Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Post of Christmases Past

Pour yourself a cup of tean
and join me in a stroll down
memory lane.
Since Christmas is an excellent time for reflecting, I'm reviving some of my posts from past Christmases. If you missed them, I hope you enjoy them. If you read them but your memory is like mine, you can read them again for the first time!

My favorite Christmas recipe

Favorite Christmas song

Favorite Christmas story (not counting the original)

And I'll close with my Favorite Christmas thought

Thank you for visiting (or re-visiting) Christmases Past with me. Wishing you and your loved ones a Very Merry and Blessed Christmas Present!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Dirty Santa Is Fraught with Faux Pas-sibilities

            I for one am NOT a fan of Dirty Santa, that activity where, right under your nose, people exchange a gift you gave them for one they like better. Anyone with even a modicum of manners knows that such behavior is just plain tacky. It is my fervent Christmas wish that eventually Dirty Santa will go the way of friendship bread and fruitcake. But just in case you're planning to attend an event involving this onslaught to your holiday cheer and your ego, here are a few hints for surviving it.
One-stop shopping for all your Naughty Santa needs!
 1.  Dirty Santa does not mean Naughty Santa. My friends “Nola” and “Nick” learned this the hard way. They were invited to a church party for which they were to bring a Dirty Santa gift. They’d never heard of Dirty Santa and quite understandably interpreted dirty as naughty. They thought it a bit strange that a church would be doing this, but, hey, it was a progressive church. The pastor wore jeans and the “choir” was basically a rock band. So snickering and elbowing each other like a couple of teenagers, they searched the aisles of a marital aids store and selected an appropriately inappropriate gift. Imagine their horror at the party when the first couple of gifts were unwrapped, and Lola and Nick realized their social gaffe. This unfortunate incident does, however, have a happy ending. This was indeed a progressive church, and their gift proved to be the most popular. Which leads to my next survival hint...
2a. It’s all about the gift. If you remember nothing else, remember this: Dirty Santa involves cut-throat competition and is best left to seasoned gift-giving professionals. Unlike a White Elephant exchange, the ultimate goal of Dirty Santa is to bring the gift everyone will covet and the one that will be stolen the maximum number of times. If the gift you bring isn’t stolen at all, you brought a dud. I brought a perfectly lovely scented candle to my first Dirty Santa exchange. The first hint of my rookie status was that my gift was chosen last. I’d made the mistake of not"staging" it properly, not placing the candle in a sparkly gift bag with a huge bow and enough tissue paper to stuff a mattress. The second hint that my gift was a loser was the stiff half-smile and unenthusiastic “Well, isn’t this nice” from the recipient. She knew, and at that point I knew, no one would be stealing that candle.
Half the battle of Dirty Santa success
is in the presentation.
2b. The $10 maximum is only a suggestion. Like most interstate drivers, no one takes the limit seriously. If you properly stage your gift, that alone can cost ten bucks. And bear in mind you’re up against the pros here—those people who Christmas shop in January or who can snag a 42" smart TV on Deal Dash for about the same price as a ... well, a scented candle. 
Apparently, scented candles aren't coveted
gifts among Dirty Santa participants.
2c. The pain is acute, and recovery will take time. Sadly, my first Dirty Santa experience didn’t end as happily as Nick and Lola’s did. It was March when the recipient of my gift informed me she’d finally lit the candle (another indication of her excitement over it). I stood there with an expectant smile, waiting for her to tell me how it calmed her frazzled nerves or reminded her of a walk in a garden. Instead, I got, “My son came home and said, ‘Something stinks.’”
I guess it could’ve been worse. My friend Norma, another Dirty Santa victim, once told me she couldn’t attend a party, so she sent a crystal salad bowl with the instructions to just bring her whatever gift was left. She got her salad bowl back. 
The painful humiliation inflicted by Dirty Santa is a long, drawn-out affair. You must wait an entire year to redeem yourself because, hello, there is no Dirty Cupid, Dirty Easter Bunny, or Dirty Turkey.
2c. Only slightly less mortifying than bringing the loser gift is receiving the loser gift. (As in poor Norma’s case, these events can sometimes occur at the same party and to the same person, although it is rare.) From the moment you unwrap that gold, spray-painted Christmas tree made out of coat hangers, you know there’s not a snowball’s chance it’s going to be stolen. When that happens, Dirty Santa can become character building. There’s not a dang thing you can do but force a smile and mutter, “Well, isn’t this nice.”
3. There is no such thing as “getting into the spirit” of Dirty Santa. I can hear you saying, “Aw, Dee Dee, lighten up.That candle incident happened over fifteen years ago, and you're still whinging about it.” There may be some truth to your accusation, but as far as I’m concerned, nothing—and I mean nothing—zaps the joy from gift-giving faster than this activity. Whoever came up with the whole idea surely must’ve been a cohort of Ebenezer Scrooge or the Grinch...before their miraculous transformations.
          I haven’t heard a lot about Dirty Santa lately. I think the trend is being replaced by Ugly Christmas Sweater Parties, those activities where Generation X-ers and Millenials make fun of the beautiful sweaters I wore until they started having Ugly Christmas Sweater Parties. Please excuse me, I feel another post coming on.          
I believe that eventually Ugly Christmas Sweater Parties
will become passe' and I can again wear my festive sweater collection
to all my holiday events.


