Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas Wrap-up

Christmas officially commenced with a family wedding.

The bride is a friend of my goddaughter Vic. The groom - first son of my youngest brother.

Took this shot last April. The bride-to-be is on the left.

After the wedding ceremony, there was a family luncheon. In the evening, a reception.

Kenneth, my highly social grandson, LOOOOOOOOVED all the partying.

My sister Tricia hosted our Christmas Eve dinner.

In our family, there's no wine or beer, but we tend to get a bit drunk on music.

As you can imagine, singing the carols was the highlight of the evening,
although my sister's cooking was a close second.

BTW, Tricia is what you'd call a professional vocalist.

You can listen (and even purchase) her music at

After dinner was cleared, here's what remained ~

On Christmas day, there were two present opening extravaganzas at my house.

The first one @ 9 a.m. with Kelty & Duane's family,
with little Ms. Rella May modeling her mom's new fuzzy hat & scarf:

The second one took place when Arian and Jill along with their three kiddos arrived @ 4:30 p.m.

This little gal loved the delightful chaos almost as much her older brother and sister.

On Christmas night, aunts and uncles and cousins came over for a final round of celebration.

Notice the three conversations taking place in the kitchen.

What might they be saying?

The foreground = "Do you really think so?"

The guys in the middle = "No kidding! It was about this long."

In the back = A compliment followed by "Shucks" and a downward glance.

Another four knots of conversations in the living room.

I'll only guess at the fireside chat:

"You could see this ginormous elk grazing just beyond the lake."

We have taken lots of hikes up the canyon with all the visitors in town.

My granddaughter Audrey has been living in Nevada
and simply HAD to experience snow up close, REALLY CLOSE.

Her brother Kenneth found a hefty rock with a nice vein of quartz and determindly lugged it back down the canyon.

It still sits on my front porch, reminding me of that little guy and his family,
now settling into life in Oxford, England.

Truth is, there's been little snow this year.

What's fallen has mostly melted away, as you can see from this shot taken on December 23rd.

I'm not complaining. Not complaining AT ALL.

This has been a spectacular holiday season, wrapping up a banner year for my family.

As I type, I can hear Kelty and Duane packing up downstairs.

Duane's mom and sisters are doing likewise.

There are outbursts of boisterous laughter at regular intervals.

Tomorrow @ 4 a.m. I'll be driving one family to the airport, headed to Chicago.
and bidding another family farewell from my front porch later in the day, headed to Canada.

Then, I'll sit back and enjoy the quiet.

I like a strong dose of holiday pandemonium . . . followed by the restoration of orderliness.

Both are good and provide counter-balanced elements of rich living.

Friday, December 30, 2011


My son had a rough time making it through junior high school.
He was NOT an optimal student.

In spite of that fact,
he just completed his first year of graduate studies @ Oxford University.

During 2011, he maintained a full-time job in the U.S. and 'commuted' to England.

But things are gonna change!

At this very moment,
Arian and his family of five are crossing the pond in a jet plane, headed to London.

The family will spend 2012 home-based in England while Arian completes his last year at Oxford.

It was tough to say "Cheerio", knowing that my older grandbabes will be coming back,
speaking the King's English.

NEVER give up on your kids as hopeless!

AND, tomorrow I'll be sending the holiday wrap-up and it's
really sweet.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Reese Noelle

This is my daughter Leah -

Great with Child.

While I was putting ornaments on the tree . . .

and welcoming her siblings and their families into my home,

she was toiling with a mighty labor.

is welcomed by her sisters,

Brinley, Avery, and Aspen -

and even by FATHER NOEL himself!

7 lbs. 6 oz. * 19.5 inches

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Base Jumpers

I took this shot @ 4:30 p.m. today.

Base jumpers are becoming quite common in the canyon, even in the most unsavory weather.

They hurl themselves off the edges of the cliffs and free-fall a few hundred feet before opening their parachutes.

It's pretty thrilling to watch them navigating their descent between the natural obstacles.

My dog hates the loud crack reverberating off the canyon walls as their parachutes open.
She usually runs home at break-neck speed.

On the other hand, I usually trot over to their landing spot, wherever that may be,
and get acquainted with these jumpers who inevitably become fast friends.

Sometimes they end up enjoying a cup of herbal tea at my place.

These fascinating people who drop out of the sky,
they are among the many perks of living in the shadow of the canyon.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Bear on the Square in Georgia

Last spring, I spent some time poking around Georgia, a state which has won my heart.

In the 3rd post about that trip,
I promised that I would explain exactly WHY I spent time in the little hamlet of Dahlonega,
nestled at the base of the southern Appalachians.

It's worth sharing, even if I'm TARDY on fulfilling my promise.

(I know you weren't holding your breath. Well, maybe Jean was.)

I was interested in Dahlonega because of a small local music festival called Bear on the Square
which draws folks down out of the hollers in the Chattahoochee Mountains.

The Old Time style of music is alive and thriving there.
(Bluegrass was born out of Old Time. Frankly, I can't quite tell the difference.)

Talented groups like The Buzzard Mt. Boys played in the one tent erected for performing.

But the bigger part of the festival was more like this: "Come bring your guitars, banjos, dulcimers, fiddles, mandolins, washtubs,
scrub boards or whatever you've got and we'll JAM . . . for three days."

