I’m Posting– It’s A Christmas Miracle!

Hello there, lovelies. Remember me?

Well, my ‘short break’ has stretched out over a couple of months, and for no good reason other than… I guess I must have needed a ‘short break’! I don’t exactly know why it took me this long to start writing again, but I sincerely apologize for my neglect, and I should totally drop and give you 20. At any rate, everything is great, we are all well and happy, life is full and busy, blah di blah blah, rinse and repeat– but how are YOU?

*bats eyelashes fetchingly*

If I tried to recap everything that has gone on since our last visit, this would turn into a manuscript of epic proportions and you’d get bored and wander off to get a snack and I’d get my feelings hurt, so for all of our sakes I’ll just condense it into this Catch-Up Haiku:

Life in Bell Buckle…

Like end-of-the-rainbow gold

Covered in cat hair.

Hey, I know what– let’s say it in pictures! We’ll call this segment

“AND THEN THIS HAPPENED”

(And yes, this little exercise in narcissism will be chock-full of photos of ALL TAFFS/ALL THE TIME. There’ll be other stuff/people too, but come on, who else am I gonna feature?)

Let’s see. We went on the Homecoming Canadian cruise and Russ got randomly stopped and wanded as we entered the check-in area, and because I am such a supportive wife I stopped laughing long enough to capture the moment. (Also, you can’t really blame the security guys because if you check out those enormous kicks at the end of his skinny little ankles, it TOTALLY look like he could be smuggling drugs in there. Or ponies.) :

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**Looking at art in Quebec City while lugging around a giant shopping bag full of gifts because I am generous like that:

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**The Bell Buckle Arts Council had our 2nd Annual Plein Air event– that’s Billy Phillips watching his store being captured on canvas:

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**Had a wonderful couple of days at Mark Lowry’s house in Houston with dear friends Bubba, Cynthia, Chip and Reba. Either Reba just said something that cracked both of us up or I am grabbing her butt. I forget which.11retreatFRIENDS

**We taped six months worth of Homecoming Radio shows in October, and my sweet Bonnie joined us for one of the days, which was way too much fun. We have been friends for 30 years, which I can barely even type with a straight face– how can that possibly be?!

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**RT presented at the Dove Awards and hung out all day with these guys. This kinda looks like a LensCrafters commercial.

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**And then he hung out all night with these guys. Whatever is around Russ’ neck makes it look he is trying to pass himself off as a Nobel Peace Prize winner. Or possibly a diplomat.

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**Madi Rose and I went with Russ to Myrtle Beach Gaitherfest– apparently we DID get the memo about the dress code:

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**Best of all, we got to see our beloved Momma Lloyd:

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**Meanwhile, Charlotte got ready for a Halloween party–funny,  I don’t remember Mario being quite so, um, statuesque:

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**Family brunch at the River Cafe in Normandy, TN (slightly out of focus, but hey, so are we):

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**Russ and William Golden shot a video together (RT is a circuit-riding preacher and William Lee is his scout. Both of those scenarios should give you pause.):

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**Let’s see, what else… Oh, yeah! “Hick hop” country rapper Big Smo opened a store in Bell Buckle. You can’t make this stuff up, people. Madi Rose is posing in front of what she refers to as the Smural.

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**Had a wonderful Thanksgiving with the Smedleys. As always, June and Bud welcomed us with open arms and hearts– since Mom and Dad are gone, this is most definitely our ‘home for the holidays.’ We are rich in family. Here’s how Madi captioned this photo:

“I’m thankful that nearly 40 years ago, an English teacher and her husband took in a gawky little boy who, with their selfless compassion, would grow up and be my daddy. Words can’t describe the love and gratitude I feel for each person in this room. Especially Bruce Willis on the left.”

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**OK, that’s not really Bruce Willis, it’s her Uncle Stuart. (Although he is pretty much as bad-ass as Willis.) Ladies and gentleman– Stuart Smedley, County Coroner:1STUARTcoroner

**Oh, and for those of you that have asked about Catsy Cline– she’s still here:

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11catsytree

11catsyeditor**And she’s still…

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**Well, that pretty much brings us up to date. Ish. It’s now Christmas time in the Buckle, which makes my town even more adorable than usual. I’ll leave you with a few holiday shots, and then I’d really love to hear from you guys– so how ARE you, anyway?!

(Courtesy Bell Buckle Chamber of Commerce)

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(Courtesy Butterfly Kisses Photography)

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What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Why, hello there!

“…there…there…there…”  (sound of words echoing down empty hallway)

Remember me? I used to blog here. Apparently I took the summer off.  I know, it was kind of surprising to me too. At any rate, Labor Day has come and gone, it’s the start of a new school year, fall is just around the corner, blah blah blah, I’M BACK!

So, I’m thinking we’ll all just ease back into our relationship with a friendly, photo-filled post and maybe some coffee and a donut. I’ve got the pictures, it would be nice if you could pony up for the refreshment part, but no pressure.

So, in no particular order (which should come as no shock to anyone), here’s a little bit of what’s been going on around here:  (And seriously? I would love to hear about your summer, too– hit the highlights in the comment section, OK?)

First of all, and I say this with the full awareness that, as a friend of mine used to say, I am “one small dog (or another cat) away from an intervention”…

Meet Catsy Cline!