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Tree-Top Christmas

            In the mid-seventies, a fire gutted my parents’ house. Of course, there was the initial shock and depression that accompanies such a traumatic event, but as with most tragedies in life, good things followed. In my parents’ case, the good things came in a house that, while not entirely new, was completely remodeled and refreshed. And since many of the Christmas decorations had been stored in the attic—where the fire started—Mama was able to celebrate the first Christmas in her beautifully restored house with new Christmas finery. Replacing the pitiful, “Charlie Brown” live trees we’d always had in the past was an artificial tree with full and perfectly arranged branches. Like most of these trees, it came in three sections and reached all the way to the ceiling. Instead of the scratched, lusterless ornaments that had survived decades of being tossed willy-nilly into a box after Christmas, there were elegant decorations in the form of red velvet bows and snowy-feathered doves.

            The fake tree and fake doves and velvet bows faithfully served for years. But eventually, the doves’ feathers yellowed. They also lost their “fluffiness,” as did the bows. The tree, however, continued to stand stalwart and tall for years to come. At Christmas time, my sister, brother, and I would return home with our growing families to find the tree decked out in more traditional decorations of colored lights, shiny balls, and ornaments hand-made by grandkids.
The Hallmark dream
            As we all grew older, the tree began to shrink, and I don’t mean in a metaphorical sense. It actually shrank—as in Mama began to leave off the bottom section in order to save space and decorating effort. Then the last couple of Christmases she decorated, we found only the top section of the tree placed squarely in the middle of the coffee table.
            While I didn’t always achieve it—I always dreamed of a Hallmark kind of Christmas. For me, there was no such thing as too many lights or too much sparkle and shine. So the first time I saw that topper excuse for a tree on Mama’s table, I remember hoping I never came to that place. That place where shiny ornaments and twinkling lights and a glittering tree wouldn’t fill me with giddy pleasure.
            You know what I’m about to say.
The tree-top Christmas reality
            Yes, I’ve come to that place. Almost. I haven’t completely abandoned decorating a la Clark Griswold, but when my daughter moved to another state and married, we adopted the every-other-year plan. We alternate the Christmas venues—our house one year, her house the next. For a while, I continued to do my annual decorating. But a couple of years ago I got smart.  Now, I have a tree-top Christmas every other year. Like Mama, I make a nod toward decorating—a few outside lights, a wreath here, a Santa there, and, of course, a nativity scene. But it’s not a winter fantasy by a long-shot.  
            And you know what? I kind of like downsizing my Christmas decorating. Downsizing every other year means that every other year I can take it easy. I can take time to actually enjoy shopping and baking and attending parties and events. I can spend more time reflecting on the meaning of the season. I can ooh and aah over other people’s decorations. And every other year, I can miss out on the after-Christmas slump of taking down and packing away tubs of decorations.
            Maybe it’s a sign of age, but this year I’m rather enjoying my tree-top Christmas. Hope you're enjoying your Christmas preparations, too, whether tree-top, Hallmark, or somwhere in between.   

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Tom, the Multi-purpose Turkey

Meet Tom.

Delighted to make your acquaintance.

I can’t remember when I first purchased him off the clearance table at Cracker Barrel, but I know it’s been over ten years. At the time, I wondered if I was wasting my money. Now I can categorically say it was the best ten-dollars I ever spent.
Tom’s talent for greeting friends and family on special occasions is by no means limited to Thanksgiving. Over the years, he has welcomed special guests as ...
the Easter Turkey

Can't believe she put this ridiculous outfit on me.