LEFT: Washtub Bass fiddle RIGHT: Appalachian Dulcimer

Do you know how to get different notes out of a washtub fiddle?

Pull on the stick to change the tension of the string.

Here's a guy who does rather well with his spoons, when he's not strumming his guitar.

I took this shot of a dobro guitar, also called a resonator guitar.
It's often played while being held like you see below:

(Thank you, Kristen, for properly identifying it for me.)

Go HERE if you'd like to see how it's played and how it sounds.

There are spontaneous gatherings all over the town square and surroundings.

Dozens of them.

Most of these musicians show signs of being just regular fellars who work the land.
There are lots of small farms in the nearby hills.

Yet, they get on their fanciest boots and cleanest jeans and they show up with their instruments.

This old guy (VIDEO BELOW) demonstrates how to play the fiddle (out of tune) on top of his head.
Then he tries playing it between his legs and concedes that he can no longer bend that far.
Everyone laughs in a sweet empathetic way.

Here's the last video of the music.
I liked this guy because he could really set his fiddle on fire.

As part of the festival, there was an auction with all kinds of local home-made items
. . .as well as items that might have (should have) ended up in a garage sale.

Auctioneering simply intrigues me. Fast thinkin'. Fast talkin'

I listened to this gentleman (BELOW) for a solid hour while neighbors and friends milled around chatting.

Listen to how he concludes with -

"Lord have mercy! Thank you Precious Dear!"

The whole experience was simply AMAAAAAZING to me.
With these low-quality video clips, it may not seem quite that amazing to you.

It wasn't just the music, it was the delicious combination of
the music and true Southern hospitality which I described in THIS POST.

Truth is, it was SO DELIGHTFUL that I'm planning to return in April 2013.
Let me know if you'd like to come along.

Do you wonder why they call this festival Bear on the Square?

In April 1996, a mama bear with two cubs made its way onto the town square, causing a big commotion.
Even brought the mayor out of his office.

The festival name is not a marketing ploy.
It's just a choice bit of history which many of the locals fondly recall.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Zion National Park

Victoria, the goddaughter who lived with me during high school, just turned 21.

Her birth mother and I cooked up a lovely surprise - a trip to Zion . . . and MORE.

First we headed to Pah Tempe Hot Springs, taking her sister Brianna along with us.

Notice anything different about Miss Vic?

Her MANE is no more. About 22 inches of tresses will soon appear on a luscious wig.

The two sisters fell in love with Pah Tempe.

The piping hot water rises from spots underneath the river. I was searching for the warm zones.

In the spring, Kelty and I hit these hot springs on our way down to see litte Grace GINGER.

The light was different in April. The experience was equally DIVINE.

This time around, I received an education in planking.

It's a sport.

1. You 'plank' in a weird place. 2. You snap a photo 3. You post it online.

Maybe YOU knew all about it. I certainly didn't.

It's just one of many reasons I love hanging out with young people.

The next morning, we visited Fae who lives just outside of Zion National Park.

Here we are, just outside her classy desert home.

Victoria received a birthday massage from Fae.

Ninety minutes of bliss.

Meanwhile, Bree and I drank tall glasses of Fae's fresh squeezed pomegranate juice
and took in the sun on her deck, reading her eclectic collection of magazines.

Then we got a completely unexpected treat . . .

Fae had laid out sublime spread.

Even a MEAL is an ARTISTIC EXPERIENCE when Fae creates it.

THIS is the one link that I'm really going to plug, because it shows you more of Fae's unique world. Go there.

That afternoon we hiked the riverside trail.

We were there at sunset when the river turns to gold.

Water seeps from the cliffs and ferns flourish. So incongruent to see them in a desert clime.

We also marveled at the pines. They seem to be growing right out the rock. What do you think?

That night, we joined Fae for dinner at Oscars Cafe - a restaurant I'd recommend if you're headed that way.

Then we went back to Fae's place and witnessed the drama of the night sky from her hot tub.
It's DARK in the chaparral and that makes for incredible star gazing.

I adore Fae.

Taken in November 2009 @ Oscars

The next day, we headed out to the trailhead for Angel's Landing. It is NOT the hike for the faint-hearted.

But these gals were game.

The three of us hiked together for the first 30 minutes.

Then the young, strong and courageous (fool hearty?) gals continued up the trail without me.

I contentedly went off to spot deer and poke around Springdale, the town that's just outside the park.

When the girls and I met up, they exclaimed "Good thing you didn't keep going!"

I agreed. The important thing: they LOVED it.

Our last grand experience was to LEAVE the park via the Mount Carmel Highway.

Built in the late 1920s, it was an engineering feat costing $508,000 back then.

The highway takes you WAY, WAY UP the side of a rock cliff.

Here's the view from the edge of the road:

Photo courtesy of East Zion Tourism Council.

There are a series of tunnels. The first one is right up on the wall of a huge cliff.
Yes. There's a road INSIDE the rock face shown in this photo:

Just THINK, they were built without modern excavation equipment.

One bit of serendipity was coming across these Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep.

Can you see the fellar with the large curved horns?

Wikipedia says those horns can weigh up to 30 pounds!

The final bonus was the sunset on the drive home.

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