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OK, WHAT WAS I SUPPOSED TO DO? She was homeless and skinny and hanging around the dumpsters where we take our trash. The attendant guy (awkward title, but I’m not sure what to call him and he’s really nice) said that she was going to get killed because of all the cars coming and going and besides that, there’s a big dog that hangs around there that could get her too. Also, as you may have surmised, I apparently have the words SUCKER FOR STRAY ANIMALS tattooed on my forehead.

Catsy looks bigger in these pictures than she actually is, she’s really still a kitten, probably like a pre-teen. I started to take a cute picture of her this morning but we’re treating her for ear mites so her entire head is all greasy, and we have a family veto policy around here regarding crappy photos of ourselves being posted on any form of social media. Anyway, she looks very disheveled and emo and kind of sullen right now– like I said, pre-teen. I am determined that she will be an outside cat like Porch Cat and B*tch Cat (who both hate her tiny little kitten guts, btw), but so far whenever I open the front door invitingly to see if she wants to venture out onto the porch, she takes one look and starts slowly backing up– she’s all, “Yeah, no thanks, I’ve been outside, I’m just fine right here.” *UPDATE* Since I wrote that first paragraph we gave Catsy a bath in the kitchen sink. She is thoroughly disgusted with us, furiously trying to lick herself dry and is probably thinking the big scary world outdoors doesn’t look half bad right about now.

Ever onward. Oh, and in the give-credit-where-credit-is-due department, Madi Rose took about 90% of the following photos, because she is GOOD, ya’ll.

Here are some random shots from our Seattle adventure– once again, Charlotte was in geek heaven, surrounded by people who actually understood what the hang she was talking about re: video game design. Meanwhile, Madi and I hit every antique and thrift store we could find. We also took a couple of day trips to some lovely little towns outside of the city during the time Charlotte was at Digipen. It was a great time, but I was SO glad to get home to the Buckle.

**Roadside stand– it was berry season in the Pacific Northwest, aka HEAVEN!

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**Look at this gorgeous tree we saw in La Conner:

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**Pepper, the utterly charming dog who hung out with us at the utterly charming house we rented.

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** A Washington forest on Indian land.1seattleforest

**Fremont Sunday Market:

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**Fresh scallops, market to table:

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**On the last day of the Digipen workshop, the parents can come in to check out what the students have created– they had to construct two new game levels that would work with an existing video game. Here’s what Char’s looked like:

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**Yeah, I know. Madi attempted to play it, her expression says it all.

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**Here’s Charlotte during our celebratory meal at our favorite little neighborhood pub on her last day of the workshop (BTW– that’s a root beer bottle in front of her, she wasn’t celebrating THAT much!) Also, apparently the Taff women do a whole lot of pensive gazing at the scenery when we eat. It’s either because we are deep thinkers or slow digesters, your choice. Frankly, I think we look kind of surly.

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**Well, ok, SOMETIMES we smiled. Ish.

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**Meanwhile, while we were in Seattle, Russ was wowing them in Finland… (Thanks for the pic, small j!)

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**OK, let’s see, what else…

Our very dear friends from the Faroe Islands came through Nashville, and we got to go out to dinner with them! Here are Jakup and Sanna studying the menu, and Tummus and Eydna ready to order– it was so amazing to spend some time together, and they sure grow beautiful women up there in the Faroes, don’t they?

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** I put in a garden-ette this year, consisting only of two tomato plants, some mint and basil. But J Gregory, who owns the Bell Buckle Cafe, sent me over a pick-up truck load of super duper mulch/potting soil/ magic dirt and everything grew like crazy! I made fresh pesto with my homegrown basil, and froze it in an ice cube tray, so all winter I can just thaw it out and make fabulous pasta, or pop a cube in a big pot of soup. The kitchen smelled like garlic for two days. I do love me some pesto.

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** Speaking of gardens, my neighbor Annie’s yard was as extravagant as ever this summer, and we made good use of her generosity. LOOK at this dahlia:

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** We had some visitors to Bell Buckle this summer. Here’s just a few of them…

**Charlotte’s best buddy (since they were 8 years old) Jess came to see her:

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**My sweet Calla Lily friend Becka came up from Texas and we had a lovely afternoon with my Bell Buckle Bestie, Kimi– Madi photobombed our selfie:

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** We had the most wonderful Saturday with Mark Lowry and Paul Johnson– they got the full BB experience, including a good long visit with Maggi.

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**Same pose, different guy. (And dang, Paul, get your hand off her knee– you big city playboys, with your fresh ways!) (Also? I totally wrote “Phil” instead of Paul on this– WHAT IS THE DEAL WITH ME?? Early onset..? I’ve only known you since I was 20, you’d think I’d have grasped your first name by now. Apparently this is God’s way of telling you to change it.)

1phil:maggi

**The Mayor’s Fried Chicken was a hit, as always:

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**And Russ’ oldest brother Bill surprised us by stopping by on his way back to California– SO great to see him:

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Well, there’s no real graceful way to wrap this up, so I’ll just leave you with a poster that I have had since the 80′s– for some reason, this continues to be funny to me, even lo these many years later! It has been loaned out several times: once to my friend Carlana, who kept it in the laundry room of her little log cabin, then my brother Matt had it for a while, and most recently it is gracing the wall of the dining nook in Madi’s Chattanooga apartment. A little worse for wear, but it still makes me smile–

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So… catch me up on YOUR summer!

Tori Taff

I’m Tori, and I’m a late-blooming Baby Boomer. Read more!

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