Tourist Turkey

I could get used to this one.
and Santa Turkey (his least favorite role, I might add). 

Bah, humbug!
While Tom is a rather staid and dignified fellow, he seldom complains about the ridiculous garb he is crammed into. But on those occasions he does start to grumble,
Next thing you know, she'll be putting a witch's hat on me.
I gently remind him that being crammed into silly outfits beats the heck out of being crammed into a 350-degree oven. The grumbling quickly comes to a halt. 
Of course, Tom is at his best as Pilgrim Turkey, wishing everyone a 
Now this is more like it.



Thursday, October 15, 2015

Re-thinking the Bucket List

            The idea of a bucket list has always caused me concern. It’s not that thinking about the completion date of said list bothers me. Rather, it’s that it smacks of a sort of desperation, of things that must be done before that deadline (no pun intended). Like, “Before I die, I have to hike the Pacific Crest Trail . . . visit the Taj Mahal . . . write a bestseller.”  Also, to me, a bucket list suggests something finite. Each time we check off an item, we empty our bucket a little more. Eventually, it’s completely drained . . . and then we die.
            I guess, for people who are planners or goal-setters, traditional bucket-list thinking is fine. But for people like me who sort of ride the river of life, bobbing and bouncing with the current, that kind of thinking induces guilt. Like we’re rudderless if we don’t compile a list and  slackers if we don’t complete it.
            So I’ve given it some thought and have re-designed the bucket list for those like me. Traditional thinking is that you fill a bucket with all the wonderful things you want to accomplish and then you empty it item by item. But for us less intentional folks, you start with a completely empty bucket and fill it as you go. You leave yourself open to experiences that you never considered. Sometimes you’re pleased or thrilled with the results, sometimes disappointed. But wouldn’t it have been the same with a pre-filled bucket?
            All this bucket-thinking began with reflection on the travels and events I've experienced over the past few months. I would have never placed any of them on a pre-determined bucket list. They weren’t sojourns to lofty or exotic destinations or grandiose fetes which would make the news. And yet I discovered places I never knew existed, learned fascinating facts about the history of our country, made dear new friends, enjoyed family moments, and took in awe-inspiring vistas. In fact, I had so many bucketworthy experiences, I’m going to have to get a bigger bucket!   
          Some of the memorable items I've recently added to my bucket  . . .
Amazing Luray Caverns in Virginia
The luxurious Greenbriar Hotel in West Virginia.
Did you know a government bunker was underneath it?
Celebrating with family in
Sunriver, Oregon
Hiking in Sedona, Arizona
A gorgeous sunset right here in Oklahoma!

Metolius River, Oregon

Fishing with grandsons ...
in our own backyard (practically)


For Walking Dead fans, a shot
from the streets of
Senoia, Georgia, where the
show is filmed
In Savannah,Georgia beautiful
Forsythe Square
In Atlanta,
the desk and typewriter on
which Gone with the Wind
was created
Also in Atlanta, a serene stroll
through historic Oakland Cemetary
The view from Dowdell's Knob, where FDR often
went to picnic and reflect

Friends and fellow travelers,
Sam and Linda Jones posing
with bronze statue of
Franklin Roosevelt at
Dowdell's Knob

The Little White House
at Warm Springs, Georgia,
the place of FDR's death

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Politician or Statesman?

            Trying my best to be an informed voter, I tuned in to the recent Republican debate. I felt a bit like I do when I go to a shopping mall—overwhelmed. When it comes to clothes, home improvement, laundry detergent . . . I’m the type that likes two or three choices. More than that and I’m confused.
            So as I watched the abundance of Republican hopefuls the other night, I decided I needed to find some sort of criteria/criterion that would narrow my options.  
            Being as this was a Republican debate, the candidates and I agreed for the most part on issues. So the issues weren’t . . . well, an issue. But as I watched the posturing, the often canned responses, the occasional heated moments, it became apparent some candidates were clearly more skilled at explaining the problems we face as a country and what they planned to do about them. I started thinking about that, and the word statesman came to mind.

