, and I just tried to click on it but it appears to have disappeared. (Son?  Where did your blog go?)  This boy of ours writes extraordinarily well (said his proud mom), especially when he's doing in-depth analysis on his favorite art form.

And on that note, I think this post is a wrap.

I had just typed this up and then headed over to Kelly's to read her post, and I saw that the 7QT link-up at This Ain't the Lyceum has been shut down.  7QT is a wrap, too.  It had a good run, just like blogging.   And I was too late; I didn't get around to doing a post last week and missed the boat on linking up that last time.  :( 

But even though hardly anyone reads or writes blogs anymore, I think I'll keep at it--if only to record family memories for posterity, before my mind starts to go!

Monday, November 8, 2021

Planning a Holiday Tea Party

These days, it would be very easy for me to fall into a pit of despair over what is happening in our world.  I could sit paralyzed with fear, worrying about what kind of future our grandchildren will have if things don't change, and fast. I'm not going to go into details here, because this isn't that kind of blog.  But there are goings-on afoot that truly terrify me--and some of them are hitting way too close to home.

But my husband and I are doing the Bible in a Year study with Fr. Mike Schmitz, which makes us realize that none of the things that are happening in the 21st century are new at all. Throughout salvation history, misguided and sinful man has time after time turned away from God and suffered greatly for it.  But in the end, God our merciful Father is in charge and He does love His children; so in spite of our disobedience, there is always hope for us.

ANYWAY, sorry for starting out as a real Debbie Downer on this Monday morning (as if Monday mornings aren't kind of the worst for many already!); I'm going to change my tune here and tell you what I'm doing to combat the blues:

I'm planning a St. Nicholas Tea Party/Brunch/Cookie Exchange in early December, for all the Pearl ladies here in VA (including my five oldest granddaughters)!  

I've got lots of ideas for the food and decor already, but I find myself doing Internet searches for "Christmas Tea Party Ideas" quite frequently now, and here are some of the images that have popped up that make me feel all merry and bright.

I'm trying to decide if I'll use my beloved blue-and-white transferware for the party.  Or instead, I might use the lovely holiday china that my mother-in-law left me, as I have exactly 10 place settings of that and there will be 10 of us around the table.  I'll be sure to post pictures of our event--which will probably not quite live up to these Pinterest-worthy images, but I'm going to do my best.  I can't tell you how excited I am about this little all-girls party!

With visions of sugarplums (and dainty crustless tea sandwiches) dancing in your heads now, and all the gloominess of the beginning of this post hopefully blotted out of your mind, I wish you a wonderful week. Enjoy your families.  And make every day a holiday!  (That's my new motto!)

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Tears During Mass, Revisited

I sometimes cry during Mass.  I have found that if I forget to pack tissues in my purse, there's a good chance that's the day it's going to happen.  I was going to say, "That's the Sunday it's going to happen," but these days my husband and I are daily Mass-goers (for two reasons: he took an early retirement, so he's always home now and we can do everything together; and as he likes to say, the battle for the salvation of our fallen world, of good versus evil, is being fought on the altar, and therefore that's where we need to be present as often as possible); so really, any morning of the week, you might find me sitting in the pew sniffling and wiping my eyes.

It’s usually just a matter of getting choked up and having leaky eyes and a runny nose, and I find I can't sing or recite prayers aloud until I regain my composure or I will surely lose it.  Sometimes, though, it's bad enough that I fear a true bout of sobbing might commence; but I can usually keep it under control.  I dread the day I can’t and the floodgates open up.

My heart is so full these days, weighed down by worries for the world and worries for my beloved family members who have to live in it.  But getting emotional during Mass is not really anything new. Even when my worries were fewer, it could happen at any time. 

Way back when my youngest son--now 28, married, an Army vet and grad student--was just a lad home for the summer, getting ready to begin his senior year of college, he inspired this post titled "Tears During Mass."  I thought I'd share a link to that post today rather than write a new one on the subject.  (#lazyblogger) I read it again recently and marveled at all the changes that have occurred in our ever-growing family, not to mention our ever-scarier world, since I wrote it in 2014.  We still lived in NH (we would not make our big move to VA until 2017).  Just three of our five boys were married and we had only three grandchildren.  Now they're all married and within a matter of months, we will be Papa and Grammy to 19. 

2014 seems like a lifetime ago.  (Cue the tears!)

Click on this link if you have a few minutes and want to read that old post.  (You might want to grab a tissue first.  You've been forewarned!) Meanwhile, I'll try to come up with some new content here at the blog.

Until next time!

(P.S. That photo up there is of the church where my husband and I got married in 1980.  And speaking of tears during Mass, I may or may not have gotten a bit weepy during our wedding ceremony there, when it came time to look into his eyes and recite my vows...)