            To confirm I was on the right track, I consulted the dictionary. Concerning politicians, the definitions ran the gamut from "a person skilled in political government or administration; a statesman or stateswoman" to "a seeker or holder of public office who is more concerned about winning favor or retaining power than about maintaining principles." (They might as well have said “see bottom-feeding scum-sucker” for that last one.)
            The definitions for statesmen/stateswoman were a little kinder: "a person experienced in the art of government or versed in the administration of government affairs; a person exhibiting great wisdom and ability in directing the affairs of a government or in dealing with important public issues."
            On first reading, those definitions did nothing to solve my quandary. In fact, they seemed to suggest that politicians and statesmen weren’t that different. It seemed that to be either, there had to be a firm grounding in the ins and outs (read that “wheeling and dealing”) of government.
            While I don’t buy into the notion that all politicians are on-the-take sleaze balls (although some definitely are), neither do I believe that experience in government is necessary to be an effective chief executive. The definition of statesman seemed to suggest that. But then I read it again and noticed that little two-letter word: or.
            Statesmen don’t have to have experience in government. Just because people haven’t held a public office, it doesn’t mean they don’t possess skill in dealing with important public issues. They might have demonstrated this ability in other ways. To suggest a couple: through volunteerism, through the way they run their lives/businesses.
            And so I was able to establish my final criteria. My candidate of choice must fit my definition of a statesman: one who exhibits great wisdom and ability in dealing with important public issues and has the skill to effectively communicate those qualities. That narrows my choices considerably.                               



Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Take a Hike!

            One of my favorite vacation destinations is Sedona, Arizona. I’ve visited numerous scenic venues in the US (and a few abroad), but I contend that for awe-inspiring views Sedona can’t be beat. Whether you’re on top of a mountain, at the bottom of a canyon, or shopping the tourist-crammed streets of “Uptown Sedona,” jaw-dropping vistas are just a matter of turning or tilting your head.
View from a Sedona summit
            With so much rugged beauty to be absorbed, it naturally follows that hiking is a popular activity in the area. And that is the main activity Bill and I pursue whenever we visit. Mind you, I’m not talking Walk Across America or Wild, here. No coast-to-coast or Pacific Rim trek with all our worldly possessions strapped to our backs. For the most part, our hikes range from three to six hours in the coolest or warmest part of the day, depending on the season. And they always end with a long soak in a hot tub and a good night’s rest in a comfy bed.
            But even wuss hikes such as these provide time and opportunity for inspiration and reflection. So on a recent one in Sedona, I “reflected” on rules for hiking and living.
For basic hiking equipment,
the basic stick is hard to
beat. (Is that a pum?)
Be prepared. Spontaneity has its place, but most endeavors in hiking—as in life—are more fully enjoyed if you take a tip from the Boy Scouts and prepare. The preparation doesn’t have to be elaborate. I’ve found the basic essentials to be plenty water and the right attire. Protection from the elements is a must as are comfortable shoes. (There are occasions in life where comfort can be sacrificed for a really smokin’ pair of shoes, but hiking isn’t one of them.) Also, take along a small emergency kit (think blisters, bug bites). I’ve become a fan of the walking stick. Whether it’s a carved and varnished one, a high-tech metal one, or one picked up along the trail, a stick can be a life-saver for knees. And a camera! Take a camera to help preserve memories.
My favorite hiking partner.
Share the trail (but occasionally go solo). I think most people will agree that new experiences are more fun when they’re shared. Plus, there’s safety in numbers. But ever so often, a solitary sojourn can be relaxing and soul-satisfying. On a familiar, easy trail, or on a portion of a longer one, go it alone and see what a difference it makes. (I got the idea for this post while I journeyed solo on a portion of a trail.)
Be open to a variety of experiences. It’s weird the way my and Bill’s preferences reflect our personalities. He likes to climb “above” the action and take in sweeping vistas. (I think it’s a “master of the universe” thing). I, on the other hand, enjoy the “coziness” of canyon hikes. (I know it makes no sense, but, for me, canyons seem to require less climbing.) We compromise and do both and have learned to appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of both types of trails.
Notice the details...
Take time to notice. For most of my life, I’ve been a “get-‘er-done” kind of person. When I tackle a project, I want fast results. On a trail, I have to remind myself to focus on the journey and not the destination. I’m training myself to slow down and engage all my senses. To take in the panoramicview from a different perspective, to see the new green growth that has resulted from a recent rain, to breathe in the scent of warm pine needles, to hear the rush of a nearby stream.
Take time to look up. When hiking, it’s necessary to concentrate on your feet and the path immediately before you. Rocks, roots, and other snares to trip you up can spring from the ground in the time span of a step. Watching your feet take one step after another can become mind numbing, so don’t forget to look up. Whether you’re hiking to the top of a mountain or exploring the depths of a canyon, craning the neck can provide majestic views and perhaps give that needed jolt of inspiration to keep going.
Looking up can provide inspiration.
Obstacles are no reason to quit.
If you encounter an obstacle, consider the options. A fallen tree, a swollen stream, a critter on the trail—obstacles happen. Go over or around. Clear a new way. Plow through. Turn around. All are options. What is never an option, however, is giving up.
Cairns tell other hikers,
"I was here. You can do it!"
Take encouragement from those who have gone before. Moments of doubt will come. Just when you think you’ve climbed too high, taken a wrong turn, ventured too far, you see a sign that someone has gone before you. You realize that what you’re attempting is not impossible. And you keep going.
Know that the end of the trail is never the end of the trail. Trails seldom just end. They cross, loop, bisect, merge, converge, diverge. When you reach that end-of-the-trail marker, know it’s most often a lie. There are still myriad opportunities open to you. If on the rare occasion it actually is the end of the trail, enjoy the return trip. You’re sure to catch something you missed on the initial one.
            On the trail and in life, I wish you happy hiking!     

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Blogging: Busking for Writers

            At fifty-five, Carl Falsgraf chucked his successful, well-paying career and set out on a forty-nine-day, round-trip journey from Eugene, Oregon, to Portland, Maine. He planned to use this time to unwind, re-charge, and reflect on what to do with the remainder of his life. Along the way he recorded his reflections and revelations, which he later shared in his travel memoir Highway Blues. A musician and songwriter, he also composed some new songs as he traveled. And—in an activity that especially interested me—he tried his hand at busking.
            As I type this post, I’m glad to see that busk is immediately underlined with a red squiggle. Spellchecker is as unfamiliar with the term as I was. But dictionary.com ensures me it is indeed a word and means “to entertain by dancing, singing, or reciting on the street or in a public place.” The web site further informs me it is a chiefly British term, and a YouTube search reveals that, British or not, it is a thriving activity the U.S.
            Falsgraf describes busking as “the most primal, challenging, and rewarding mode of musical experience.” The busker puts himself out there without the benefit of advance people, publicists, promoters, and all manner of fancy sound equipment. It’s just him, his raw performance, and his voluntary audience. Feedback is immediate: If people don’t like the performance, they walk away.
            While busking can be nerve-racking, rewards do exist. Most often they are in the form of busy passers-by who pause to listen and indicate their pleasure by smiling and maybe nodding along to the music. If they are especially appreciative, these transitory fans might toss some coins into a jar or instrument case, but don’t count on those tips to pay the bills.
            As I read Falsgraf’s explanation of the experience, it struck me that busking and blogging have much in common. In fact, I’ll venture to say that blogging is to the writer what busking is to the musician. Especially the way I do it. While there are the professional bloggers who garner huge followings and rake in mega-bucks, a glance at my blog will quickly reveal its amateur status: not a lot of money invested, not a lot of hours spent in SEO searches, not a lot of advertising and/or promotional schemes. I do have the opportunity to edit and revise before casting out my writing “pearls,” but my posts are raw in that no professional editor or even trusted writer friend has tweaked them. As for feedback, the stats quickly inform me how well received my efforts are.
            Certainly, there are no financial rewards—not even a few coins tossed my way. But, as with busking, rewards can take other forms. There is the opportunity to air my thoughts and observations (of which I have many) without the pressure of meeting a quota or deadline. I have the freedom to choose my topics “as the spirit moves me.” I get the pleasure of feedback in the forms of comments and “likes” and “shares” and in the discovery I’ve added another follower. And there is always the unexpected bonus of someone complimenting you on a post and you had no idea they even read your blog.
            It took me years to arrive at this conclusion, but I consider writing to be like any other talent. And just as there are all types of forums in which other talents can be shared, blogging provides one in which both the writing pros and the “buskers” can publicly perform.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Debunking the Effortless-Entertaining Myth

            I subscribe to one magazine. Every month I look forward to its decorating tips, its travel suggestions, its recipes. But it seems as if at least every other month it features an article on how to entertain graciously with little or no effort. Not only do I not enjoy these, I find them downright irritating. Mainly because anyone who has ever so much as hosted a Tupperware or Mary Kay party knows that the claim of “effortless entertaining” is complete bul baloney.
            First, let me fill you in on my magazine’s idea of the perfect “lazy” lunch as described in the latest issue. If you’re hosting said lunch, it helps if you have a beach cottage with a front porch that will accommodate a table with seating for ten. With a few days planning, inspiration from the time you lived in the south of France, and a menu that requires an French-to-English dictionary just to pronounce the dishes, “easy” can be turned into “elegant” in no time. If you don’t have giant clamshells in which to ice down your wine selection, not to fret. Fake Faux versions can be found online at a mere $150 each. At that bargain price, you’ll want to snatch up a couple of them. And speaking of “clams,” let’s not forget a trip to the bank to finance this laid-back affair.
            If you don’t happen to have a beachside cottage at your disposal, how about offering a down-home, back-yard picnic? It helps if your back yard consists of ten acres with an 8,000 square-foot dairy barn (used to store your antiques), a stream, and a pond. With very little fuss, move your rustic farm table (which seats eight) outside under your towering red oak, add place-settings you’ve “plucked” from your barn, and fashion individual place-card holders with the wild flowers you’ve gathered from your very own meadow. Who knew a bucolic banquet could be both easy and economical?
            Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not criticizing those with the desire, means, and energy to entertain graciously. On the contrary, I admire their generosity and hospitality. But let’s call it what it is: a fete of biblical proportions that requires weeks (months?) of planning; a crew of cooks, cleaners, decorators, and furniture movers; and an income greater than that of most third-world countries. Even for those of us who don’t aspire to such grandiose galas, entertaining is never easy. I mean, we still have to plan, shop, clean, cook, serve, and clean again. That’s why I attempt it only about every five years. That is also why I never, ever call it "effortless."
            While magazine articles on entertaining can make great fantasy reading, the best lesson I ever learned about hassle-free entertaining was from a Laverne and Shirley episode. The girls had planned a festive affair at their apartment. About ten minutes before their guests arrived, they assembled their refreshments: Pepsi with milk and Oreo cookies with Redi-Whip sprayed on top. Now that, my friends, is about as effortless as it gets (and even then, they had to go to the store).          

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Celebracation in Sunriver, Oregon

     When family spans four generations and is scattered all over the country, it takes a special occasion to bring everyone together.  But gather we did last week for recreating and celebrating the special occasion of my mother’s 90th birthday. I must credit my sister Elaine for orchestrating this near-impossible feat. Being the oldest of three siblings (and having a natural tendency toward bossiness), she managed to schedule a time and place we could all meet. And what a place it was! Bittern Lodge—a vacation rental in Sunriver, Oregon—provided the perfect setting for both indoor and outdoor fun in the pleasant Oregon sun. I realize a narrative of someone else’s family reunion isn’t everyone’s idea of riveting reading, so I’ll keep this brief and hopefully more engaging by giving a quick photo tour of the week’s activities.

First things first. The birthday girl then
(1942) and now. (In the interest of full disclosure, her birthday isn't until Sept. 24., but this was the only time we could all work a group trip into our schedules. And, anyway, after 90 years, what's a couple of months?)


Sunriver, located on the Eastern slopes
of the Cascade Mountains, provided
miles of biking, hiking, and four-wheeling
trails that led to one scenic venue after another.


Thanks to nephew-in-law Justin, we didn't lack
for ways to get around on the trails. (No "minimalist"
vacationing for this group!)
Great-uncle Doug gave Bennett some operating tips. (Bennett didn't care that the four-wheeler was still on the trailer.) 
No back to the basics here, either. Plenty of room with 8 bedrooms--and (bonus!) 8 bathrooms.

A kitchen large enough to accommodate many cooks. (I did my part by staying out of their way.)
And food:
(Can't forget food!)
The good stuff...

the really good stuff...
and the REALLY, REALLY good stuff!
Most important--Family:
Mama and her sister, last two
surviving of 9 siblings.


Great grandkids
(I apologize I don't have a "kids" pic, as I
was in the picture and don't have a copy
of it yet.)

What's more fun than spending time with cousins? Spending time with FIVE of them!
Random moments:

Birthday dinner

Amy, our ad hoc historian

Doug, winner of our impromptu
One-handed Skillet-lifting
(The skillet weighted 12.5lbs plus
another pot and lid of about 5 lbs.)

and snores...

and a party-crasher!
To sum up the celebracation with a tried-and-true journalism phrase:
A good time was had by all!